Birdwatching in the Smoky Mountains


Spring is just around the corner, and the Great Smoky Mountains is the perfect place to be. With amazing mountain vistas, cool mountain streams, flowing waterfalls, blooming wildflowers, and animals beginning to stir again, there is no shortage of awesome things to see in the great outdoors. One of the most popular sights for springtime in the Smokies is birds! 

The Great Smoky Mountains is home to more than 60 species of birds, making it a birdwatcher’s paradise! You can spend days exploring here, enjoying peaceful natural surroundings and watching for an amazing variety of birds. 

Why are there so many birds?
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park boasts a variety of elevations, offering homes to many different species of birds. Some stop here to breed or take a break during their migration, raising the number of species over 240 during those times. It’s really something remarkable! 

Why springtime?
Spring is when birds showcase their songs, new birds are born, and of course – the weather and wildflowers are pluses for visitors. Visit in late April to early May for the best chance of seeing the most birds. 

What birds will I see?
There are SO MANY birds in the Smokies. Stop by a visitors center to pick up birdwatching gear and a chart to guide you or use this checklist of birds in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park from the Great Smoky Mountains Association. To get you started, here are some common local birds you may see:

  • 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 

Where should I go?
You’ll likely see birds along any trail you visit in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but there are some particularly great places to stop. Check out Cades Cove, the Cosby area, Smokemont, or Clingmans Dome for some peak birdwatching opportunities! 

Can I share my info?
Love sharing what you’ve seen and found in the Smokies? Record anything you see or experience and send it to the Research Coordinator of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to do your part in helping record more about the birds of the Smokies! 

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

And remember to record:

  • Date and time
  • Location (including elevation)
  • Weather and temperature
  • Number of people birdwatching
  • Any info you have about that species! 

Birdwatching at the Cabin
Even when you’re not out in the park, you can enjoy birdwatching from your own Pigeon Forge cabin! Grab your binoculars, have your camera on hand, and find a nice spot on the deck to sit back and birdwatch! Start mornings with a cup of coffee and your birdwatching journal, and listen for the sounds of nature late into the night.