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August 6th, 2019

Birds of North Carolina

"Bird watching is a popular hobby in America, and North Carolina is certainly a good place to go if you enjoy watching birds. The beautiful state of North Carolina is home to a diverse population of colorful avian life, including small seed-eaters to large water fowl."

A birdwatcher's paradise..

Yes, the Tar Heel State seems to have just about every type of bird that a bird watcher can appreciate, from small songbirds to large waterfowl. But regardless of where you live in America, anyone with a love for birds can enjoy watching them through binoculars, or just observing them from a short distance.


There are several reasons for bird watching:

  • Kids can watch them for fun.
  • Adults can watch them for photography.
  • Researchers can watch them for science and fact gathering.

Bird Watching in North Carolina

There are many states in America that are good for bird watching, and North Carolina is a good place to start. If you're a longtime resident of North Carolina, then you're most likely familiar with the plethora of bird species that call North Carolina home. Many North Carolinians have the privilege of simply "glancing" through their window to see anything from the Yellow Warbler to the Buff-bellied Hummingbird (is there anything more amazing than a hummingbird?)

Birds in North Carolina seem to have their favorite areas to hang out. People who are traveling through the state will notice three natural divisions - the Appalachian Mountains in the west (including the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains), the central Piedmont Plateau, and the eastern Atlantic Coastal Plain. So if you're new to these areas and just driving through, keep an eye out for a wide array of beautiful bird species as you navigate the changing landscape.

Now let's take a look at a small bird that is commonly seen throughout North Carolina...

Brown-Headed Nuthatch

This small bird is found all over the U.S. and is very well-known in North Carolina. An unassuming bird that's just under 4" long, the Brown-headed Nuthatch is proudly known to Audubon North Carolina as their quintessential southern bird. You can spot a nuthatch by its tiny frame, short tail, sharp bill, brown cap, bluish-grey outer feathers and whitish belly. It can be found in many areas of the Piedmont and coastal plain, living in old growth pine and urban forests. The nuthatch population has experienced a significant decline, but Audubon North Carolina is making efforts to prevent further habitat loss by encouraging NC residents to place a nest box in their backyards. They believe this will help to conserve the Brown-Headed Nuthatch in the Piedmont and other areas.

Tundra Swan

Going inland a bit and North Carolina turns into a water foul paradise. The tundra swan is a beautiful sight to see, and hard to miss as it ranks as one of the largest birds in North America. It makes Lake Mattamuskeet it's winter hangout, a large yet shallow natural lake. The tundra swan is a beautiful solid white bird with a black bill and long neck, and is even more noticeable when they make their grand appearance in large numbers during winter, descending upon the waters from the frigid north.

Acadian Flycatcher

The Acadian Flycatcher population is doing very well over the entire state of North Carolina. Unlike a number of other Eastern forest birds, numbers of Acadian Flycatchers seem to be steady and not showing any decline. They are a small bird (smaller than a sparrow), and found primarily in hardwood forests, usually near water. Their length is about 5.5" to 5.7" - weight is 0.4 to 0.5 oz, wingspan is 8.7"-9.1". A cute bird with a rather energetic two-part chirping sound, and a pleasure to watch, especially during courtship when the male displays rapid aerial chases of the female through the trees. The nest is built by the female Flycatcher and is loosely made from grass, weeds, twigs and other plant fibers. The 15 species of this family were once all thought to be the same bird when first discovered in Acadia (present day Nova Scotia). The Acadian Flycatcher is an extremely maneuverable flier, an is able to hover and even fly backward.

Painted Bunting

Yes, the Painted Bunting is a flying plethora of colors. So beautiful in fact that there are several colors and shades that cover it's entire body from head to tail. There's no holding back when it comes to bright beautiful colors, ie - royal blue on it's head, red on it's belly, green on it's back, and olive brownish on the wings and tail feathers. You might be lucky enough to see a painted bunting some day, so make sure to always have your camera close by!

State Bird of North Carolina

In 1943, North Carolina designated the northern cardinal as it's official state bird. The cardinal has always been a favorite among bird enthusiasts across America, and not just bird-lovers, but also popular among state governments. So popular in fact that 6 other state legislatures have named the cardinal as their state bird, including Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Virginia and West Virginia.

Both the male and female cardinal are distinctly different in color, as the male cardinal is a bright scarlet red, while the female cardinal is more of a brownish color with a bit of reddish brown in the wings. Both are about the same size with a heavy bill.

Carolina Chickadee & Carolina Wren

The small birds are favorites among bird enthusiasts, and the Carolina Chickadee and Carolina Wren are two good examples. Chickadees have large heads with a black cap and neck, white belly, and dark gray back, wings and tail. The Wrens are dark brown on top and whitish-light brown underneath. They have a white stripe above their eyes and an upright tail. Both species are a delight to have around and are easily attracted to backyard feeders.

Kids & Bird Watching

Learning is another aspect of bird watching, as anyone can learn from the simple act of observation. Parents can teach their kids by simply showing them where to go and what to listen for. By simply walking through nature, kids will be exposed to the natural sounds and movements that birds make.

Environmental Education

Kids can learn a lot from educational programs that place strong emphasis on the environment. Schools that offer outdoor class curriculums promote awareness on plants and animals just by taking short walks through nature. And it's easy because birds are everywhere - in backyards, at parks, on a highwire, even on a ledge of a building.

First-Time Visitors

if you're a traveling bird enthusiast, North Carolina is a good state to visit. If you've never been there before, you might want to make plans to go there and experience the many bird species that call North Carolina home. If you enjoyed reading about birds of North Carolina, please read our article on the California Scrub Jay»


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