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Commonwealth of Kentucky

Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis ©Russ Thompson Website

At first glance, Kentucky appears to merely be a state which hosts some great birds which can be seen elsewhere in the company of more exotic species. Kentucky natives know better; as a Mississippi flyway state in the mid south, our state offers a highly varied list of species from all four compass points. Where else can one find Swainson's Warblers, Snowy Owls, Prothonotary Warblers, Dicksissels, Bell's Vireos, Ravens, Thayer's Gulls, and Greater White-fronted Geese, all within a calendar year. Add the occasional Red-necked grebe, nesting Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, and a sporadic Evening Grosbeak invasion, and you begin to see why we don't mind birding close to home. Every location has its rarities, but ours can (and do) come from anywhere. The species total for the state is currently approaching 350.

Most of Kentucky is very rural, with the Appalachian Mountains in the east; mixed farmland and hardwood forest throughout the central region; and open farmland giving way to river bottoms in the west. Like much of rural America, it is strikingly beautiful. Its residents are generally friendly and hospitable.

A complete list of birding locations can be found at the Kentucky Ornithological Society (KOS) web site, given below. A birder with some time to spend in the state will want to hit four main regions set out in the Top Sites below.

Anyone interested in birding in Kentucky should check the links listed below, especially those for KOS, Birding Pal, and the BirdKY listserve. The latter is a good source of current birding news in the state.

Top Sites

Central Region

The central regions of the state are rich in rural birding habitats. This is the area with the least number of local specialties, but many good species turn here. Spring and fall migrations can be especially fruitful. Check state and national parks. Wintering raptors such as bald eagles and peregrine falcons are regular.

Eastern Mountains and Cumberland Plateau

The eastern mountains and Cumberland Plateau host species found nowhere else in the state. The elevation of this region makes it suitable for many breeding passerines typically found in more northern locations. Specialties of the region include many breeding warblers, ruffed grouse, veery, ravens, and regular saw-whet owls in winter.

Northern Kentucky

Northern Kentucky near Cincinnati draws the best concentrations of winter residents, such as snow buntings, snowy owls (rare but regular); all three species of scoters on the Ohio River, and rough-legged hawks.

Western Kentucky

Western Kentucky includes two man-made lakes, as well as the Mississipi flyway. This region, like the Cumberland plateau, is essential birding. For a state poor in wetlands and open water, these regions provide the majority of waders and waterfowl. Migration periods and winter birding can be excellent, with wintering white pelicans, gulls, and raptors. Breeding Mississippi kites, scissor-tailed flycatchers, black-necked stilts, and least terns make spring and summer trips fruitful.

Contributor

Steve Kistler

Munfordville, Kentucky

kistlers@scrtc.com

Number of Species

Number of bird species: 364

As of November 2016

Checklist

iGoTerra Checklist

iGoTerra Checklist

Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web

Useful Reading

The Birds of Kentucky

Burt L. Monroe Jr., William Zimmerman Hardcover (October 1994) Indiana University Press

ISBN: 0253338921

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Useful Information

State Bird

Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis

Guides & Tour Operators

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Birding Pal

Information

Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area…

Trip Reports

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

CloudBirders

Trip Report Repository

CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.

2004 [05 May] - Mark Hows

Report

Upon arrival the previous night I rose early and drove to Cades Cove, in the Great Smoky Mountains. Due to a sports injury walking was difficult, so I took the auto tour and did not venture too far from the car. On recommendation by one of the wardens, the pool was visited but a few stops on Sparks Lane, tufted titmice were everywhere, I met another birdwatcher who pointed out some calls of tanagers and vireos but I was unable to find them, chipping sparrows were everywhere. I located an unusual sparrow, a Bachman’s and was confirmed by the other birder a rarity in these parts although he was familiar with them – a real find. Eastern bluebirds and meadow larks were common along Sparks Lane and I located a carolina wren turned onto the main route and pulled in at the vehicle no entry sign. Walked the short distance to the holding pool, there were 4 pairs of wood ducks with ducklings on the pool along with some canada geese, eastern phoebe and great crested flycatchers were flycatching from the fence, and a white tailed deer came close. I drove the rest of the route stopping occasionally to view deer and many common birds like white breasted nuthatch, Dark eyed Juncos, cardinals, pewees, indigo buntings and kingbirds. I stopped near the end of the tour at dusk, watching the deer and a coyote, barred owl and screech owl were calling but to far away and I could not locate hear whip a wills, but lots of fireflys were very conspicuous….

