woodpecker in the Smoky Mountains in the leaves
July 6, 2022

Whether you’re a serious bird watcher or just love the sight of colorful birds, just wait until you step inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park! The park is a premier place to find birds as it offers a diversity of habitats and microclimates, thanks to a range in elevations! You’ll want to bring your binoculars and camera along for your adventure in the Smokies as you never know what you might spot in the forest! Here are the top 3 reasons why the Smoky Mountains are one of the nation’s best bird watching areas:

1. Wide Variety of Bird Species

Turkey in the Smoky Mountains

You’ll discover a wide variety of bird species in the Smokies, including 60 species that are year round residents. Altogether, there are approximately 240 species of birds that have been found in the park! There are about 120 species that breed in the park, which includes 52 species from the neo-tropics. Many other species use the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as an important stopover and foraging area during their semi-annual migration. While there have been more than 75 years of observations, the park still adds new species to the list! Some of the common species include the Downy Woodpecker, Eastern Screech-Owl, Belted Kingfisher, Carolina Chickadee, Carolina Wren, Song Sparrow and American Goldfinch.

2. Diversity of Habitats in the Park

Another reason why the Smoky Mountains are one of the nation’s best bird watching areas is because of the diversity of habitats in the park! The peaks of the Smokies rise nearly a mile above the foothills, so the range in elevation creates many unique habitats. Since the changes in elevation affect the types of vegetation that grow in the mountains, they determine where many birds can be found. While some species prefer the high, exposed peaks, others live in the warmed, sheltered lowland areas of the park. Whether you’re exploring the park’s lowest elevation at Abrams Creek or hiking to the top of Clingmans Dome, you’ll experience many of these different habitats during your visit!

3. Easily Accessible Bird Watching Locations

Cades Cove Loop Road

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park features hundreds of scenic hiking trails, creating a nearly endless selection of easily accessible bird watching locations! There are hikes for all skill levels, ranging from easy trails like the Gatlinburg Trail to more advanced options such as the Gregory Ridge Trail. One of the easiest places to visit is Cades Cove Loop Road, an 11 mile loop road through a valley surrounded by mountains. While open areas such as Cades Cove account for less than 1 percent of park land, they provide a habitat for the Red-tailed hawk, American Kestrel, Northern Bobwhite, Wild Turkey, Killdeer, Eastern Bluebird, Field Sparrow and Eastern Meadowlark. If you are visiting the Smokies during the summer months, add the Eastern Kingbird, Barn Swallow, Yellow Warbler and Orchard Oriole to the list!

Now that you know why the Smoky Mountains are one of the nation’s best bird watching areas, learn about some of the other wildlife viewing opportunities in Great Smoky Mountains National Park!