Bird Watching In Western North Carolina
Bird watching in western North Carolina can be quite spectacular. There is enough diversity and plumage in the mountains of southern Appalachia and Western North Carolina to rival any show narrated by David Attenborough.
I have been mesmerized by the birds of North Carolina ever since I was a child. I can remember sitting in my mother's kitchen watching the birds out the back window as they visited the feeder. It was during this time that I realized that the birds in my backyard were just as exotic, colorful and mysterious as any bird I had seen on TV.
Appalachian Micro Climates
The terrain and layout of the Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina make for some varied micro-climates. Backyards can range from 2,000 - 5,500 feet above sea level with any number of other significant features including streams, deciduous and coniferous forests, and high mountain meadows. Because of the diversity in terrain and climates there are quite a large number birds that can be found in western North Carolina backyards. The birds I am focusing on in this article are the ones commonly seen in the backyards of Asheville.
The Tufted Titmouse
The tufted titmouse is a year round visitor to Asheville backyards. This relative of the chickadee likes to flit from branch to branch, searching for large seeds. When it finds one it will crack it open with a few sharp cracks of its beak. The titmouse has a bushy crest on its head with a black patch centered in the front. These birds tend to stay at the lower elevations, usually under 2,000 feet. You may find them flocking with other regulars at the bird feeder.
A Murder Of Crows
The American Crow
The American Crow is widespread across North America. It travels in flocks, called a "murder", that sometimes can reach thousands. Crows are one the smartest birds and are known problem solvers. The American Crow is a medium/large bird with all black plumage. Crows love to eat small animals, insects and earthworms but are also know to eat carrion. Their long wings end in flight feathers that spread like fingers in flight. The crow is an aggressive bird and will drive off other, larger birds like hawks and owls.
Goldfinches travel in small flocks consisting of 3-10 birds. The flocks will come to your feeder as a group once the "scout" bird decides it is safe. The vibrant colors and social behavior of the birds are a bonus to any back yard feeding station. Goldfinches love seeds, especially sunflower seeds. Goldfinches are active little birds, often seen flitting from one place to another, perching on stalks of tall grass or weeds.
House Finches Don't Live In Houses!
House finches are originally from the western part of the country but have managed to spread to nearly every corner of the US. Native to the deserts and drier areas, the house finch is now found in neighborhoods, parks and cities. The bright red heads are a welcome sight at feeders and are often confused with purple finches. House finches will feed on the ground, in shrubs or high in a tree, chomping on seeds with a series of quick nibbles and spitting the shells like a major league baseball player.
Don't mock me, Mockingbird!
Mockingbirds are a common sight across the southeast. They can be seen stretching their wings on rooftops, fence lines and in grassy fields. Their song is a long mixture of calls they have picked up from other birds. Mockingbirds have been been known to repeat the calls of telephones, squeaky hinges and alarms.
The State Bird Of North Carolina
Cardinal, The State Bird Of North Carolina
Cardinals are the state bird of North Carolina and several other states as well. The beautiful red color of the males can be seen from far away and is very conspicuous in the winter. Unlike most other birds cardinals do not molt to a dull color in winter. Male cardinals are obsessively territorial and may be seen attacking their own reflection in a window. The cardinal likes to nest in low shrubbery and tall grassy areas so if you have any of those in your yard you could be hosting a nesting pair.
What Bird Has A Good Short Game? The Chipping Sparrow!
Chipping sparrows are found across North America. This small sparrow is easily identifiable by the rufous cap on its head and loud trilling call. The small and diminutive sparrow is a bushy little bird with a long tail and medium sized pointy bill. The bird likes to feed from the ground so scattering some seed when you fill up the feeder is good idea. The chipping sparrow is common to open woodland type areas, parks and neighborhoods.
Bluebirds Are A Happy Sight!
These bright blue birds are a common sight in neighborhoods, lightly wooded areas and meadows bordering woodland. They will readily nest in a box that they consider safe from predators. The eastern bluebird is a bright blue and can be distinguished from other blue colored birds by its brown, almost coppery underbelly. They like to perch on wires, posts or fences in or near meadowland as they scan for insects.
A common sight along waterways, streams and marshes in the summer. The redwinged blackbird will move into meadowland and backyard areas during the winter. The brightly colored males are easy to identify, a task made easier by the birds own desire to be noticed. They often sit perched high in a tree or a telephone wire, with tail flared, singing for all the world. The females are less colorful and prefer to stay in the bushes; not in the center of attention like the males.
Ruby Throated Hummingbird
The emerald green flash of a ruby throated hummingbird is welcome sight around Asheville. The tiny bird is the areas only breeding species of hummingbird found in North Carolina. The brightly colored birds shine like jewels in full sun as they dart around flower beds and ruby red hummbird feeders. Males are highly territorial and can be seen dive bombing invaders around their favorite feeders. The hummingbirds all spend their winters in Central America, leaving the colder climates of the northern hemisphere each fall as the days get shorter. Hummingbirds leaving from North Carolina will be faced with the long flight over the Gulf Of Mexico, a trip they will have take in one go.
My Name Is Indigo Bunting Montoya....
The indidgo bunting is a vividly colored blue bird found in the woodlands, parks and neighborhoods of Asheville. The male is completely blue while the females and juveniles are less brilliantly colored. Indigo buntings eat a wide variety of seeds and insects, making them infrequent visitors of feeder stations. They prefer low shrub covered areas and can be coaxed into a feeding station with some well placed thistle seed.
Questions & Answers
Question: Which large woodland birds are found in North Carolina?
Answer: There a lot. These include hawks, vultures, owls, eagles, cranes (along waterways), ravens, and crows.
Question: Are there any Pyrrhuloxia in western Northern Carolina? I swear I saw one at our feeder, complete with the colors and thick beak.
Answer: No, it was a female or juvenile cardinal.
Jeanne on January 12, 2020:
Recently moved to Weaverville from NYC. Thank you for the great index. I've identified 3 in my yard just this morning.
Alexa Hutchinson on October 22, 2019:
I’m trying to figure out what sort of little bird I saw in Western NC over the weekend
I have a pic if anyone wants to see
Small bird with blackish head and wings a bit of yellowish white on the chest with black small beak and feet
Michael on May 27, 2019:
Leicester area of AVL.... just saw an indigo bunting here as well. I assumed it an ordinary bluebird, but it was far too bright and far too roundish. Beautiful bird.
Veronica on April 28, 2019:
I just seen my first Indigo Bunting here at our house in Yancey County! I sure hope it comes back! I love to watch God's beautiful animals.
Elizabeth on April 17, 2019:
We have an indigo bunting, we are bordering the nc/tn state line in bakersville, nc. I was so amazed when i first seen it. The blue is almost tropical like. We have owned that property for 11 years and this was the first time i had seen one.
Sandy on November 08, 2018:
I have seen a very very tiny bird in mt back yard in berke county n.c. he is small I am not sue of his colors . I think he ha a bronist color, medium tan under belly and a partial black on top of head
sarah on July 08, 2018:
I live in rural Watauga County, and have never had mockingbirds here. Now I hear a bird that sings all the time (except at night) and wonder if this could be the mockingbird?
TMHughes (author) from Asheville, NC on April 20, 2018:
That is so awesome. I had a family of Carolina Wrens hatch under my porch last year, watching the babes learn to fly was fantastic.
Ann on April 20, 2018:
looking forward to getting visits from the hummers.
at the moment have a female finch sitting on 5 eggs in an ornament wreath on our porch, she has been sitting for a week , it is such fun watching her and the male, he is feeding her while she sits on the eggs, we don't use our front door so as not to disturb her.
thanks for your information on them.
Ken on March 29, 2018:
What about the Carolina Chickadee and Carolina Wren? Song Sparrows?
Besarien from South Florida on May 16, 2015:
Asheville resident and amateur bird enthusiast over here and I love this hub! Most of these visit my yard daily in spring and summer. I have a hummingbird feeder which I refill daily and have seen a few. However they are a special treat, not my usual suspects. I have come to think of it as my bee and butterfly feeder.
RTalloni on August 21, 2012:
Neat look at the birds of this region. I'm hoping to make time for some bird photography one day. Thanks for putting these shots together for us.