Places to Stay

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

First Farm Inn Kentucky B&B

Accommodation

Paddle around the pond. Bring your pole and catch a bass. Watch the birds. Sample a garden-fresh herb…

Rabbit Creek B&B

Accommodation

Glenda invites you to make some memories sitting in the gazebo listening to the birds or watching the deer traverse our land, sipping a cool glass of wine compliments of the house…

Organisations

Audubon Society in Kentucky

Website

Usual list of local chapters

Beckham Bird Club

Website

The Beckham Bird Club, Inc. (BBC); in existence for more than sixty years, is a non-profit organization of men, women, and children who are interested in birds, ecology, and nature. It is named for Charles Wickliffe Beckham, the first native Kentuckian to achieve a national reputation as an ornithologist, and was founded in 1935 in Louisville, Kentucky, as the Louisville Chapter of the Kentucky Ornithological Society. Beckham Bird Club members are people who like birds, enjoy watching them, and want to keep in touch with others who also enjoy the sport.

Buckley Hills Audubon Society

Website

The Buckley Hills Audubon Society is a member of the National Audubon Society and the Kentucky Audubon Council, and serves 10 Central Kentucky counties in the promotion of conservation education and awareness…

Cumberland Chapter Sierra Club

Website

About the Cumberland Chapter… The Cumberland Chapter, founded in 1968, encompasses the Commonwealth of Kentucky and since its founding has grown to more than 3000 members. To return to the National Sierra Club Home Page from any page in the Kentucky Chapter site, click the Sierra Club logo in the upper left-hand corner of the page.

Daviess County Audubon Society

Website

Today Daviess County Audubon Society consists of ~100 members: 30 members are active in the organization and the rest are considered subscribers who are interested in the Audubon mission….

Eastern Kentucky Bird Club

Webpage

Eastern Kentucky Bird Club Mission Statement: To provide a forum for Eastern Kentucky bird enthusiasts to become acquainted with one another, and to share information and experience. To promote birding and bird conservation in the Eastern Kentucky area. To organize birding events and educational programs and to provide information on birding opportunities in Eastern Kentucky for anyone interested in birds or birding in the region.

Frankfort Audubon Society

Facebook Page

The Frankfort Audubon Society's purpose is to connect people with nature through birding education and the conservation of wildlife habitat.

Henderson Audubon Society

Information

732 S Adams St, Henderson, KY 42420, 502-826-4793 - Marsha Sheckels, President

Jackson Purchase Audubon Society

Information

726 Bellevue Dr, Paducah, KY 42001, 618-564-3367 - Kristi Hanson, President

Kentucky Bird Records Committee

Webpage

The Kentucky Bird Records Committee (KBRC) maintains the official list of bird species documented as having occurred within the state. The committee receives documentation of bird observations and takes formal votes to determine whether the documentation substantiates the natural occurrence of the species in the wild and within state boundaries. Only rare, out-of-season, or out-of-area species require review by the KBRC.

Kentucky Bluebird Society

Website

The Kentucky Bluebird Society was organized to foster the return and perpetuation of the Eastern Bluebird and other native cavity nesting birds in Kentucky. To this end, the Kentucky Bluebird Society (KBS) will strive for the best methods to use, conserve and create habitat for the protection of these species…

Kentucky Ornithological Society

Website

Members of the Kentucky Ornithological Society enjoy birds! We seek to create and increase interest in birds in Kentucky, and support the conservation of birds and their habitats. We also promote avian research. Anyone interested in birds may join our Society! We encourage you to check out our web site to learn more about us and, of course, more about the birds of Kentucky…

Little River Audubon Society

Information

PO Box 352, Hopkinsville, KY 42240 - To promote the enjoyment and protection of birds and wildlife and their habitat through education, advocacy, and field trips…

Louisville Audubon Society

Website

To conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds and other wildlife for the benefit of humanity and the earth's biological diversity…

Nature Conservancy in Kentucky

Information

The Mission of The Nature Conservancy is to preserve plants, animals, and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive…

Raptor Rehabilitation of Kentucky

Website

These birds have been injured to an extent that they have a permanent condition which prevents them from being able to survive in the wild on their own…

Festivals

Ohio Valley Birding Festival

Website

The Ohio Valley Birding Festival is an Evansville Audubon Society event featuring guided spring migratory birdwatching hikes in southwestern Indiana and western Kentucky along with family friendly birding activities at John James Audubon Park in Henderson, Kentucky.

