Unlikely Places to Bird: The Golf Course

August 23, 2022 by Beary Birding

Canada Geese crossing a cart path

Featured birds:

Canada Goose


Everybody knows about the Canada Geese whose families forage (and poop) along fairways and nest and sleep in water hazards. But what about doves, bluebirds, buntings, certain shorebirds, and a whole bunch more?

Throughout my time on a variety of courses, I have noted upwards of one hundred species of birds, some of which I have hardly seen elsewhere. This article includes the various species of birds you can find at most golf courses in Southeastern Canada and states in the northeast.


Your average golf course offers several unique features: grasslands, ponds, stands of trees, and even cart garages and flooded bunkers!

The grasslands (fairways, the rough, greens, etc.) are areas of large open space where birds forage. Look for Eastern Bluebirds or American Kestrels perched atop nestboxes and Brown-headed Cowbirds walking on greens. I have never seen one, but it is very possible that an Upland Sandpiper could show up in this habitat. I've even observed a pair of Killdeer soaring high up and calling in the rain.

Most golf course ponds provide lots of aquatic animals like fish and frogs. These are consumed by Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Green Herons, Belted Kingfishers, Osprey and maybe even Bald Eagles. Ducks and Geese also call the water home and eat the vegetation in and around the pond as well. Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Yellowthroats often nest in the adjacent vegetation.

Stands of trees in the middle of open fields provide perches for many flycatchers like the Eastern Kingbird, Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Wood-Pewee (whew, we're done with the Eastern's!), Great Crested Flycatcher and the Empids. They're also popular among hawks, Red-tailed, Red-shouldered and Cooper's Hawks are the ones that I have seen actively hunting. Chipping Sparrows and Indigo Buntings often use the stands of trees bordering the fields as foraging habitat.

Cart garages are commonly used by Barn Swallows to nest in and flooded bunkers are occasionally used by shorebirds (I once saw a Least Sandpiper in one!).

List of Golf Course Birds

Here is a list of all the birds, in taxonomic order, that I have recorded at golf courses:

  1. Canada Goose

  2. Mallard

  3. Rock Pigeon

  4. Mourning Dove

  5. Yellow-billed Cuckoo

  6. Chimney Swift

  7. Ruby-throated Hummingbird

  8. Killdeer

  9. Least Sandpiper

  10. Great Blue Heron

  11. Great Egret

  12. Green Heron

  13. Black Vulture

  14. Turkey Vulture

  15. Osprey

  16. Cooper's Hawk

  17. Red-shouldered Hawk

  18. Red-tailed Hawk

  19. Belted Kingfisher

  20. Red-bellied Woodpecker

  21. Downy Woodpecker

  22. Hairy Woodpecker

  23. Pileated Woodpecker

  24. Northern Flicker

  25. Eastern Wood-Pewee

  26. Eastern Phoebe

  27. Great Crested Flycatcher

  28. Eastern Kingbird

  29. Acadian Flycatcher

  30. Willow Flycatcher

  31. Warbling Vireo

  32. Red-eyed Vireo

  33. Blue Jay

  34. American Crow

  35. Fish Crow

  36. Common Raven

  37. Carolina Chickadee

  38. Tufted Titmouse

  39. Northern Rough-winged Swallow

  40. Purple Martin

  41. Tree Swallow

  42. Barn Swallow

  43. White-breasted Nuthatch

  44. Blue-grey Gnatcatcher

  45. House Wren

  46. Carolina Wren

  47. European Starling

  48. Grey Catbird

  49. Northern Mockingbird

  50. Eastern Bluebird

  51. Wood Thrush

  52. American Robin

  53. Cedar Waxwing

  54. House Sparrow

  55. House Finch

  56. American Goldfinch

  57. Chipping Sparrow

  58. Field Sparrow

  59. White-throated Sparrow

  60. Song Sparrow

  61. Eastern Towhee

  62. Baltimore Oriole

  63. Bobolink

  64. Red-winged Blackbird

  65. Brown-headed Cowbird

  66. Common Grackle

  67. Common Yellowthroat

  68. American Redstart

  69. Yellow Warbler

  70. Scarlet Tanager

  71. Northern Cardinal

  72. Indigo Bunting