State of Tennessee

Northern Mockingbird Mimus polyglottos ©Charles J Sharp - Creative Commons Website
Birding Tennessee

From the Mississippi River at Memphis to the 6,600ft high mountain peaks along its eastern border, Tennessee offers the greatest variety of bird habitats of any landlocked state in the east of the US. Around 390 species have been recorded in the state, and about 175 species regularly nest here.

From west to east, Tennessee spans nine physio-graphic regions, each of which contains prime birding spots. Some of these physio-graphic regions also host species rarely found elsewhere in the state. Mississippi Kites, Fish Crows, and Painted Buntings most often occur in the Mississippi Alluvial Plain, a narrow strip along Tennessee’s western border. Prime birding spots in this region are the Reelfoot Lake area, Lower Hatchie Wildlife Refuge, Eagle Lake Wildife Management Area, Meeman-Shelby State Forest, and the Ensley Bottoms. The Black-Capped Chickadee is restricted to the Blue Ridge Mountains along the eastern border, where prime birding spots include Shady Valley, parts of Cherokee National Forest including Roan Mountain, Unaka Mountain and the Cherohala Skyway, and the world famous Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Between these ends of the state are the Loess Plain, Coastal Plain Uplands, Western Highland Rim, Central Basin, Eastern Highland Rim, Cumberland Plateau, and Ridge and Valley physiographic regions. Although they are not as distinctive in their vegetation and bird communities as the Mississippi Alluvial Plain and the Blue Ridge, they each offer prime birding spots, many of which are on readily accessible public lands and waters.

The birds of Tennessee have been well studied since the early 20th century, largely through the efforts of the Tennessee Ornithological Society. The TOS has a network of local chapters in most of the larger cities. Most of these chapters hold regular field trips, and visitors are enthusiastically welcomed. Local contacts are available through the TOS web site. The web site also includes the TOS newsletter, the official state list, and a growing online bird-finding guide.

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 409

    (As at October 2018)

    State Bird - Northern Mockingbird Mimus polyglottos


  • iGoTerra Checklist

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

  • Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Tennessee

    By Charles P Nicholson | University of Tennessee Press | 1997 | Hardcover | 426 pages, B/w illustrations, figs, tabs, maps | ISBN: 0870499874 Buy this book from
  • Birds of Tennessee: A New Annotated Checklist

    By Scott G Somershoe & Christopher A Sloan | Scott & Sloan | 2015 | Paperback | ISBN: 9781507815755 Buy this book from
  • Tennessee Birds: A Folding Pocket Guide to Familiar Species

    By James R Kavanagh & Raymond Leung | Waterford Press | 2000 | Unbound | 12 pages, colour illustrations | ISBN: 1583551174 Buy this book from
  • The Birds of Northeast Tennessee

    (An Annotated Checklist for Carter, Johnson, Sullivan, Unicoi, and Washington Counties) | By Richard L Knight | Bristol Bird Club | 2008 | Paperback | 127 pages, illustrations, colour maps | ISBN: 9780615237565 Buy this book from
Festivals & Bird Fairs
  • Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival

    Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is happy to host the Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival in Birchwood in January. . The festival includes the popular American Eagle Foundation, recording artists 2ND Nature, a main speaker, folk singers and arts and craft vendors.
Museums & Universities
  • McClung Museum - Birds of the World

    Bird illustrations are both art and science. In the days before photography, the illustrations manifested details most humans did not have the opportunity to see. The McClung Museum has a notable collection of bird illustrations, thanks to the generosity of two couples, the late Mr. and Mrs. John L. Greer of Knoxville and Mr. and Mrs. Joel E. Rynning of Atlanta.
  • Audubon Society in Tennessee

    Offices & Chapters etc.
  • Bristol Bird Club

    Facebook Page
    The Bristol Bird Club was founded in Bristol, Tennessee, Bristol, Virginia in 1950 to promote the enjoyment, scientific study and conservation of wild birds. It is a Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society and is a member club of the Virginia Society of Ornithology. We meet on the 3rd Tuesday of each month, except June and September, 7:00 pm, at the Bristol, Va. Public Library. We have members from a large area in Virginia and Tennessee. Everyone is welcome to join. We have regular monthly field trips, an annual picnic, banquet and Christmas Party. We also sponsor an email listserve called Bristol-Birds that you may join to receive info on recent sightings. Click below to sign up for the listserve.
  • Cumberland-Harpeth Audubon Society

    Facebook Page
    Cumberland-Harpeth Audubon Society is an outdoor social group focusing on environmental conservation and natural activities with birds in mind!
  • Nature Conservancy in Tennessee

    When you donate today, you will help ensure a thriving natural environment for future generations in Tennessee.
  • Tennessee Ornithological Society

