Western North Carolina is home for many rare, beautiful birds, making it the perfect place to enjoy birdwatching! Take a hike and your field guide, bring a picnic, take some pictures by a waterfall, and enjoy the great outdoors. Watch long enough and you can see the personality of these winged creatures. Bright colors and patterns on their wings and breast can be seen even from your own backyard! Here is what you need to know to enjoy birdwatching in Western North Carolina.
Popular Birds in WNC
The State Bird of North Carolina, cardinals can be found throughout the state. With a body of rich, bright red, black contrast around the eyes and sharp orangish-red beak, Cardinals are a treat for amateurs and birders alike. Females are a pale brown color with red tinges in the body and wings. One of the fun features of both males and females is their triangle-shaped feathers that tend to mohawk out when they are on the move or are protecting their territory.
Ruby Throated Hummingbirds
Don’t blink, these hummingbirds are quick but incredibly beautiful. Their wings, back, and head are a cool emerald green, almost turquoise, with white feathers on its breast. These hummingbirds are identified by their ruby-colored throats. Their colors are gemlike sparkling through in many bird feeders throughout Western North Carolina during the spring and summer.
With a light brown and copper breast under a vibrant blue flank, these Eastern bluebirds are smaller and a little more delicate than larger bluebirds. They enjoy lightly wooded areas common in many North Carolina mountain towns.
Red Winged Blackbirds
These birds are very interesting to see. They have crow-like black feathers all over, but a bright yellow and reddish-orange streak on each wing, almost like a badge or arm patch. They enjoy staying near rivers, creeks, and streams and the males are arrogant and may find you! They love to be seen and aren’t afraid of humans.
With a white breast, blue flank, and wings that are dipped in black and white coloring, the Nuthatch is a common sight in trees of Western North Carolina. Their body of white leads to their head with a streak of black across the top leading to a black beak. They are fun to watch because they often hook on the sides of trees and look like they are climbing!
Popular Places to Bird Watch in WNC
Western North Carolina is the ideal location for amateur and professional bird watchers alike. The mountains, forests, creeks, rivers, and lakes are the ideal location for some of nature’s most beautiful winged creatures. Surrounded by National and State Parks and Preserves, you are sure to find tons of birds to cross out of your field guide. If you are careful, you may get a snapshot of these delicate beauties. Here are a few spots we recommend in and around Asheville North Carolina.
Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary
Specifically designed for bird watching, this 10-acre sanctuary in Asheville is a great place to catch a glimpse of a few gorgeous birds. The lake on the property encourages a number of waterfowl to come closer. Cross the boardwalk on the trails and look for the elegant Great Blue Heron or peculiar Nuthatch.
North Carolina Arboretum
The arboretum is a great way to enjoy not only plant life, but aviary wonders as well! The sheer size of this 434-acre preserve allows you to enjoy nature trails, expansive gardens, and wooded areas that so many birds are drawn to. They also have knowledgeable staff to help you explore the grounds, and they have shows to help you to learn more.
This 212-acre park in Hendersonville, North Carolina offers a number of habitats that are tempting to many bird species. In fact, the park is famous for providing a layover for birds not commonly seen in Western North Carolina as they travel farther south in the fall. This is only one of the many ways to enjoy the fall in Hendersonville. With acres of oak forest, you are sure to enjoy the beautiful fall leaves while you search.
Carl Sandburg Home
This historic site is a day trip for anyone interested in history, plants, or birds. A popular border site, over 120 birds have been documented in this 264-acre site. There are several bird boxes maintained to preserve the birding tradition that the Sandburg’s established. Enjoy miles of trails, pastures, and tour a few buildings owned by the Sandburg’s.
Benefits of Bird Watching
- Better Mental Health. Enjoying quiet time in nature encourages you to slow down, gain some perspective through introspection, and enjoy the fresh air.
- Improve Physical Health. When you have time to relax and get away, you can calm down and improve your blood pressure. Also, certain birds tend to nest at higher elevations and may require a few miles hike. Hikes can improve cardiovascular health.
- Learn Patience. Like hunting or fishing, birdwatching can teach you a great deal of patience. You may wait for hours, trying different locations before you get a peek of the elusive winged beauties.
- Appreciate Nature. Spending time outside enjoying unique wildlife, you really start to appreciate nature. It can encourage you to be eco friendly and work to preserve the natural beauty of Western North Carolina.
What You’ll Need
- Binoculars. A good pair of binoculars is a necessity for any birdwatcher. You can find a decent pair to start your bird watching journey for about $100 dollars.
- Field Guide. A field guide is a book loaded with facts, habitats, eating habits, behavior, and distinct identifiers and pictures of birds for you to see.
- Birding Vest. A birding vest is a great way to keep various tools, and your field guide together, without having to carry a large pack, that you have to remove should you need something. You may need your tools quickly and quietly if you see your target bird.
- Hiking Boots. Some birds may perch at higher elevations and require a hike to get a peek. The value of a good pair of hiking boots can not be overstated.
- Bird Watching Apps. There are some great apps out there that can identify a bird from a picture you take. Some will even listen to the audio of a bird sound around you and identify it for you!
- Bird Feeder. If you feel like watching from home, a bird feeder, birdbath, and house are a great start to bring some special birds right to your backyard. It can add a natural aesthetic to your landscaping design.
The mountains of Western North Carolina will convert any amateur birdwatcher to a professional birder in no time. Grab your binoculars, cinch up your boots, and take a hike, exploring the mountainous landscape filled with trees and limbs to perch on. Maybe even multi-task and identify some plants unique to Western North Carolina on the forest floor!