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Great Smoky Mountain Bird Watching Checklist

Great Smoky Mountains Things to Do: Smoky Mountains Overview | The Elk of Cataloochee Valley | Clingmans Dome | Newfound Gap | Oconaluftee Visitors Center & Farm Museum | Deep Creek Waterfalls | Hiking & Outdoor Activities | Andrews Bald Hike | Chimney Tops Hike | Charlies Bunion Hike | Mt. Cammerer Hike | Mt. Sterling Hike | Scenic Drives | Mt. LeConte & Alum Cave Trail | Balsam Mountain | Dying Hemlocks | Cades Cove | Cherokee | Gatlinburg | Fontana Lake | Great Smoky Park News & Updates | Purchase Knob | Friends of Smokies | Asheville Birding

The Great Smokies is home to 200+ species of birds. If you enjoying birding, the Smokies will be a paradise to you. The spruce-fir forest of the highest ridges is similar to the boreal forest of Canada, and is the southernmost breeding range of the Black-capped Chickadee, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Blackburnian and Canada warblers, Veery, and Winter Wren. Chestnut-sided Warblers are common in blackberry thickets, the Dark-eyed Junco abundant in the trees, and Common Ravens soar overhead.

The northern hardwood and cove hardwood forests are mixing grounds for northern and southern bird species. A dozen northern breeding species reach their lowest nesting elevation here and nearly as many southern birds reach their highest limit. The northern Blue-headed Vireo, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and Black-throated Blue Warbler overlap with the southern Red-eyed Vireo, Northern Cardinal, Hooded Warbler and others.
The southern hardwoods in the middle and lower elevations have the greatest number of birds, those typical of similar elevations and latitudes in the south. Some common species are the Downy Woodpecker, Eastern Screech-Owl, Belted Kingfisher, Carolina Chickadee, Carolina Wren, Song Sparrow, and American Goldfinch. In summer add the Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Acadian Flycatcher, Wood Thrush, Yellow-throated Vireo, Black-and-white Warbler, Ovenbird, Louisiana Waterthrush, Scarlet Tanager, Indigo Bunting, Chipping Sparrow, and others. In winter, the Yellow-rumped Warbler and White-throated Sparrow become common.
Open fields account for less than one percent of park land, but these areas provide habitat for Red-tailed hawk, American Kestrel, Northern Bobwhite, Wild Turkey, Killdeer, Eastern Bluebird, Field Sparrow, Eastern Meadowlark, and others. In the summer add the Eastern Kingbird, Barn Swallow, Yellow Warbler, and Orchard Oriole.
The number of birds and diversity of species change with the seasons. Late March brings the first migrating songbirds to lower elevations, and by late April many species are at peak singing and nesting activity. Yet in the high country, snow lingers and it will be mid-June before songbird nesting is at its peak. In summer, most lowland birds are starting a second brood, while the highland birds are working on their first and perhaps only family of the year. Fall is a time of change when warblers and others wear a confusing molted fall plumage. Restless to migrate, many species will leave at night and head south. In mid-September the Broad-winged Hawks begin to kettle-up over the ridges and glide to the next thermal, with a few Sharp-shinned, Cooper’s, Northern Harriers, and others joining. Even as the migrants leave, the winter visitors begin to arrive – Purple Finch, Evening Grosbeak, Swamp Sparrow, and others.
You will hear many more birds than you will see in the Smokies’ dense, tall forests. Learning the common songs of the breeding season will make birding trips more successful. Even if you don’t know the song, you can use the sound to locate the bird and get view of it. A person who can identify most species by sight or sound, and who explores as many habitats as possible, can expect to find 100 species a day in peak migration - late April and early May. 


* - considered to breed within park

R - Permanent Resident
S - Summer Resident
M - Migrant
W - Winter Resident
cc - Cades Cove
lr - Look Rock fire tower
ri - reintroduced
he - high elevation (abote 3,500')

A - Abundant: over 25 seen on a given day in proper habitat/season
C - Common: 5-25 seen per day in proper habitat/season
F - Fairly common: at least one individual per day in proper habitat/season
U - Uncommon: at least one seen per season of occurrence of several seen per year
O - Occasional: one seen per year or less
X - Rare: has occurred in park at least once, but is not to be expected

