Have you seen any of these birds on the Greenway? Please let us know where.
Tree Swallows are one of the first birds to return to western NC from the tropics, arriving in late February.
You will usually see them over open fields or water, catching insects on the wing.
Sometimes they perch on a wire or limb.
Look for small birds with white undersides and deep blue iridescent backs.
Tree Swallows will use nesting boxes or natural tree cavities.
The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is a winter woodpecker in North Carolina, returning to the northern US and Canada in the spring. These woodpeckers make rings of small holes in the bark of trees, from which they drink sap.
Along the greenway, look for a black and white bird with vertical white wing patches, clinging to the trunk of a tree. Adults have a red crown and males have an additional red throat.
The Hermit Thrush is a winter visitor to North Carolina, coming down from New England and Canada. This small brown bird, with a spotted breast and reddish tail, stays close to the ground at the forest edge.
Along the greenway, look for the Hermit Thrush along the path or at the edge of the woods, low to the ground. It is often found near shrubs with berries. Listen for its “chup” call.
Even if you have never seen this little woodland bird, you’ve probably heard it. The Carolina Wren has the loudest voice in the forest, singing “teakettle, teakettle”. Listen for it any time of year, as this wren is a year-round resident.
Along the greenway, the Carolina Wren can be seen mid-level in the trees, low in the thickets and along the creek. This little cinnamon colored bird will also visit backyard suet feeders in the winter.
Recognized by birders and non-birders alike, the majestic Great Blue Heron is found throughout the US. Look for this bird in the wetlands or in the creek along the greenway. With long legs and a sharp bill, herons are well-adapted for fishing for aquatic animals. They will sometimes hunt for mammals on dry land as well.
Most likely you will see the blue form of this bird, but in south Florida and the Caribbean, there is a white form, known as a Great White Heron.
Yellow-billed Cuckoos breed throughout the eastern US, and by the end of October, will have migrated to South America. These slender birds move slowly through the trees, feeding on caterpillars.
One way to spot one along the Greenway is to look for tent caterpillar nests. In flight, you may notice the flash of rusty brown on their wings.
The Magnolia Warbler is a boreal warbler that breeds in the forests of Canada and northeastern US. During fall migration, they pass through our area on their way to Central America and the Caribbean. Like all warblers, Magnolias are very small and active, foraging in the trees. Their plumage is yellow, black and white, with a black tip on the underside of the tail. The tail “dipped in ink” is one of the best ways to identify a “Maggie” as it feeds along the greenway.
Warblers can be challenging to spot and identify, but the Common Yellowthroat is a regular on the greenway. In early spring they start singing “witchety, witchety” and continue to sing through summer. They will breed here, then travel south for the winter.
Look for this bird along the path, low to the ground in swampy areas. Both male and female Common Yellowthroats have a yellow throat and brownish-olive back. The male sports a black mask.
The American Goldfinch is found throughout North America. By summertime, males are a brilliant golden yellow, which makes them easy to spot along the greenway. Look for them along the path or in open weedy fields. Goldfinches are here year round, and females and winter males are a dull yellow.
You can attract goldfinches to your yard by putting up seed feeders, or planting native wildflowers such as sunflowers and thistle.
Brown Thrashers are found throughout the eastern US and live in North Carolina year-round. They belong to the same family as Northern Mockingbirds and Gray Catbirds, all of which mimic other songs and sounds. They can be found in similar habitat, thick shrubs and vines near the ground.
With reddish brown above and streaks below, these birds can sometimes be seen on the greenway path or in nearby shrubs. Listen for a series of songs that they copy from other bird species.
Chimney Swifts arrive in the spring and stay in our area all summer to breed. To spot a Chimney Swift on the greenway, you will need to find an open patch of sky, and look for it'92s small silhouette. Chimney Swifts cannot perch, and spend their time on the wing, or clinging to the insides of chimneys.
Look for a small bird with a cigar shaped body and long pointed wings. Listen for their high-pitched chattering as they feed in the air.
Red-winged Blackbirds occur throughout North America and are especially active and vocal along the greenway in spring. The males are glossy black with bright red and yellow shoulder patches, which they can puff up. Females are subdued with brown streaks and an orange tinge to their faces.
On the greenway, look for Red-winged Blackbirds in wetland areas such as cattail marshes, and listen for their call, “conk-la-lee”.
Like our other year round birds, the Eastern Phoebe becomes more visible and vocal in the spring. Listen for its call, “Phoebe”.
Phoebes sit upright on a branch and wag their tails. They are flycatchers, so watch for them taking flight, catching insects, and often returning to the same perch.
The Carolina Chickadee is found year round throughout the southeastern United States, and can be seen in all seasons on the greenway. Look for a small bird with a black cap and throat in the woods along the walking path. During spring and fall migration, listen for its “chick-a-dee-dee-dee” call, which may alert you to migrating warblers, with which they often associate.
Carolina Chickadees frequently come to backyard feeders for seed and suet. They may use nesting boxes, such as the ones built for bluebirds, that have been placed in yards and farm fields.
Unlike other ducks which move down from the north in the winter, Mallards are here in western NC year round. Usually found in pairs, Mallards are recognized by the male’s iridescent green head. Females are brownish overall for camouflage and may have a brood of ducklings in the spring.
Mallards occur throughout North America and Eurasia. Look for Mallards in the creek or wetland areas off the greenway path.
The White-breasted Nuthatch is found year round in western North Carolina and throughout much of the United States. Look for it on the greenway on large tree trunks and branches, with its gray back, black cap, and large bill.
Although it is a small bird, it has a loud nasal honk and a unique style of foraging. Nuthatches have the ability to hang upside down and walk down tree trunks.
You can attract White-breasted Nuthatches to your feeders by providing seed and suet.
The American Robin is one of our most recognizable birds, occurring in forests as well as back yards. Robins are here in western NC year round, and feed on berries as well as worms.
Along the greenway, you may see a single bird, or large flocks in the Fall. Males and females have similar coloration, with males being slightly brighter. Robins have a dark head and back, and rusty “red” breast.
Tennessee Warblers pass through western North Carolina during spring and fall migration. In the fall they appear in larger numbers than in spring, and linger a little longer than other warbler species. Tennessee Warblers spend the winter in the Caribbean and Central and South America.
Warblers, in general, are tiny and active, making them challenging to see and identify. Look for a small, yellow-green bird with a pointy bill, and a streak through the eye. They may be seen foraging in the tall wildflowers such as those in the memorial garden near the kiosk.
Photo by Brian Plunkett
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have been in our area since April, building nests and raising their young. By September they are actively feeding and preparing to migrate to South Florida and Central America for the winter.
Look for very small, hovering birds feeding on the nectar of the wildflowers on the greenway. You may notice the male’s brilliant red throat when it catches the sunlight.
You can attract Ruby-throated Hummingbirds to your yard by planting wildflowers such as Scarlet Bee Balm and Cardinal Flower. They will also visit feeders that provide sugar water. Mix one part table sugar with four parts water. Red dye is not necessary.
You may spot a Gray Catbird along the greenway after hearing its distinctive call, like the mew of a cat. Catbirds belong to the same family as mockingbirds and have the ability to mimic sounds.
Gray Catbirds breed in western NC in the summertime. Look for a dark gray bird with a black cap in the dense thickets. You can attract catbirds to your yard by planting native shrubs with berries.
Gray Catbirds are rare here in the winter, but a few have been spotted in our local parks during the annual Christmas Bird Count.
The Red-shouldered Hawk is a forest hawk which lives in much of the southeastern US year-round. It hunts small mammals, reptiles and amphibians in the woods around the waters edge.
The adult hawk is identified by its orange or peachy-colored breast and strongly banded tail. It also has red shoulder patches which can sometimes be visible when the bird is resting or in flight.
Listen for the Red-shouldered Hawk calling while at rest or in flight, as it is a very vocal bird of prey.
A year-round resident to much of the eastern US, the Pileated Woodpecker is our largest woodpecker in the area. Listen for it calling or pecking on large trees.
Pileated Woodpeckers are about the size of crows, with black and white plumage and a striking red crest.
These woodpeckers are cavity nesters and excavate holes in large dead trees. For this reason, dead trees are often left on the greenway to provide sources of food and nest cavities.
Indigo Buntings are returning to the greenway from wintering in Central and South America. They breed in our area and will migrate south again in the fall.
Breeding male Indigo Buntings are bright blue, and females and non-breeding males are brown. Like all blue birds, Indigo Buntings lack blue pigment. Their color comes from structures in their feathers which reflect and refract blue light.
Look for buntings in weedy or shrubby areas. Often male buntings will sing from the tallest perch of a tree.
The Eastern Towhee is a large, brightly colored sparrow that can be found on the greenway, usually scratching on the ground in the leaf litter.
At this time of year, the males sing “Drink your tea”, and at other times call “Tow - hee”.
Males are boldly patterned with black above, orange flanks and a white underbelly. Females have a warm brown color instead of the black.
Towhees are found on the greenway year-round but are especially vocal this time of year.
The bright red male Northern Cardinal is one of the most recognizable birds.
Cardinals don’t migrate and are therefore found on the greenway year-round.
Adult cardinals don’t molt their feathers so the males remain bright red all year. The females are a warm brown with red accents.
Look for cardinals foraging on the ground or perched in the trees, singing.