Springtime Sings — Birdwatching in the Smokies

Soaring over the Great Smoky Mountains, birds of all shapes and sizes (60+ species in fact) make their home in this beautiful Tennessee range. And with a wide span of elevations creating a multiplicity of habitats in the national park, many birds have been spotted here to breed or break during migration, bringing the total number of species to 240+ (including year-round residents). Needless to say, birders call this park a birdwatching paradise

Spring is a great time to visit for a peek at avian life in the Smokies as birds begin to sing and nest. And even if you can’t recognize a bird’s song, the sound will lead your eyes to the aviary prize! All corny jokes aside, late April to early May is also peak migration time for many bird species, so if you play your cards right, you could encounter up to 100 species on a nice spring day. We’ll even help you get started with a list of more commonly seen bird residents, top spring spots to view them, plus where to stay for more aviary sightings. 

Common Birds of the Smoky Mountains
When birdwatching in the Smoky Mountain springtime, it’s helpful if you know what you’re looking for. So, we’ve compiled a list of the bird residents more commonly seen in the Smoky Mountains — from doves, owls, woodpeckers, flycatchers, sparrows, grouse, cranes and jays to titmice, creepers, wrens, kinglets, thrushes, waxwings, blackbirds, and finches!

  • Mourning Dove
  • Eastern Screech-owl
  • Barred Owl
  • Saw-whet Owl
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Northern Flicker
  • Pileated Woodpecker
  • Eastern Phoebe
  • Eastern Towhee
  • Field Sparrow
  • Song Sparrow
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Ruffed Grouse
  • Wild Turkey
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Blue Jay
  • American Crow
  • Common Raven
  • Carolina Chickadee
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Brown Creeper
  • Carolina Wren
  • Winter Wren
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet
  • Eastern Bluebird
  • American Robin
  • Cedar Waxwing
  • Eastern Meadowlark
  • Brown-headed Cowbird
  • American Goldfinch 

Birdwatching Extras: Print a more comprehensive checklist of birds in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park produced by the Great Smoky Mountains Associations (GSMA) for your birdwatching excursion. And teach your kiddos how the American Goldfinch builds its home with a visit to Treehouse Village at Anakeesta!

Top Birdwatching Spots
Now with your goal list of bird species in hand, the next step is choosing where to start listening and looking this spring. No worries — we’ve listed the 4 best birdwatching spots so you can fill your logbook to the brim! 

  • Cades Cove — Walk alongside fresh blooms as you search for beautiful birds in this stunning valley area with massive meadows, mature forests, and various trails.
  • Cosby — Hike along trails in this lesser known (and therefore less crowded) area where spring migration makes for great birdwatching.
  • Smokemont — Stroll around this campground area to find common birds of all kinds, especially during spring migration.
  • Clingmans Dome — Trek up to the tippy top of the observation tower at the highest point in the national park for top-notch birdwatching…literally.

Birdwatchers unite! Send your observations of unusual birds to the Research Coordinator of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (address below). Simply include the date and time, exact location, elevation, weather and temperature, number of individuals, and how familiar you are with the species to help park staff. 

Twin Creeks Science and Education Center
1316 Cherokee Orchard Road
Gatlinburg, TN 37738

Birdwatching at the Cabin
Pack your best binoculars, cameras, and recorders, then head to your secluded Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg cabin (ranging from 1-16 bedrooms) with Cabins for YOU for awesome birdwatching in the Smokies! Ask for a cabin at higher elevations for an eagle’s eye view or opt for woodsy locations where the songbirds will come to you. Awaken to the sound of peaceful tunes in nature with a cup of joe in a rocking chair on the covered back deck. And the best part is…you can birdwatch in your pajamas or soak in the bubbly hot tub as feathered friends fly by and perch in the trees! Who knows? There may even be a nest nearby to observe!

Cabin Amenities

  • Mountain, river, wooded, valley, or city views
  • Steamy hot tub outdoors
  • Rocking chairs and porch swings
  • Indoor jetted tub
  • Private indoor pool
  • Games in the rec room (no fowl play…)
  • Home theater with theater-style seating
  • Fully equipped kitchen
  • Charcoal or gas grills
  • Big screen TVs
  • King and queen beds
  • Bunk beds and sleepers
  • Pet-friendly options
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi
  • Washer/dryer

Harken to aviary songs, test your birdwatching skills, and add to your logbooks in the Great Smoky Mountains this spring!

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