The Blue Ridge Parkway has many scenic attractions, not the least of which is its variety of birds. For birding enthusiasts, the Parkway offers a never-ending supply of beautiful birds, from the American Bittern to the Whip-poor-will. The annual autumn hawk migration down the Blue Ridge can be spectacular. Here are a few of the more commonly seen birds on the Parkway, categorized by season. Bear in mind that the Parkway stretches for almost 500 miles through two states, so several birds are more prevalent in some areas than in others.
Birds of the Parkway 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.
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Less Common 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.
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