Museums

John James Audubon State Park Museum

Along the banks of the Ohio River just north of Henderson, KY, John James Audubon State Park houses the world's largest collection of Audubon artifacts and offers exhibits on the artist's life. The museum interprets Audubon’s life through his art and personal memorabilia, framed within a timeline of world events….

Reserves

Beargrass Creek State Nature Preserve

Webpage

Satellite View

One of the great treasures of the Beargrass Creek State Nature Preserve is the presence of over 150 different species of birds. Some are residents, some are seasonal visitors, and some stop at the Preserve while migrating. The presence of the wooded area for food and shelter, along with a water source in this particular location makes the Preserve a very attractive stop for migratory birds. This situation is very advantageous for the area's avid birders who want to view a lot of different species birds, and quite a learning tool for the students and adults who are anxious to observe and study more unusual bird species.

Buckley Wildlife Sanctuary

Webpage

Satellite View

Wildlife Sanctuary/Nature Center - 275 acres of mixed habitat, flora & Observation Center, Nature Center. Workshops, Environmental Education Activities.

Central Kentucky Wildlife Refuge

Website

Satellite View

The Central Kentucky Wildlife Refuge is a 500-acre preserve, located 13 miles from Danville in the Parksville knob land and bordering a stretch of the beautiful North Rolling Fork…

Clyde E. Buckley Wildlife Sanctuary and Audubon Center

Webpage

Satellite View

The Sanctuary consists of 374 acres along the Kentucky River, in both Woodford and Franklin Counties. Habitats include approximately fifty acres of fields, and two ponds surrounded by mixed-mesophytic forest on the transition zone between northern and southern flora and fauna. A gorge bisects the area and the subsurfaces are limestone and rich in minerals and fossils.

Daniel Boone National Forest

Webpage

Satellite View

The Daniel Boone National Forest offers birders wonderful opportunities to see most of the birds that nest or winter in Kentucky. Birders from all over the state visit the Daniel Boone National Forest every year to add new species to their life lists or just to enjoy seeing some of the less common birds, such as the cerulean warbler, in areas where they are plentiful. If you are planning to visit the Forest and are interested in finding some good bird watching spots, below are a few hot spots you may want to check out.

Higginson-Henry WMA

PDF Brochure

Satellite View

Located 20 miles south of Henderson in Morganfield, KY. The 5,424-acre area provides various birdwatching opportunities. The 82-acre lake and shallow water impoundment areas hold a variety of waterfowl, wading and shorebirds during the fall and winter. The terrestrial habitat encompasses old field to mature hardwood forest and holds a large variety of songbirds throughout the year…

Kentucky State Parks

Website

Kentucky is home to some of the most beautiful scenery and most interesting historical sites in the country. Our state park system includes 49 parks and one interstate park. Every state park in Kentucky has a web page right here on this site. To find a park you already know about, select it from this list and click go. You can also reach all the parks by clicking on the four sections of the map.

Sloughs WMA

PDF Brochure

Satellite View

One of the National Audubon Society's Important Birding Areas, the Sloughs WMA contains nearly 10,000 acres of wetlands, home to nearly 10,000 geese and 10,000 ducks during the winter. A paradise for hunters, fishermen, campers, hikers and nature lovers…

Blogs

Inglorious Berder

Blog

BLOG from a weightlosing big fat birder…

Landfill Bird BLOG

Blog

Photos of birds and wildlife seen on a landfill in KY…

Other Links

Enjoyable Hummingbirds

Website

Photos of ruby-throated hummingbirds eating from handheld flowers, handheld feeders and eating straight from the palm of my hand…

Kentucky Migratory Bird Conservation

Website

pdf

Peregrines Over Kentucky

Website

pdf

Photographers & Artists

Photographer - Russ Thompson

Gallery

Photos of ruby-throated hummingbirds eating from handheld flowers, handheld feeders and eating straight from the palm of my hand…