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25 Breathtaking Birds Of East Tennessee (Photos And Fun Facts)

Living in Eastern Tennessee and saw some birds but are not sure which ones they were? 

Tennessee is known for its wildlife and according to the Tennessee Bird Records Committee (TBRC), there are over 420 species of birds in the state!

Examples of birds of East Tennessee include the northern mockingbird, indigo bunting, blue jay, tufted titmouse, black vulture, red-shouldered hawk, killdeer, and many others. 

Songbirds like the American robin and the eastern phoebe, raptors like the barn owl, woodpeckers like the red-headed woodpecker, ducks like the wood duck, and other birds are also common in eastern parts of Tn. 

Some of these birds, like the northern mockingbird and barn owl, will stay year-round there, while others, like the indigo bunting, will migrate south when the winter comes. 

Here are their photos and some fun facts.

Birds Of East Tennessee

Northern Mockingbird

northern mockingbird

Scientific name: Mimus polyglottos
Lifespan: up to 8 years
Wingspan: 12-15 in

The northern mockingbird has been Tennessee’s state bird since 1933 and it can be seen in eastern parts of the state throughout the year. 

It is the only of the 16 species with the name “mockingbird” that is native to the US.

Look for this medium-sized songbird in various habitats ranging from open country to suburbs.

Both males and females sing and you will often hear them singing at night. Listen for a long series of musical and grating phrases, each repeated 3 or more times.

There are four Northern mockingbird calls: the nest relief call, hew call, chat, and the begging call.

The Latin name of these birds translates to “many-tongued mimic,” and for a reason – northern mockingbirds can imitate chirps of up to 35 species and learn over 200 different songs in their lifetime!

They can also mimic sounds of car alarms, rusty hinges, and dog barks, and they do it so well that it almost makes it impossible to tell the difference, even with an electronic analysis.

Northern mockingbirds are easy to identify by their gray plumage with whitish underparts and long tails. In case you see one while it’s flying, notice the large white patches on its black wings and tail. 

Those white patches help them to show off during the mating season and to flash them when defending territory against some snakes and hawks. 

Northern mockingbirds are territorial birds that can be extremely good at breeding – scientists once recorded a female that managed to lay 27 eggs in a single season! 

Northern mockingbirds are omnivores that feed on fruit, seeds, berries, and small insects.

They were once kept as cage birds and nearly disappeared from their range due to their high demand. In the 1830s they were sold for around $50 – that’s over $1,300 in today’s money!

Tufted Titmouse

tufted titmouse

Scientific name: Baeolophus bicolor
Lifespan: 2 years
Wingspan: 8-10 in

The tufted titmouse is a small songbird of East Tennessee. It is a widespread species, common in areas ranging from forests and parks to suburbs, and can be seen throughout the year in the state.

You will recognize a tufted titmouse by its gray plumage, black eyes, a dark spot on the forehead, a crested head, and fawn flanks. 

Listen for its song that’s usually described as a whistled “peter-peter-peter.” 

Some estimates claim that there are over 8 million of these birds in existence today. 

The tufted titmouse is an omnivore that feeds on berries, nuts, seeds, fruits, and insects. It is a common winter visitor to bird feeders; make sure to add sunflower seeds if you want to attract one.

The bird will first scouts a feeder from cover, fly in to grab a seed, and then fly back to cover to eat it. 

Tufted titmice are cavity nesters that will build their nests in tree holes, nest boxes, or even in old woodpecker nests. If they find snake skin, they might use it as a building material.

They are monogamous and will have a clutch of 5 to 7 eggs.

American Robin

american robin

Scientific name: Turdus migratorius
Lifespan: 2 years
Wingspan: 12-16 in

American robins are widespread in forests, parks, woodlands, and gardens of East Tennessee.

These migratory songbirds can be seen in the state throughout the year, although the best time to look for American robins is spring and summer, around suburban lawns.

You will identify male American robins by their black heads, yellow beaks, and brick red breasts. Females are slightly duller and have brown heads. 

Look for large flocks of birds, sometimes up to 10,000 individuals, and listen for a song that sounds like a “cheery” carol; these birds will also sing when storms approach and when they have passed. 

American robins are the state birds of Connecticut, Michigan, and Wisconsin. 

They are omnivores that feed on eat invertebrates, especially earthworms, and fruit.

