Birds of Tennessee

Did you know that there are over 300 species of birds that either reside or migrate through Tennessee?  This includes different species of owls , ducks , hummingbirds , and hawks. Many of these species can be spotted in middle Tennessee around forest, rivers, and lakes. Some of these species can even be seen in residential areas! Here are some awesome birds that you can watch for in middle Tennessee.

Great Blue Heron  Ardea herodias

Great Blue Heron. Photo Courtesy: Dave Hawkins Photography

Height: 46 inches

Wingspan: 72 inches

Weight: 5.5 pounds

Description: A tall, slender bird that is mostly grey in color. The Great Blue Heron is the most common Heron in Tennessee. This bird is widespread over North America and is a permanent resident across Tennessee. The most distinguishable feature of a Great Blue Heron is the long “S” shaped neck. The head is mostly white and the legs usually have a brownish, green coloration. While standing this bird appears tall and skinny, but in flight the Great Blue Heron will hold its head closer to its body making it appear to be heavier. They are almost always seen near water because that is where they nest and capture prey. Their diet consist mostly of fish, amphibians, reptiles, and invertebrates. Nesting locations often include riverbanks and islands to add protection from predators.

Belted KingfisherMegaceryle alcyon

Belted Kingfisher. Photo Courtesy: Ed Schneider

Height: 13 inches

Wingspan: 20 inches

Weight: 5 ounces

Description: This bluish bird has a large head and a large, thick bill compared to its body. A large shaggy crest is a key distinguisher from other species. The underside of this bird is mostly white except for a blue chest band. Females are distinguishable from males because of an additional rust colored chest band. The call of a Belted Kingfisher is a loud, raspy rattle. Kingfishers breed and winter along streams, rivers, and lakes. Their diet is primarily fish, but they will also consume aquatic invertebrates. The Belted Kingfisher is a permanent resident across Tennessee, but in the past decades the population in Tennessee and worldwide has been declining due to habitat fragmentation along with increased water pollution.

Canada GooseBranta canadensis

Canada Goose. Photo Courtesy: Scott Somershoe

Height: 45 inches

Wingspan: 60 inches

Weight: 10 pounds

Description: Male and female Canadian Geese appear the same in size and color. They are identifiable by black heads and necks marked with a white “chin strap”. The back is brown feathered while the chest and belly are pale. The tails of these geese are black. The call is a honking noise and mated pairs will call back and forth in flight. The female will also use this call to protect their nest. Canadian Geese are always found near water and their diet reflects that. The diet is composed of aquatic vegetation, mollusks, crustaceans, and small fish.

Acadian FlycatcherEmpidonax virescens

Acadian Flycatcher. Photo Courtesy: Dave Hawkins Photography

Length: 6 inches

Wingspan: 9 inches

Weight: half an ounce Description: This small bird has a greenish back and a belly that has a yellowish tint. The bill is broad and the green wings have a distinct yellow wing bar. The Acadian Flycatcher is found in Tennessee from April to late September. During the winter months, this bird migrates to Central America and northern South America. The song of the Acadian Flycatcher is an explosive peet-sah. The song is one of the best ways to tell this species apart from species with similar colors. While in Tennessee for the summer these birds are spotted in areas of dense woods adjacent to a water source. They mainly eat insects, insect larvae, and other arthropods.

Wood Duck – Aix sponsa

Wood Duck. Photo Courtesy: Dave Hawkins Photography

Length: 18.5 inches

Wingspan: 30 inches

Weight: 1.5 pounds

Description: A male Wood Duck has a brightly patterned green and white head, with a long crest. The bill and eyes of the males are red. The sides of the male ducks are a pale tan color. The female is a gray, brown with a white patch around the eyes, and a bushy crest on the head. Wood Ducks create nests in old tree cavities in forested areas adjacent to water. They eat seeds, acorns, insects of all kinds, and other invertebrates. The male’s call is a high pitched, drawn out jeweep.

Red Tailed HawkButeo jamaicensis

Red Tailed Hawk. Photo Courtesy: Dave Hawkins Photography

Length: 19 inches

Wingspan: 49 inches

Weight: 2.5 pounds

Description: The Red Tail Hawk is the most widespread and commonly observed hawk in Tennessee. This hawk is found in Tennessee year round and migrates from northern states also join resident birds in the winter months. These hawks have a pale chest and dark bands across the belly. The tail of the hawk has a reddish unbarred tail. As with most birds of prey the females are larger than the males. They are found in areas with scattered elevated perches like trees or telephone poles. Their diet consist mostly of small to medium sized mammals, other birds, and snakes. The call is a decreasingly raspy scream of Kleeyeeeeer.

Sources of Information

Also, Check out this guide for kids to birds in Tennessee!