    The Tennessee Ornithological Society was founded in 1915 to promote the enjoyment, scientific study, and conservation of birds. The TOS publishes a quarterly journal, The Migrant, and a newsletter, The Tennessee Warbler, and holds statewide meetings. It is also a federation of local chapters which hold regular meetings and field trips.
  • Tennessee Ornithological Society - Chattanooga Chapter

    The Chattanooga Chapter of TOS is devoted to the study and enjoyment of birds. The Chat, a newsletter for the members, is published monthly . The Chattanooga Chapter of TOS is a non-profit organization that is devoted to the study of birds in the South east Tennessee and North Georgia region.
  • Tennessee Ornithological Society - Knoxville Chapter

    Welcome to the Knoxville Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society! That’s KTOS for short. We’re Knoxville’s premier bird club—we promote, educate, and protect birds and birdwatching in East Tennessee.
  • Tennessee Ornithological Society - Memphis Chapter

    The Memphis Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society became officially affiliated with TOS in 1929. Meetings are held September through May at 7:00 pm on the third Wednesday of the month at St. George’s Episcopal Church, 2425 South Germantown Road, Germantown, TN. Meetings feature an interesting program, reports of unusual sightings, announcements of hikes and birding opportunities, plus refreshments and social time. Chapter members range from the backyard birder to the professional ornithologist, and new members are always welcome! Check our monthly newsletter for details about upcoming meeting programs, field trips, special events, and recent bird observations.
  • Tennessee Ornithological Society - Nashville Chapter

    Facebook Page
    Also see our Facebook page. Welcome to the Nashville, TN Ornithological Society (NTOS) website. Use the menu on the left to learn more about the organization, meetings, field trips and selected areas to bird in the Nashville area. Also, there is a link to the NTOS Field Trip Blog where you can view the list of birds seen on our field trips. The results of the Spring, Fall and Christmas Bird Counts are also listed.
  • Tennessee Ornithological Society Records Committee

    The Tennessee Bird Records Committee maintains the official state list of wild birds on behalf of the Tennessee Ornithological Society. Documentation of evidence of new or rare species may be submitted to the committee for review and inclusion into the Tennessee database. The committee is currently putting together a system of status codes for each species that has occurred in the state. The initial list will be published in The Warbler for review
  • Warioto Audubon Society

    The Warioto Chapter of the National Audubon Society is located in Clarksville, Tennessee. We are a chapter of the National Audubon Society, Inc. Our members have an interest in birds, conservation and nature. We welcome everyone from beginners to experts to join us.

Abbreviations Key

  • IBA WMA Bark Camp Barrens

    WebpageSatellite View
    The site is a significant grassland habitat and one of a very few in the state where parts are specifically managed for grassland birds. About 1,078 acres of the 2,700 acres is suitable for grassland species. Many grassland species, including several of species of conservation species, occur at Bark Camp Barrens. A gray male and female (brown) Northern Harrier, a Tennessee In Need of Management species, have been present during the breeding seasons of 2004-2006. No nest has been found, yet. At least 50 territories of Henslow's Sparrows, a Tennessee In Need of Management species, were counted in 2004-2006. This represents one of the largest concentrations of Henslow's Sparrow know in Tennessee. Grasshopper Sparrow, Dickcissel, and Eastern Meadowlark occur regularly, with fewer Grasshopper Sparrows in 2006. Prairie Warblers occur commonly in the reforested mitigation bank, however populations will likely decline as succession continues.
  • IBA WMA Tigrett

    WebpageSatellite View
    Species associated with ponded swamp wetland habitat highlight this site. Mississippi Kite, a Tennessee In Need of Management species, averages 20 individuals and a maximum of 50 individuals using the site during the breeding season (1993-2004). Bald Eagle, a Tennessee In Need of Management species, averages 4 birds and a maximum of 8 birds during the winter (1993-2004). In spring 2005, one pair of eagles nested on the site. Shorebirds occur in small numbers. From 1995-1998, point counts were conducted and a total of 65 species were detected. Prothonotary Warbler was the most common neotropical migratory songbird, followed by Indigo Bunting, Acadian Flycatcher, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, Great crested Flycatcher, and Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Large numbers of wading birds occur during migration. Waterfowl occur commonly after hunting seasons.
  • NP Great Smoky Mountains

    WebpageSatellite View
    Ridge upon ridge of forest straddles the border between North Carolina and Tennessee in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. World renowned for its diversity of plant and animal life, the beauty of its ancient mountains, and the quality of its remnants of Southern Appalachian mountain culture, this is America's most visited national park.
  • NR Owl's Hill Nature Sanctuary