American robins start nesting in Tennessee around winter but will lay eggs around the middle of April. They produce 2-3 broods per year with 3-4 young per clutch.

Eastern Phoebe

eastern phoebe

Scientific name: Sayornis phoebe
Lifespan: up to 10 years
Wingspan: 10-11 in

Eastern phoebe is a small songbird that is commonly found around woods, suburbs, parks, and near water. It can be seen in Eastern Tennessee throughout the year. 

Eastern phoebe is easy to identify by its grayish big head and body with a white belly. Try to spot two buff bars on each wing and watch for its constant tail-wagging. It likes to sit upright and will often pump its tail after landing.

Eastern phoebe tends to avoid open areas and prefers spots under trees, brushy areas, and overhangs.

Listen for the song eastern phoebe got its name from, the two-noted “fee-bee”, and its sharp “chip” call.

These birds will use mud, grass, and moss to build their nests and will attach them to the sides of limestone outcroppings or under rock ledges.

They breed in Tennesse from March to July, will have two broods per year, and each clutch will have from two to six eggs.

Eastern phoebes are omnivores and feed on insects and some fruits.

Indigo Bunting

blue indigo bunting

Scientific name: Passerina cyanea
Lifespan: 10 years
Wingspan: 7-9 in

Indigo buntings are widespread in woodlands, forests, parks, and gardens of East Tennessee. They are summer residents and can be seen in the state from mid-April to mid-October.

Indigo buntings are of the most abundant and widely distributed birds of Tennessee and common visitors to bird feeders.

Look for adult males that have vibrant blue plumage during summer, with slightly richer blue colors on their heads. During the winter months, they become brown. Females are brown year-round. 

Males love to sing so make sure to listen for their rapid, excited warble song with each note or phrase being given twice.

When marking their territory or attracting females, males will emit a high-pitched song that lasts from two to four seconds and sounds like “sweet-sweet chew-chew.” Both sexes will also use a sharp “chip” alarm call.

Indigo buntings are territorial birds and omnivores that feed on insects, seeds, and berries. 

These birds usually mate for life; occasionally, they may switch partners within a single breeding season. Females will build the nest and incubate the eggs.

Indigo buntings have two or more broods per year with three to four white eggs with a few brownish spots.

Northern Cardinal

male northern cardinal bird with orange beak

Scientific name: Cardinalis cardinalis
Lifespan: 3 years
Wingspan: 10-12 in

Northern cardinals are stunning birds with orange beaks that are common year-round in eastern parts of Tennessee. 

These non-migratory songbirds are abundant in the state and can be found in a variety of habitats including woodlands, brushy fields, parks, and other urban areas.

They are also common in backyards – to attract northern cardinals to your bird feeder, make sure to add some sunflower seeds, peanut hearts, millet, or milo. 

Male northern cardinals are red with black face masks and crests on their heads while the females are mostly brown with crests and reddish wings and tails but without facial masks.

They are also known as redbirds and they get their red color from the food they eat – if there are not enough carotenoids in their food, they become brownish. 

Listen for their two-or-three-second song which is a loud string of clear down-slurred or two-parted whistles that sound like “cheer cheer,” “birdie birdie,” and “wheet wheet.” 

Around late February and March, these territorial and aggressive birds will start defending their territory with songs, displays, and even combats. They are also known for attacking their reflections in the mirrors and windows. 

These songbirds are also monogamous and mate for life. Their nesting season starts around April, and they usually raise at least two broods per year with one to five eggs per clutch.

Northern cardinals are omnivores that feed on seeds, fruit, and insects. 

In case you notice male cardinals with baldness problems – it’s a sign they’re in the middle of a late summer molt. 

Red-eyed Vireo

red-eyed vireo

Scientific name: Vireo olivaceus
Lifespan: up to 10 years
Wingspan: 9-10 in

Red-eyed vireos are very common songbirds that can be seen in East Tennessee from mid-April until late September.

They can be seen around the forests and woodlands of the state, especially in urban areas and parks with large trees.

Red-eyed vires have olive-green upperparts, white underparts, red eyes, and a grey crown edged with black. You will also recognize them by their thick blue-grey legs and stout bills.

These tireless singers will usually sit high up in the trees and emit different sounds – scientists even recorded one red-eyed vireo singing 117 different types of songs!