LOONS ___ Common Loon OM
GREBES ___ Pied-billed Grebe UM ___ Horned Grebe OM
STORM-PETRELS ___ Band-rumped Storm-Petrel XM
PELICANS & CORMORANTS ___ American White Pelican XM ___ Double-crested Cormorant XM
BITTERNS & HERONS ___ American Bittern OM ___ Least Bittern OM ___ Great Blue Heron UR cc ___ Great Egret OM ___ Little Blue Heron OM ___ Green Heron* FS cc ___ Black-crowned Night-Heron XS ___ Yellow-crowned Night-Heron* US cc
GEESE & DUCKS ___ Snow Goose XM ___ Brant XM ___ Canada Goose OM ___ Wood Duck* OR cc ___ Green-winged Teal XM ___ American Black Duck UW cc ___ Mallard UW cc ___ Northern Pintail XM ___ Blue-winged Teal UM, OW ___ Northern Shoveler XM ___ American Wigeon XM ___ Ring-necked Duck OW ___ Lesser Scaup XM ___ White-winged Scoter XW cc ___ Common Goldeneye XW ___ Bufflehead XW ___ Hooded Merganser UW, XS cc ___ Common Merganser OW ___ Red-breasted Merganser XM ___ Ruddy Duck OM cc
VULTURES, HAWKS & EAGLES ___ Black Vulture* FR cc ___ Turkey Vulture* CR cc ___ Osprey OM ___ Swallow-tailed Kite XS ___ Mississippi Kite XM ___ Bald Eagle OM ___ Northern Harrier (Marsh Hawk) OMW ___ Sharp-shinned Hawk* UR ___ Cooper's Hawk* UR ___ Northern Goshawk XR ___ Red-shouldered Hawk OMW, OR ___ Broad-winged Hawk* FS, CM, lr ___ Red-tailed Hawk* UR ___ Golden Eagle XMW cc XS ___ American Kestrel* UR cc ___ Merlin XMS ___ Peregrine Falcon(* formerly) OWM, OS ri
GROUSE, TURKEYS & QUAILS ___ Ruffed Grouse* FR ___ Wild Turkey* UR cc ___ Northern Bobwhite* FR
RAILS, GALLINULES & COOTS ___ King Rail XMS ___ Virginia Rail XM ___ Sora OM ___ Common Moorhen XM ___ American Coot XMWS
CRANES ___ Sandhill Crane XM
SHOREBIRDS ___ American Golden Plover (Lesser Gol-Pl.) XM ___ Semipalmated Plover OM cc ___ Killdeer* UR cc ___ Greater Yellowlegs OM ___ Lesser Yellowlegs XM ___ Solitary Sandpiper ___ Willet XM ___ Spotted Sandpiper UM ___ Semipalmated Sandpiper XM ___ Least Sandpiper OM cc ___ Ruff XM ___ Common Snipe UMW cc ___ American Woodcock* UR ___ Red-necked Phalarope XM ___ Red Phalarope XW
GULLS & TERNS ___ Laughing Gull XM ___ Bonaparte's Gull XM ___ Ring-billed Gull XMW ___ Herring Gull XW ___ Sooty Tern XS
DOVES ___ Rock Dove XR ___ Mourning Dove* CR cc
CUCKOOS ___ Black-billed Cuckoo* US ___ Yellow-billed Cuckoo* FS
OWLS ___ Barn Owl OR ___ Eastern Screech-Owl* FR ___ Great Horned Owl* UR ___ Barred Owl* FR ___ Northern Saw-whet Owl* FR he
NIGHTHAWKS & NIGHTJARS ___ Common Nighthawk FM ___ Chuck-will's-widow US ___ Whip-poor-will* FS
SWIFTS & HUMMINGBIRDS ___ Chimney Swift* CS ___ Ruby-throated Hummingbird* FS, CM-fall
KINGFISHERS ___ Belted Kingfisher* FR
WOODPECKERS ___ Red-headed Woodpecker* UR, cc ___ Red-bellied Woodpecker* FR ___ Yellow-bellied Sapsucker* US, he, FW ___ Downy Woodpecker* FR ___ Hairy Woodpecker* FR ___ Red-cockaded Woodpecker* OR ___ Northern Flicker (Common Flicker)* FR ___ Pileated Woodpecker* FR
TYRANT FLYCATCHERS ___ Olive-sided Flycatcher* US, he ___ Eastern Wood-Pewee* CS ___ Yellow-bellied Flycatcher XM ___ Acadian Flycatcher* CS ___ Alder Flycatcher OM ___ Willow Flycatcher OS ___ Least Flycatcher* US ___ Eastern Phoebe* CR (UW) ___ Great Crested Flycatcher* FS ___ Western Kingbird XM ___ Eastern Kingbird* FS cc ___ Scissor-tailed Flycatcher XM cc
LARKS ___ Horned Lark OR cc
SWALLOWS ___ Purple Martin US ___ Tree Swallow OM ___ Northern Rough-winged Swallow* FS ___ Bank Swallow OM ___ Cliff Swallow UM ___ Barn Swallow* CS
JAYS, CROWS & RAVENS ___ Blue Jay* CR ___ American Crow* CR ___ Common Raven FR he
CHICKADEES & TITMICE ___ Black-capped Chickadee* FR he ___ Carolina Chickadee* CR ___ Tufted Titmouse* CR
NUTHATCHES & CREEPERS ___ Red-breasted Nuthatch* CR he ___ White-breasted Nuthatch* FR ___ Brown Creeper* FR he
WRENS ___ Carolina Wren* CR ___ Bewick's Wren* XR (formerly OR) ___ House Wren OR, FM ___ Winter Wren* CR he ___ Sedge Wren OM ___ Marsh Wren OM
KINGLETS & GNATCATCHERS ___ Golden-crowned Kinglet* CR he ___ Ruby-crowned Kinglet FMW ___ Blue-gray Gnatcatcher* CS
