10 MOST Common Birds in the Smoky Mountains (2023)

What kinds of birds can you find in Great Smoky Mountains National Park?

common birds in smoky mountain national park

This question is hard to answer because of the vast number of birds found in the park. Did you know there have been over 250 species recorded here? As you can imagine, there was no way to include this many birds in the below article. So instead, I tried to focus on the birds that are most regularly seen and observed.

Below I have listed the TEN birds you are most likely to find while visiting the Great Smoky Mountains.


#1. Wild Turkey

  • Meleagris gallopavo

wild turkey

Identifying Characteristics: 

  • Wild Turkeys are large and have dark body feathers.
  • Adult males sometimes are called toms or gobblers and have a large, featherless, reddish head. 
  • Female birds, known as hens, have feathers that are duller overall, in shades of brown and gray.

Everyone knows what this popular bird looks like in Smoky Mountain National Park!

Wild Turkeys can’t be confused with any other animal. Many people even think they look like little dinosaurs as they strut around.

To find Wild Turkeys, wake up early in the morning, and you will often find them foraging in clearings and along roadsides. Luckily, they typically aren’t shy and are often spotted while driving.

Wild Turkey Range Map

Wild turkey range map

Believe it or not, despite their hefty size, Wild Turkeys can fly! It surprises many people when they come across them roosting high in a tree. In addition, these talented birds can also swim by folding their wings, extending their tails, and using their legs to propel themselves.

Interestingly, only male turkeys make the famous gobble call. This sound is used to announce themselves to females while competing with other males for the ladies’ attention. LISTEN BELOW:


#2. Northern Cardinal

  • Cardinalis cardinalis

northern cardinal

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Males are a stunning red with a black mask and throat.
  • Females are pale orangish-brown with red on their crest, wings, and tail.
  • Both sexes have a crest on their head and a short, thick bill that is perfect for cracking seeds.

Northern Cardinal Range Map

northern cardinal range map

Without a doubt, the Northern Cardinal is one of the most popular birds in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. They are not only beautifully colored, but they are common to see!

And with a little practice, it’s easy to identify Northern Cardinals by their songs and sounds. Interestingly, unlike most other songbirds in the United States, even females sing

  • The most common song you will probably hear is a series of clear whistled melodies that sound like the bird is saying “birdie-birdie-birdie” or “cheer-cheer-cheer.” (Listen below!)


#3. Mallard

  • Anas platyrhynchos

Common United States ducks

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Males have a bright green head, thin white collar, dark reddish-brown chest, yellow bill, and a black butt with a white-tipped tail.
  • Females are mottled brown with orange and brown bills.
  • Both sexes have purple-blue secondary feathers on their wing, which is most visible when they are standing or flying.

My guess is that almost everyone is familiar with the Mallard. These ducks are definitely one of the most common water birds in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park!

Mallard Range Map

mallard duck range map

Mallards are extremely comfortable around people, which is why these adaptable ducks are so widespread. They are found in virtually any wetland habitat, no matter where it’s located.

When you think of a duck quacking, it is almost inevitably a female Mallard. If there is a better duck sound, we haven’t heard it! Interestingly, males do not quack like females but instead make a raspy call.


#4. American Robin

  • Turdus migratorius

american robin - types of birds in the united states

Identifying Characteristics:

  • A beautiful thrush that features a rusty red breast and a dark head and back.
  • Look for a white throat and white splotches around the eyes.
  • Both sexes are similar, except that females appear paler.

American Robins are one of the most familiar birds in the Smoky Mountains!

They inhabit a wide variety of habitats. These thrushes are comfortable around people and are common to see.

American Robin Range Map

american robin range map

Even though they are abundant, American Robins rarely visit bird feeders because they don’t eat seeds. Instead, their diet consists of invertebrates (worms, insects, snails) and fruit.

american robin eggs and nest

These birds also commonly nest near people. Look for an open cup-shaped nest that has 3-5 beautiful, distinctive sky blue color eggs. American Robins sing a string of clear whistles, which is a familiar sound in spring. (Listen below)

Many people describe the sound as sounding like the bird is saying “cheerily, cheer up, cheer up, cheerily, cheer up.”


#5. Canada Goose

  • Branta canadensis

Common Geese and Swans in United States

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Large goose with a long black neck and a distinctive white cheek patch.
  • Brown body with a pale white chest and underparts.
  • Black feet and legs.

Canada Geese are very common in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

I’m sure you probably recognize these birds, as they are very comfortable living around people and human development. Look for them wherever there are grasses or grains to eat, such as lawns, parks, and golf courses.

