Bird Watchers Love Visiting the Smoky Mountains!Listed as one of the Top 50 places in the world for birding, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to 60 different species of birds year-round. Over the course of the year, however, 240 species—including 110 that breed—make an appearance in the beautiful park, making it one of the top things to do in the Smokies. Reserve one of our cozy cabins in the Smokies as your base camp and use the following to prepare for bird watching in the Smokies.
Bird Watching in the Smokies Without Trekking
One of the best places to start is at the Sugarlands Visitor Center, which offers bird lists and other information. Park rangers are a very useful source of up-to-date info on birds in the national park. This information is especially helpful as one can find birds which have natural habitats that range from the boreal forests of Canada to the sub-tropics, meaning that no matter what time of year you come, there will be birds not seen anywhere else in the region.
For those who enjoy birding but are not overly fond of long hikes, bird watching in the Smokies is quite convenient, as a large number of birds are present in the lower elevations. The southern hardwoods in the low-to-mid-level ranges are home to the Downy Woodpecker, Belted Kingfisher, Carolina Chickadee, Carolina Wren, Song Sparrow, and American Goldfinch.
In summer, the lower elevations are home to cuckoos, wood thrushes, vireos, Indigo Buntings, and Scarlet Tanagers. Come early or stay late to hear the Eastern Screech-Owl and others of its kind.
Meadows and High Peaks Are Great for Birding
Although Cades Cove is one of the top things to do in the Smokies, its open fields are a rare opportunity for birders. Though its meadows are world-famous, they are quite rare in the park, which consists of less than one percent open fields. Here and in the few other cleared areas, one can find Red-tailed hawk, American Kestrel, Eastern Bluebird, Eastern Meadowlark, and more.
It is quite likely that you will spot flocks of Wild Turkey even if you are caught in the peak traffic of Cades Cove. In summer, the quieter parts host Barn Swallows, Yellow Warblers, and Orchard Orioles.
Late spring is a particularly interesting time to visit, as the higher elevations are still cool and far northern species are often hatching new broods. The spruce fir forest of the high ridges is great to spot species normally seen in Canada, like the Black-capped Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Northern Saw-whet Owl, warblers, and the Dark-eyed Junco.
With a little planning, sighting many of the birds on your list of things to do in the Smokies can be a rewarding and relaxing experience. Get up early for a day of bird watching in the Smokies and then retire to one of our cozy cabins in Gatlinburg and listen to bird calls from a peaceful patio, or tuck your feet up in front of the fireplace. Either way, your time in the Smokies will help you get away from life’s stresses.