They are omnivores and usually feed on insects and berries. Males will feed in the high canopy, while females forage lower down.

The first to arrive at the breeding grounds will be males to establish territories and form pairs shortly after the arrival of the females.

After pairing, females will build the nests (males do not help) and lay a clutch of three to five spotted eggs. Both parents will feed the chicks.

These small songbirds are susceptible to brood parasitism – in one instance, scientists found one red-eyed vireo female incubating four eggs of other birds; there were no vireo eggs in its nest as the other bird had punctured or pitched out the vireo’s eggs.

Red-eyed vireos are very common birds of Northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania.

Blue Jay

blue jay

Scientific name: Cyanocitta cristata
Lifespan: 7 years
Wingspan: 13-17 in

In East Tennessee, these large songbirds can be seen year-round. Some populations might migrate throughout the state so look for migrating blue jays in fall, from mid-September to early November, and in spring, from late March to early May.

Blue jays are common around forests, woods, parks, and other urban areas of the state, especially where large oak trees are present.

These blue and white birds are easy to recognize as males and females look the same.

Blue jays are blue above and gray below. They have crests and black collars, and white color on their tails and throats. They also have bright blue wings with white spots. 

Blue jays will often mimic hawk sounds when approaching a feeding site to drive away other birds. They make a large variety of sounds and may even learn to mimic human speech.

Blue jays’ song is a mixture of clicks, chucks, whirrs, whines, liquid notes, and elements of other calls. Their alarm call is a loud, almost gull-like scream.

Despite not being a state bird in any US state, blue jays are the mascot of a Major League Baseball team called the Toronto Blue Jays. 

These songbirds are highly intelligent and can even use tools.

Blue jays are boisterous birds that mate for life and work together to build a nest for their young. When the female sits on the eggs, the male will feed and take care of her. 

Blue jays are omnivores that mostly feed on seeds, berries, nuts, and occasionally insects. They will also store food and eat it later. 

Blue jays belong to the same family (Corvidae) as the similar-looking Florida scrub-jays, with crows, ravens, rooks, jackdaws, magpies, and others.

Blue jays are common birds of Pennsylvania, Maryland, North Texas, Florida, and Central Texas.

Summer Tanager

summer tanagers

Scientific name: Piranga rubra
Lifespan: up to 5 years
Wingspan: 11-12 in

Summer tanagers are medium-sized American songbirds with big bodies, large heads, and thick blunt-tipped beaks.

They are widespread in forests, woodlands, and riparian areas of East Tennesee. The best time to see summer tanagers would be from late April to early October as they are only present during summer there.

Males have bright red plumage while females are olive above and yellowish below.

Despite having one of the most striking colors in the state, summer tanagers might be hard to spot as they prefer to forage high in the tree canopy.

Listen for their song that consists of a series of robin-like musical phrases, and their sharp “pik-i-tuk-i-tuk” calls.

Summer tanagers are omnivores that mainly feed on insects, especially bees and wasps, but might also consume some fruit outside of breeding season.

In Tennessee, these beautiful birds will mostly lay eggs around May and have a clutch of three to four pale blue to pale green eggs with brown markings.

Females will incubate the eggs while the males feed them. Both partners will take care of the chicks.

Red-winged Blackbird

red-winged blackbird

Scientific name: Agelaius phoeniceus
Lifespan: 2 years in the wild 
Wingspan: 12-16 in

Red-winged blackbirds are East Tennessee’s black birds that can be commonly seen there year-round.

These songbirds are common around wetlands, farms, and urban areas. 

Males are particularly easy to identify as they sing from prominent perches.

They have black plumage with red epaulets that are edged in yellow. Males will often make red-shoulder displays and emit rich and scratchy “oak-a-lee” songs. 

Females are smaller, streaky brown above, and dark and white under. They have a scolding chatter that sounds like “chit chit cheer teer teer teerr.”

Red-winged blackbirds are one of North America’s most abundant birds with over 20 subspecies.

Their scientific name “agelaios” means “gregarious,” while the “phoeniceus” means “crimson” or “red,” which perfectly describes them. 

They are omnivores and feed on insects, seeds, and grain. 

Red-winged blackbirds are also gregarious, very territorial, and polygynous birds, where one male can have up to 10 different females making nests in his territory. 

Females, on the other hand, will frequently mate with other males, and often lay clutches of mixed paternity. 

Red-winged blackbirds’ peak egg-laying season in the state is in late April and they will have one brood with a clutch of three to four pale blue-green eggs with dark streaks. 

Northern Parula

northern parula

Scientific name: Setophaga americana
Lifespan: up to 6 years
Wingspan: 6-7 in 

Commonly found around forests, woodlands, swamps, and suburbs, the northern parula is a small songbird that can be seen in the state from spring to fall.

The best time to see northern parula in East Tennessee is from early April, when it arrives in the state, to late September, when it departs.

You will identify it by its plumage which is white below and gray above with a greenish area on the center of the back. Northern parula also has a yellow throat and upper chest and white eye crescent. The beak and feet are also yellowish.

Northern parula is the smallest eastern wood-warbler and because of its habit of foraging high in trees at the tips of branches, it is a difficult bird to spot.

Listen for its song that sounds like a click-like trill or buzz “zee-yip,” and the soft “chip” call. 

Northern parula is a monogamous species with only a few cases of polygamy. It has a clutch of around 4 to 5 eggs which the female incubates; both parents will feed the young. 

It is an omnivore that feeds on insects, spiders, and some berries.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

ruby-throated hummingbird

Scientific name: Archilochus colubris
Lifespan: 3-5 years
Wingspan: 3.1-4.3 in

These stunning green birds are the only hummingbirds that breed in eastern parts of North America.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds are familiar summer inhabitants of gardens, parks, and woodlands of East Tennesse. The best time to see them in the state is from mid-April to early October.

Males will be the first to arrive in the spring, a week or two before females, but also the first to leave the state around fall. They will fly nonstop across a 500-mile distance to reach southern Mexico or northern Central America where ruby-throated hummingbirds winter.

Both sexes look different. 

Males have metallic emerald green upperparts, grayish-white underparts, black wings, and a gorget (throat patch) of iridescent ruby red. Their tails are forked

Females are larger than males, have slightly shorter beaks, and have white throats. 

Ruby-throated hummingbirds move very quickly, around 25 mph, and will beat their wing over 50 times per second.

These birds are mostly solitary, except during the breeding season which lasts a few days.

Males will mate with several females; female ruby-throated hummingbirds will build the nest and incubate usually two pea-sized eggs.

To attract these birds with red throats and necks to your backyard, you can set up hummingbird feeders or plant tubular flowers. They are quite bold and might even feed at hanging plants and feeders on your porch or next to your windows!

Red-headed Woodpecker

red-headed woodpecker

Scientific name: Melanerpes erythrocephalus
Lifespan: 10-12 years in the wild
Wingspan: 14-17 in

Red-headed woodpeckers are medium-sized woodpeckers commonly found around parks, forests, and woodlands of East Tennessee throughout the year. 

You will recognize these conspicuous birds by their black backs, white wing patches and underparts, and brilliant red heads. Males and females are almost identical.

Listen for red-headed woodpeckers’ slightly trilled “churr churr churr” call.

To catch the insects, red-headed woodpeckers will hammer at the tree bark, wait for them to come out, and catch them in flight; they might even hunt for them on the ground. 

These birds are omnivores that also feed on seeds, fruits, berries, nuts, and occasionally small rodents. 

Red-headed woodpeckers are cavity nesters and will nest later than other woodpeckers in the state, around late April or early May. They will have two broods and a clutch of four to five eggs. Both parents will take turns incubating the eggs.

Red-headed woodpeckers are one of the four species of North American woodpeckers that store food by covering it with wood or bark. They will stuff it in tree cavities, crevices, and under tree bark.

Downy Woodpecker

downy woodpecker

Scientific name: Picoides pubescens
Lifespan: up to 11 years
Wingspan: 10-12 in

The smallest and one of the most widespread species of woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers are a common sight in eastern parts of Tennesee.

These small black-and-white woodpeckers can be seen in the forests and gardens of the state; downy woodpeckers are less common in pine forests and at high elevations.

You will identify them by their black upperparts and wings, white backs, throats and bellies, and white spottings on the wings. Downy woodpeckers also have one white bar above and below the eyes. 

Adult males have red patches on the back of their heads, females do not.

They have special feathers around their nostrils to save them from breathing in wood chips as they hit the wood bark.

Downy woodpeckers are omnivores that primarily feed on insects, beetle larvae, ants, and caterpillars, but also berries, acorns, and grains.

They are also common around backyard bird feeders, as downy woodpeckers love to eat suet and black oil sunflower seeds and occasionally drink from hummingbird feeders.

Downy woodpeckers are monogamous and the pair will together prepare a nest in the tree. Their peak egg-laying season in Tennessee is around April, the female lays from 3 to 8 eggs which both parents incubate.

These birds can be also seen in Northern Texas, Northeast Ohio, Colorado, and Northern California.

Black Vulture

black vulture

Scientific name: Coragyps atratus
Lifespan: 10 years in the wild
Wingspan: 52-66 in

Black vultures are aggressive large raptors that can be seen throughout the year in eastern parts of Tennessee. 

The best time to see them there would be during spring and summer; black vultures are less common in East Tennessee during winter.

They are commonly found around open areas and woods and can be identified by their black plumage, naked black heads, chalky white feet and legs, and white wing patches that can be seen during flight. Both sexes look similar.

People often mistake black vultures for turkey vultures – turkey vultures are bigger and have wider wings and tails. 

Black vultures are highly gregarious birds and might form large communal roosts at night that can often include turkey vultures.

Black vultures are carnivores that feed on carrion but may also hunt and eat small reptiles, birds, and mammals. They will spend most of their day looking for food.

To escape from danger, these large birds of East Tennessee might regurgitate partially digested food to distract the attacker and become lighter before flying away.

Black vultures are monogamous and pairs are believed to mate for life – both the male and female will take turns incubating their eggs. They start breeding around February with egg-laying peaking around March in Tennessee.

Black vultures are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and you can’t kill them without a permit.

American Kestrel

american kestrel

Scientific name: Falco sparverius
Lifespan: 5 years in the wild
Wingspan: 20-24 in

American kestrels are the smallest, the most colorful, and the most widespread North American falcons that can be seen throughout East Tennessee.

They are common in the open country including farmland, orchards, and grasslands, often searching for grasshoppers, rodents such as mice, shrews and voles, and even small birds. 

Formerly called sparrow hawks, American kestrels are a sexually dimorphic species.

Males have slaty wings and crowns, rusty backs and tails, spotted underparts, and tear marks on faces. Females are browner and slightly larger than males.

American kestrels have three basic vocalizations – the “klee” or “killy“, the “whine“, and the “chitter“. 

Depending on the plumage, size, and vocalizations, there are 17 subspecies of American kestrel. 

American kestrels are cavity nesters that might occasionally nest in woodpecker holes or abandoned nests of other birds. Both parents will take turns and incubate their four to five eggs.

Red-shouldered Hawk

red-shouldered hawk

Scientific name: Buteo lineatus
Lifespan: 15-19 years
Wingspan: 35-50 in

One of the most vocal North American hawks, the red-shouldered hawks are permanent residents of East Tennessee.

They are common around woodlands and forests, often near water, and can be identified by their bold checkered wings and tails, brick-red shoulder patches, and light russet barrings on underparts. Both sexes look similar with females being slightly larger.

Red-shouldered hawks will perch on tree branches and utility wires and scan the area. As they spot their prey, they will swoop down and snatch it from the ground or water surface.

These fairly large East Tennessee raptors are carnivores and feed on small mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and crayfish.

Red-shouldered hawks are monogamous and territorial birds. Their breeding season is between April and July and they will have a clutch of two to four eggs that the female incubates while the male feeds her.

Wood Duck

wood duck

Scientific name: Aix sponsa
Lifespan: 3-4 years
Wingspan: 26-29 in

The wood duck, also known as the Carolina duck, is one of the most colorful North American waterfowl.

It is the most common nesting duck in East Tennessee, often seen around forested wetlands, riparian habitats, and freshwater marshes.

Wood duck was almost extinct in the early 20th century due to extensive hunting, but thanks to strong conservational efforts, the species has recovered.

You will recognize male wood ducks by their multicolored plumage and red eyes and females by their grayish-brown plumage, white eyerings, and blue speculum.

Both sexes have crests on their heads. 

Listen for the male’s rising whistle “jeee” call or the female’s drawn-out, rising squeal that sounds like “do weep do weep.” 

The wood duck is a permanent resident of the state and can be seen there year-round. 