Canada Goose Range Map

canada goose range map

The Canada Goose is also easy to identify while flying overhead. If you see a flock of large birds in a V-formation, then it’s most likely them. Flying this way helps conserve energy, and different birds take turns leading the way.

Canada Geese are often heard in the Smoky Mountains.

Listen for a wide variety of loud honks and cackles. Listen above!

Interestingly, these geese can live a long time! Their lifespan ranges from 10 to 24 years, but one individual banded in 1969 was found again in 2001, 32 years later!


#6. American Crow

  • Corvus brachyrhynchos

american crow

Identifying Characteristics:

  • A large bird that is entirely black with an iridescent sheen.
  • Long black bill, black legs, and black feet.

American Crows are adaptable birds and are common in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

American Crow Range Map

american crow range map

And believe it or not, American Crows are one of the smartest birds in the Smokies.

For example, they can use tools, solve problems, and recognize human faces. It seems that crows even do things just for fun! Seriously, if you search the internet, it’s easy to find videos of them using round objects to sled down roofs.

American Crows have a large vocabulary. Listen for any number of caws, rattles, cackles, and clicks. The most common sound is a “caw-caw.” (Listen below) 


#7. Eastern Bluebird

eastern bluebird

  Identifying Characteristics:

  • Males are vibrant blue with a rusty chest and throat and fairly easy to identify.
  • Females look similar, but the colors are much more subdued.

Few birds are as pretty in the Smoky Mountains as an Eastern Bluebird.  Thanks to their cheerful disposition and amazing beauty, these birds are always a pleasure to see, both for birders and non-birders alike!

Eastern Bluebird Range Map

eastern bluebird range map

Look for them in meadows, fields, cemeteries, golf courses, and parks!  

You can also listen for Eastern Bluebirds!

Press PLAY above to hear an Eastern Bluebird!

These birds have a beautiful call. Listen for a liquid-sounding warbling song that consists of 1—3 notes, which is typically given several times in a row.


#8. Carolina Wren

  • Thryothorus ludovicianus

This wren species is a colorful reddish-brown with a distinct white throat and eye line. The edges of their wings and tails are darkly barred, and the bill is long and thin. Both males and females appear similar.

Even though Carolina Wrens are common in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, due to their secretive nature, these birds can be hard to see. Look for them in shrubby and bushy areas that provide lots of hiding places.

Carolina Wren Range Map

Carolina Wrens are often heard before being seen!

Their song, which is only sung by males, is usually three-parted and sounds like they are saying “tea-kettle tea-kettle tea-kettle. These birds are impressive singers, and individuals can make many variations of this song, so you never know exactly what you will hear.

 


#9. Pileated Woodpecker

There are not many birds that will make you stop what you’re doing quite like a Pileated Woodpecker. These birds are HUGE, and adults can be up to 19 inches (48 cm) long and have a wingspan of 30 inches (76 cm)! For reference, this is about the size of a crow.  

In addition to their large size, these birds are mostly black but with white stripes on their face and neck. Look for a large triangle red crest on the top of their heads. Males have a red stripe on their cheek, where the stripe is black on females.  

Pileated Woodpecker Range Map

Pileated Woodpeckers are common birds in the Smoky Mountains in large, mature forests with lots of dead and fallen trees. They rely on rotting wood consisting of ants, wood-boring beetles, and termites to find food. Although they will supplement their diet with fruits and nuts.

Press PLAY below to hear a Pileated Woodpecker!

These birds are quite vocal, and you should have no problem hearing one. Listen for a loud “cuk-cuk-cuk-cuk-cuk,” which rises and falls in pitch and volume.


#10. Tufted Titmouse

tufted titmouse

Identifying Characteristics:

  • A grayish bird with white underparts, a peach wash on the sides, and a crest on top of its head.
  • Look for a black forehead and large, dark eyes.
  • Males and females look the same.

These acrobatic birds are common to see in deciduous forests, along with backyards and city parks. They are often seen flitting from tree to tree, looking for food while hanging from branches upside down or sideways.  

Tufted Titmouse Range Map

tufted titmouse range map

Have you ever heard a Tufted Titmouse?

These birds are very vocal and my guess is that you will recognize their sounds after listening below. First, their song is a fast, repeated whistle that sounds like “peter-peter-peter.”

Also, listen for a scratchy “tsee-day-day-day” call, which is used frequently. Listen below!

   


Which of these birds have you seen before in Great Smoky Mountains National Park?

Leave a comment below!


To learn more about other birds that live in the Smoky Mountains, check out these guides!

 

The range maps above were generously shared with permission from The Birds of The World, published by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I use their site OFTEN to learn new information about birds!

 

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