THRUSHES ___ Eastern Bluebird* FR cc ___ Veery* CS he ___ Gray-cheeked Thrush FM ___ Swainson's Thrush CM ___ Hermit Thrush FW ___ Wood Thrush* CS ___ American Robin* FR, CM
THRASHERS ___ Gray Catbird* FS, OW ___ Northern Mockingbird* UR ___ Brown Thrasher* FS, UW
PIPITS & WAXWINGS ___ American Pipit (Water Pipit) OMW ___ Cedar Waxwing* FR (erratic)
SHRIKES & STARLINGS ___ Loggerhead Shrike OR cc ___ European Starling* CR
VIREOS ___ White-eyed Vireo* FS ___ Solitary Vireo* CS he ___ Yellow-throated Vireo* CS ___ Warbling Vireo OS ___ Philadelphia Vireo OM ___ Red-eyed Vireo* AS
WOOD WARBLERS ___ Blue-winged Warbler FM ___ Golden-winged Warbler* US ___ Brewster's Warbler XM ___ Lawrence's Warbler XM ___ Tennessee Warbler CM ___ Orange-crowned Warbler OMW ___ Nashville Warbler FM ___ Northern Parula* FS ___ Yellow Warbler* FS ___ Chestnut-sided Warbler* CS he ___ Magnolia Warbler CM ___ Cape May Warbler FM ___ Black-throated Blue Warbler* CS, he ___ Yellow-rumped Warbler A-CMW ___ Black-throated Green Warbler* CS ___ Blackburnian Warbler* FS he ___ Yellow-throated Warbler* FS ___ Pine Warbler* FS, OW ___ Prairie Warbler* FS ___ Palm Warbler FM, OW ___ Bay-breasted Warbler FM ___ Blackpoll Warbler FM (spring), OM (fall) ___ Cerulean Warbler FM, OS ___ Black-and-white Warbler* CS ___ American Redstart* FS ___ Prothonotary Warbler* OM, XS ___ Worm-eating Warbler* FS ___ Swainson's Warbler* US ___ Ovenbird* CS ___ Northern Waterthrush OM ___ Louisiana Waterthrush* CS ___ Kentucky Warbler* CS ___ Connecticut Warbler OM ___ Common Yellowthroat* FS ___ Hooded Warbler* CS ___ Wilson's Warbler OM ___ Canada Warbler* CS he ___ Yellow-breasted Chat* FS
TANAGERS ___ Summer Tanager* FS ___ Scarlet Tanager* CS
CARDINALS, GROSBEAKS, BUNTINGS & SPARROWS ___ Northern Cardinal* CR ___ Rose-breasted Grosbeak* FS he ___ Blue Grosbeak OM, OS cc ___ Indigo Bunting* C-AS ___ Dickcissel XW cc ___ Rufous-sided Towhee* CR ___ Bachman's Sparrow XS (formerly OS) ___ Chipping Sparrow* CS ___ Field Sparrow* CR ___ Vesper Sparrow UM cc ___ Lark Sparrow XS cc ___ Savannah Sparrow UMW cc ___ Grasshopper Sparrow OSM cc ___ Henslow's Sparrow XM ___ Le Conte's Sparrow XMW cc ___ Fox Sparrow O-FW ___ Song Sparrow* CR ___ Lincoln's Sparrow OM ___ Swamp Sparrow FW ___ White-throated Sparrow C-AW ___ White-crowned Sparrow OM, OW ___ Dark-eyed Junco* AR he (lower elv. W) ___ Snow Bunting XW he
MEADOWLARKS, BLACKBIRDS & ORIOLES ___ Bobolink UM cc ___ Red-winged Blackbird* FM, CS, cc, UW ___ Eastern Meadowlark* CR cc ___ Rusty Blackbird UM, OW ___ Common Grackle* FS, UW ___ Brown-headed Cowbird* FM, FR ___ Orchard Oriole* UM, US ___ Baltimore Oriole* UM, OS, cc
FINCHES ___ Purple Finch U-FW ___ House Finch XW ___ Red Crossbill UR he (erratic) ___ White-winged Crossbill XW ___ Common Redpoll XW ___ Pine Siskin US, U-CW (erratic) ___ American Goldfinch* FR ___ Evening Grosbeak U-CW (erratic)
OLD WORLD SPARROWS ___ House Sparrow* UR
Checklist compiled by Fred J. Alsop, III. For additional information contact:
                 Great Smoky Mountains National Park
                 107 Park Headquarters Road
                 Gatlinburg, Tennessee 37738
                 Telephone: 423/436-1200

This resource is based on the following source:
Alsop, III. F.J.  1995.  Birds of the Great Smoky Mountains, a checklist 
     for the birds of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Great Smoky 
     Mountains Natural History Association in cooperation with Great 
     Smoky Mountains National Park.  Unpaginated.
This resource should be cited as:
Alsop, III. F.J.  1995.  Birds of the Great Smoky Mountains, a checklist 
     for the birds of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Jamestown, 
     ND: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Online.  
     (Version 22MAY98).

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