Bluebird on a Fencepost


For birding enthusiasts, the Parkway offers an enormous variety of species to see, study, and appreciate. Ridgelines and rocky outcroppings provide wind currents for hawks to ride as they head south for the winter, and the annual hawk migration is anticipated and watched by many. Over eighty species of migratory birds delight both serious bird-watchers and residents who put up backyard feeders. In open meadows and in wooded farm country where mixed habitats are plentiful, over two hundred species flourish. Below are a few of the more commonly sighted birds on the Parkway, categorized by season. The Parkway stretches almost 500 miles end-to-end, so most birds are more prevalent in some area than in others.

Birdwatching by Season

Birds seen in all seasons include the Cardinal, Carolina Chickadee, Common Crow, Common Flicker, Blue Jay, Red-Tailed Hawk, Dark-Eyed Junco, White-Breasted Nuthatch, Song Sparrow, Tufted Titmouse, Turkey Vulture, the Downy, Pileated and Red-Bellied Woodpecker, and the Carolina Wren.

Spring (March – May)

The Eastern Bluebird is a particularly striking bird seen during the spring, as is the Indigo Bunting. Gray Catbirds, Mourning Doves and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are all visible, as is the Gnatcatcher, American Goldfinch, Grackle and Rose-breasted Grosbeak. The Eastern Meadowlark, Northern Parula and Eastern Phoebe are common; the American Redstart, Chipping, White-throated and Field Sparrow, Scarlet Tanager and Rufous-sided Towhee are as well. The warbler family has many contributors to the spring sky along the Parkway, including the Blackpoll, Black-and-white, Cerulean, Chestnut-sided, Hooded, Pine, Prairie, Yellow and Yellow-rumped varieties.

Most of the springtime birds are also seen in the summer skies over the Parkway, including the Red-winged Blackbird, Yellow-breasted Chat, Acadian and Great-crested Flycatchers and Ovenbird. Also seen are the Eastern Wood Pewee, American Robin, Brown Thrasher, Wood Thrush, Chimney Swift and Veery. The Louisiana Water Thrush, Brown-headed Cowbird and Barn Swallow are common at this time of year as well.

Autumn (September – November)

Many of the birds of the warmer months will still be around in the fall, but with a few additions. The American Kestrel, Sharp-shinned and Broad-winged Hawk and Magnolia Warbler can all be spotted during the autumn months on the Parkway.

Winter (December – February)

The winter months are, understandably, the poorest for bird-watching along the Parkway, but if you look closely you might see an American Coot, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Mallard, Common Loon, Great Blue Heron, or Pine Siskin.

Photo Gallery

Rare Birds

Although the above birds are among the more common ones seen along the Parkway, there are also many that are sighted on a less regular basis. These include the Bufflehead, Bobwhite, Black- and Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Wood Duck, Purple Finch and the Cooper’s, Rough-legged and Red-shouldered Hawk. The Pectoral Sandpiper, House Sparrow, Golden-winged and Prothonotary warbler, Cliff Swallow, and American Woodcock are also occasional visitors to the area. Some of the more unusual birds glimpsed along the Parkway include the Bald and Golden Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Herring and Ring-billed Gull, Mockingbird, Barred, Great Horned and Screech Owl, Wild Turkey, and the Great Egret.

This list of birds is by no means complete – the varieties and abundance of birds along the Blue Ridge Parkway is great and ever-changing. Before you visit any one area along the road, be sure to contact the nearest visitor center for a complete list of the birds to be seen in that area.

Neotropical Migratory Bird Studies

Many of the forest-nesting birds along the Blue Ridge Parkway are in trouble. Their habitat has been reduced and they suffer from the effects of excessive pesticides and predators. This is especially true of the Neotropical bird species — those birds that migrate south for the winter and return to the Parkway each spring. Birds such as the scarlet tanager, veery, wood thrush, and Kentucky warbler have been declining rapidly in the past 10 years.

The park, in cooperation with several other agencies and non-profit organizations, studies the problem by conducting a population count of various species. Visitors may encounter resource managers netting birds in sections of the park. Birds are tagged and counted as managers attempt to determine just how serious the problem has become.

Please feel free to observe the research work and ask resource managers how you might protect the birds in your own backyard.

Bird Identification Guide Books

Nature Guide to the Blue Ridge Parkway

Nature Guide to the Blue Ridge Parkway

The stunning wildlife along the Blue Ridge Parkway attracts more than 14 million annual visitors from near and far for viewing and photographing opportunities. This information-packed, pocket-size field guide features more than 200 species of mammals, birds, insects, fish, wildflowers, mushrooms and more in a convenient, portable package.

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