Unlikely Places to Bird: The Golf Course
August 23, 2022 by Beary Birding
Canada Geese crossing a cart path
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: