Bird Watching in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Hello all you bird enthusiasts and bird watching newbies; looking for a spot that offers an exquisite bird watching experience? I know just the place. The Blue Ridge Mountains provide the ideal location. Yes, you read correctly; I did say the Blue Ridge Mountains. While known for the many hiking/biking trails, the scenic drive, and the wildlife; the variety of birds that occupy the Blue Ridge, along with several species that can been seen during periods of migration is its best kept secret. Today I am going to let you in on that secret, so pay attention.

Pack a snack, grab your binoculars, comfortable walking shoes and a camera and head on over to the Blue Ridge; it’s the most amazing place to spot bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, herons and listen to the glorious melody of the northern mockingbird. Below is a list of some of the most popular birds and the time of year when they are most active.

Spring (March – May)

The skies light up with a magnificent explosion of colors and the songs and sounds of an abundant variety of birds are carried across the winds. You’ll find the Indigo Bunting, Northern Parula, Mourning Doves, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, Gray Catbirds, Eastern Meadowlark, Scarlet Tanager, Blackpoll Warbler, the remarkable Eastern Bluebird and many others in the Blue Ridge during Spring.

Eastern Bluebirds

Eastern Bluebirds

20100415_95” by Sandysphotos2009 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Despite its short legs and tails, plump body with large eyes and big round body, this small thrush has a very alert posture. You’ll find this striking bird in open areas, near trees suitable for a nesting hole.

Summer (June – August)

As it gets warmer, the springtime birds are joined in the sky by their counterparts who do best in warmer weather. The American Robin, Chimney Swift, Brown-headed Cowbird, Acadian, Red-winged Blackbird, Barn Swallow and Louisiana Waterthrush can all be seen during this period. This list is by no means complete.

Redwinged Blackbird

Redwinged Blackbird

Red Winged Blackbird” by Walter Siegmund is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Get your cameras out, this bird (male) loves getting noticed so you might be able to get an awesome photo. You’ll find the Red-winged Blackbird along water courses and near marshes.

Autumn (September – November)

Although a vast number of birds that are predominant during the summer months may still be seen when the temperature becomes cooler, autumn brings a new variety. Birds such as; Magnolia Warbler, The American Kestrel, Broad-winged hawks, Bald Eagle and Osprey can be spotted in large numbers in Mid-September.

Magnolia Warbler

Magnolia Warbler

Magnolia Warbler” by Cephas is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

A member of the wood warbler family Parulidae; although you might hear this beautiful songbird a mile away, you’ll have to look carefully as it masks itself in trees or near the ground in woodlands.

During October there is an increase in the number of Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s hawks. As we move towards the end of October and into November, Red-shoulder and Red-tailed hawks become more active. Keep your finger crossed; if you’re lucky you might see a northern Goshawk or a Golden eagle. Harvey’s Knob Overlook offers the perfect vantage point to view those birds as they migrate south.

Golden Eagle

Golden Eagle

Golden Eagle – Nova” by J. Glover – Atlanta Georgia is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The largest raptor in the Northern Hemisphere; moves extremely fast and can dive at its prey up to speeds of 150 miles per hour.

Winter (December – February)

Winter is the less favorite season for bird watching, which of course is understandable. However, if you do decide to go the mountains, there are still a few birds that can be seen during the months of December through February. Such birds include but are not limited to; Great Blue Heron, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Common Loon, American Coot and Mallard Duck.

Common Loon

Common Loon

Loon” by John Picken is licensed under CC BY 2.0

This elegantly beautiful water bird is set apart from all others with its three distinctive sounds.  When calling for a mate it makes a long, uncanny wolf-like wail and a rhythmic yodel, through the rest of the year it gives a tremolo call. It is simply astounding to hear.

Least Common Birds

I mentioned the most popular birds; now here is a list of birds that are spotted less frequently in the Blue Ridge. You might just be one of the few to see them so be on the lookout. The least common birds include but are not limited to; Cliff Swallow, Purple Finch, Pectoral Sandpiper, Screech Owl, Great Horned Oil, and the Wood Duck.

Bird watching in the Blue Ridge Mountains is a spectacular experience, in fact, a single day might not be enough to view and capture some of these most magnificent birds in flight. So stop by one of our fully furnished cabins at Cabin Creekwood, rejuvenate yourself, and get started early the next day.

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