20 birds to look and listen for this season

From the American Goldfinch to the Carolina Wren.

eastern phoebe

Photo by Andrew Cannizzaro

Hear that outside? With the nonstop chiming and chirping all over Asheville, it’s the perfect time to get into birdwatching. And lucky for us, NC is home to hundreds of year-round and migrating bird species, meaning there’s plenty of opportunities to enjoy this free and joyful hobby.

In honor of our feather friends, we’re sharing 20 of the birds you may be seeing (or hearing) in your backyard or around the Blue Ridge Parkway now, plus a few tips for perfecting your bird watch approach.

Black-throated Green Warbler

Black-throated Green Warbler

While not typically a backyard bird, you can spot these lemon-faced beauties on the Parkway.

Photo by @ncbirdwatch

Known as a relentless songbird, this sweet, lemon-faced bird loves mountain forests and can been spotted in high branches along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Its song is distinct and sounds a bit like if someone chanted “trees trees I love trees.”

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

ruby-throated hummingbird

This jewel-colored critter is eastern North America’s sole breeding hummingbird.

Photo by @ncbirdwatch

This zippy, compact bird is often described as jewel-like, due to its vibrant shades of green and red. You can help beckon this bird into your yard with a flower garden. Another interesting fact: this bird is eastern North America’s sole breeding hummingbird. In early fall, they migrate to Central America.

Tree Swallows

Tree swallows asheville

Tree Swallows love to chat.

Photo by @ncbirdwatch

These handsome, chipper blue birds are often the first spring migrants to arrive in the Blue Ridge Mountains each year. These birds are also know for having acrobatic flight patterns (especially when chasing down bugs). You can often find them nesting in tree cavities, with a song that’s high-pitched and split into three sounds: a chirp, whine, and gurgle.

American Goldfinch

American goldfinch

Photo by Ken Thomas

📍US, Southern Canada + Northern Mexico | Year-round in N.C. | Song

Carolina Chickadee

Carolina chickadee

Photo by Dan Pancamo

📍Southeastern and Central US | Year-round | Song

Carolina Wren

Carolina wren

Photo by Ken Thomas

📍Eastern and Central US | Year-round | Song

Eastern Bluebird

eastern bluebird

Photo by Dehaan

📍Eastern and Central US, Mexico + Central America | Year-round | Song

Eastern Phoebe

📍Eastern and Central US, Canada + Mexico | Year-round | Song

Eastern Screech-Owl

screech owl

Photo by Dick Daniels

📍Eastern and Central US | Year-round | Song

Pro tip: Listen for its distinctive whinnying call at night.

Eastern Towhee

📍Eastern and Central US | Year-round | Song

Great Blue Heron

great blue heron

Photo by Mike Baird

Michael “Mike” L. Baird

📍The US, Canada + Mexico | Year-round | Song
Pro tip: Look for this leggy bird around or in bodies of water, like the French Broad.

House Finch

📍The US, Southern Canada + Mexico | Year-round | Song

Northern Cardinal

northern cardinal

📍Eastern + Central US, Southern Canada + Northern Mexico | Year-round | Song

Pileated Woodpecker

pileated woodpecker

Photo by Sheila Brown

📍Eastern + Western US, Canada | 📅 Year-round | Song

Red-Tailed Hawk

📍US, Canada, Mexico + the Caribbean | Year-round | Song

Red-Winged Blackbird

red-winged blackbird

📍US, Canada + Mexico | Year-round | Song

Song Sparrow

song sparrow

📍US, Canada + Europe | Year-round | Song

Tufted Titmouse

tufted titmouse

Photo by @cmesker

📍Eastern + Central US | Year-round | Song

Turkey Vulture

turkey vulture

📍US, Southern Canada, Mexico + Central America | Year-round | Song

Wood Thrush

📍Eastern + Central US + Central America / the Caribbean | Migrates to Central America for winter | Song

Pro tip: You’ll likely hear the beautiful song of the wood thrush in summertime forests, but you may never glimpse it.

There’s an app for that

Websites + apps have made bird watching more accessible than ever. Here are a few we recommend.

  • Merlin: This free identification app from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology includes photos, an identification + browsing tool, and a database of songs + calls for every bird you’re likely to come across in your area. ProTip: Merlin has recently added a sound id. You just click “record” in the app and aim it out at the bird(s) that are chirping/singing, and it gives you who the bird is, or even if there are several.
  • ebird.org: Also from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, ebird is the best website for birders to find birds, keep track of bird lists, explore the latest sightings + contribute to science. The best part of ebird is the hotspots locator. Asheville has 20+ local spots where birders have seen more than 100 species.
  • Carolina Bird Club: All of the bird species recorded in NC, including information on habitat, breeding, and abundance levels.
  • North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission: Resources for birders include trail maps, birdwatching checklists, and a guide to how to build your own birdhouses + feeders.
  • Audubon North Carolina: State-specific information on species, conservation, resources + tips for birdwatching, bird-friendly gardening.

B(u)y the book

Armed with a good field guide, a little knowledge can go a long way. Here are a few of our favorite books:

Join the club

Since WNC is such a hotspot for birders, there are several ways to get involved with birdwatching and other activities, including bird banding.

Look closer with binoculars

You could spend some hard coin on binoculars – and you should spend what you can afford – but there’s no reason to spend $1,000+ on optics unless you get seriously into the hobby. Bins are important, though, so you should invest in something that will give you the best experience. This hobby is all about visuals + listening. It’s hard to see the birds if you can’t see the birds, right? Here are some good binoculars + scopes:

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