    InformationSatellite View
    125 species of birds have been recorded on site through population surveys performed by the National Audubon Society. Nearly all mammals native to Middle Tennessee are in residence at Owl’s Hill.
  • NWR Hiwassee

    WebpageSatellite View
    This site has the largest winter flock of Sandhill Cranes in the southeast United States outside of Florida. Waterfowl and gull numbers are good for the area of the state. Great Blue Heron numbers are substantial in winter. On the Hiwassee CBC in the period 2001-2005, there was an average of 192 birds with highs of 253 birds (January 1, 2003) and 244 birds (January 1, 2004). Bald Eagle numbers in winter rank among the top five in the state. In the period 2001-2005, Hiwassee CBC counts of Bald Eagles were: January 1, 2001 (20); January 1, 2002 (20); January 1, 2003 (26);January 1, 2004 (15); and January 1, 2005 (20); for a 5-year average of 20.2 birds. One pair of Bald Eagles nest on the refuge and several pairs nearby.
  • NWR Reelfoot Lake

    WebpageSatellite View
    Reelfoot Lake offers year-round wildlife viewing with habitats that attract river otter, white-tailed deer, beaver, coyote, as well as the great blue heron, great and cattle egret, osprey, insects, and songbirds in profusion. Hundreds of bald eagles winter here, with peak numbers occurring December through February; look for them perching along lakeshore, or following commercial fishermen. A smaller number of eagles are year-round residents.
  • NWR Tennessee

    WebpageSatellite View
    The Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge encompasses over 50,000 acres on and around Kentucky Lake in northwest Tennessee. The refuge's three units, Big Sandy, Duck River, and Busseltown, stretch for 65 miles along the Tennessee River. Established in 1945, the refuge is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as an important resting and feeding area for wintering waterfowl, as well as, many migratory birds and resident wildlife
Forums & Mailing Lists
  • ABA Tennessee Bird News

    Sightings posted in date order...
Guides & Tour Operators
  • Birding Ecotours

    Tour Operator
    Birding Ecotours, a leader in small group and custom-made birding adventures worldwide, offers an amazing tour to the Great Smokey Mountains in May to witness spring migration, and seek out challenging species such as Eastern Whip-poor-will and Chuck-will’s-widow!
Trip Reports

Click on WAND to see Fatbirder’s Trip Report Repository…

  • 2016 [05 May] - Bruce Wedderburn - SE USA

    This was a two-month trip to southeast USA for Yvonne and myself, from late March through to late May, with a focus on the Spring migration, in particular the highly varied and colourful warblers. The trip commenced in Dallas in early Spring and involved touring through Texas along the Mexican border, following the Gulf of Mexico around to Florida as far south as Key West, then heading north up the east coast of the USA, then inland to the Appalachian Ranges in North Carolina, before heading west for our return trip to Dallas. Qantas has direct flights from Sydney to Dallas which avoids flying on any internal flights within the USA.
  • 2018 [05 May] - Geoff Upton

    PDF Report
    ...Memphis is not a birding city, but it was interesting to stroll over the bluff to the river early morning. In Jefferson Davis Park and around the cobblestones were many American robins, common grackles, chimney swifts and purple martins. A couple of Forster’s terns were fishing near the quay, where there were a few hirundines – rough-winged, cliff ad barn swallows. In the city streets were various signs highlighting sites of historical interest – often music-related. We visited the superb Stax soul museum, in the out-of-town building where Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Wilson Pickett and Eddie Floyd made their classic recordings...
Places to Stay

Click on WAND to see Fatbirder’s Trip Report Repository…

  • Iron Mountain Inn

    You can spa under the stars at the chalet for a romantic rendezvous on our wrap around deck
Other Links
  • Birdwatching in Chattanooga

    Birdwatchers enjoy combing the beautiful Chattanooga area for a wide variety of colorful and rare birds. The great diversity of natural habitat attracts many different species of songbirds, waterbirds, and raptors. Bald Eagles are frequently seen over the Tennessee River, and the Peregrine Falcon, which was once almost extinct as a result of pesticide poisoning, is beginning to nest here again. Chattanooga is also an important migration corridor for many birds, including spectacular numbers of Sandhill Cranes.
  • Bird Feeder Hub

    Hi! We’re Melanie and Jesse, the masterminds behind Thanks for visiting our about page! We are just two normal people that enjoy feeding birds and learning about them.
Photographers & Artists
  • Artist - Wes & Rachelle Siegrist

    Discover inside our available paintings and miniatures of wildlife art, fact-filled newsletter, Artist's statements, step by step paintings, personal photos, upcoming exhibits and insights into our world. View Wes's paintings of the Florida Panther used to illustrate a Nature Conservancy Habitat book. Join our rapidly growing family of online visitors and collectors.

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