Richard Rowe, Ph.D.


Birds of the Greater Rockbridge County, Virginia, Area 

The Birds of The Greater Rockbridge County, Virginia, Area

The Birds of the Greater Rockbridge County, Virginia, area represents a compliation of data from a number of different sources.  In 1957, J.J. Murray, former pastor of Lexington Presbyterian Church and one of the founding members of the Virginia Society of Ornithology, published the Birds of Rockbridge County, Virginia as the first publication of Virginia Avifauna, VSO.  His book presented species accounts or records for 245 species of birds.   Of the 245 species, Murray noted that three were probable; he had no confirmation of their presence in the county.  His data included personal observations, data from the Lexington Area Christmas Bird Count, and observations or evidence presented to him from other individuals.  It is clear from Murray's work that Rockbridge County has a rich avifauna even though the county lacked marsh land and large bodies of water.  Since the publication of Murray's book, there have been a number of changes in the area.  Most notably, Lake Merriweather, Lake Robertson, and Willow Lake were created; the Interstate system was created; Cameron's Pond drained; and the amount of acreage being farmed has decreased while the amount of residental land has increased.  The Birds of the Greater Rockbridge County Area represents an up-date of Murray's book.  To date, a total of 268 species have been recorded in the county (two of these species are listed as probable by Murray).  It is worth noting that since the publication of Murray's book, Bewick's Wrens are no longer found in the area, House Finches are present, and there are confirmed records for Red-throated Loon, Snow Bunting, Red-necked Grebe, Barnacle Goose, Ross' Goose, Northern Goshawk, Wood Stork, Glossy Ibis, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Clay-colored Sparrow, Brewster's Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, White Ibis, Rufous Hummingbird, Mute Swan, Willow Flycatcher, Dickcissel, Sandhill Crane, Surf Scoter, White-winged Crossbill, Cackling Goose, Northern Shrike, and Cattle Egret.  The information presented in the Birds of the Greater Rockbridge County Area is drawn from the current database of observations, a summary of the Christmas Bird Count data, and Murray's book.   The current database includes observations from a number of local birders: Alex Merritt, George Tolley, Bob Paxton, Wendy Richards, Steve Richards, Kieran Kilday, Lucy Rowe, Dick Rowe, Barbara Rowe, Paul Cabe, Laura Neale, Chip Coalter, Barbara Coalter, John Burleson, Sarah Burleson, Barry Kinzie, John Pancake, Allen Larner and others.  As a group we have been able to cover most of the county on a regular basis and thus provided nearly 15 years of reliable data.  My work on the project was supported through the VMI Faculty Developmental Leave Program and the Jackson-Hope Fund.

Up-dates - to see recent changes to the Birds of Rockbridge County or the Photo Gallery: Up-dates  

Photography:  All photographs included in the book were taken by Dick Rowe, unless otherwise noted.  Nearly all of the photographs were taken within the Greater Rockbridge County area.  The photographs serve as documentation for a particular species in the area, and in addition, they are representative of the plumage or coloration that would be expected for a specific species in the county.  The photo galleries are in flickr.  To see the complete photo gallery for the Birds of the Greater Rockbride County, Virginia, Area follow the link below.

Flickr Photo Gallery:  Birds of Rockbridge County

The following link will take you to a spreadsheet that povides Christmas Bird Count data for the Lexington Area CBC.

Lexington Area Christmas Bird Count (count data through the 2012 CBC)

A complete version of The Birds of the Greater Rockbridge County, Virginia, Area is available as a .pdf download.

The following chapters present the information in the complete version.

 Geese, Swans, and Ducks 

 Quail, Pheasants, Grouse, and Turkeys 

 Loons and Grebes  

 Storks, Cormorants, Bitterns, Herons, Egrets, and Ibis  

 Vultures, Kites, Eagles, Hawks, and Falcons 

 Rails, Gallinules, Moorhens, Coots, and Cranes 

 Plovers, Killdeer, Sandpipers, Snipe, Woodcocks, Phalaropes, and Gulls  

 Pigeons, Doves, and Cuckoos 


 Nighthawks, Whip-poor-wills, Swifts, Hummingbirds, and Kingfishers 



 Shrikes, Vireos, Jays, Crows, and Ravens 

 Larks, Martins, and Swallows 

 Chickadees, Titmice, Nuthatches, Creepers, Wrens, Gnatcatchers, and Kinglets 

 Thrushes, Robins, Catbirds, Mockingbirds, Thrashers, Starlings, Pipits, Waxwings, and Snow Buntings 


 Towhees, Sparrows, and Juncos 

 Tanagers, Cardinals, Grosbeaks, and Indigo Buntings  

 Bobolinks, Blackbirds, Meadowlarks, and Orioles  

 Finches and House Sparrows