This species usually nests in cavities in trees close to water; if you put a nesting box, you might be able to attract a pair. 

Their nesting season begins in late February in Tennessee. 

Wood ducks have a clutch of 7-15 white-tan eggs and they are the only North American ducks that can produce two broods in one season. 

Wood ducks are also omnivores and feed on nuts, seeds, vegetables, berries, and insects.

Great Blue Heron

a great blue heron with orange beak

Scientific name: Ardea herodias
Lifespan: 15 years
Wingspan: 66-79 in

The great blue heron is the largest and most common heron in East Tennessee. It can be seen throughout the year in the state and is commonly found around wetlands.

If you live in the Appalachia region in Eastern Tennessee or the Great Smoky Mountains, the best time to see great blue herons there would be from spring to fall.

With a wingspan of up to 6.6 ft, this blue-winged bird is hard to miss.

The great blue heron has a large yellow-orange bill, short black plumes on the head, and a black and chestnut pattern on the shoulders.

During the flight, it will hold its neck in an S-shape with legs trailing behind. 

Great blue herons are monogamous only for a single season and will go through some interesting courtship rituals, locking and rubbing their bills on the feathers of the other bird before mating. 

Both parents will take turns in incubating the eggs.

They nest in colonies called heronries that can occasionally have more than 500 nests. 

Great blue herons are carnivores that feed on fish, amphibians, reptiles, invertebrates, small mammals, and even other birds. These birds will slowly stalk their prey in shallow waters, striking with lightning speed, catching them with their long and sharp beaks.



Scientific name: Charadrius vociferus
Lifespan: up to 11 years
Wingspan: 18-25 in

Killdeers are widespread, common, and conspicuous shorebirds of East Tennessee. They are permanent residents of the state and can be seen around wetlands and fields there.

You will identify these large plovers by their slender body, large, round heads, large eyes, and short bills. 

Killdeers have brown plumage above with two black breast bands, orange tails, pink legs, and slender wings with conspicuous white wing stripes at their base

These birds are masters of distraction that might fake a ‘broken-wing‘ where they flutter along the ground in a show of injury, to distract predators from their nests. 

Killdeers are omnivorous and feed on insects, including beetles, caterpillars, grasshoppers, fly larvae, spiders, earthworms, centipedes, crayfish, snails, and some seeds.

They got their name from the loud piercing calls that sound a little like “kill-deer, kill-deer”.

Their breeding season in Tennessee starts from late winter and lasts until mid-summer; it is one of the longest of any state’s breeding birds. 

Killdeers will often have two broods per year with a clutch size of three to five eggs that both parents incubate. 

Belted Kingfisher

belted kingfisher

Scientific name: Megaceryle alcyon
Lifespan: 6-14 years
Wingspan: 19-23 in

Belted kingfishers are permanent residents of East Tennessee that can be seen around the state’s wetlands throughout the year.

These large and conspicuous water kingfishers are native to North America. You will recognize belted kingfishers by their large heads, shaggy crests on the top and back of their heads, and straight, thick, pointed beaks. 

Their upper plumage is blue-gray while the underparts are white. Females are more brightly colored than males and have an additional rust-colored band and rusty flanks.

Belted kingfishers have two fused toes which can also help distinguish these blue-winged birds from others.

These birds are also common in Southern California and can be very territorial – males will often charge at and chase intruders away. 

If looking for belted kingfishers, you will hear them before you see them – listen for their distinct and loud rattling or chattering call. 

These birds are carnivores that dive to catch fish and crayfish with their heavy beaks. 

Belted kingfishers will also eat mollusks, crustaceans, amphibians, and lizards. They can’t digest bones so just like owls, belted kingfishers will regurgitate the undigested pieces as pellets.

Belted kingfishers start breeding in Tennessee around March and both parents will incubate a clutch of 5 to 8 eggs.

Barn Owl

barn owl

Scientific name: Tyto alba
Lifespan: 4 years
Wingspan: 31-37 in

One of the most widely distributed species of owl in the world, the barn owl is a permanent resident of Eastern Tennessee.

This nocturnal bird is highly elusive and is common around open fields, riparian areas, and farms. 

The barn owl will often perch on branches, fence posts, or other lookouts and scan its surroundings. 

It has a “ghostly” appearance, a heart-shaped head, cinnamon and gray upperparts, and white underparts. Its eyes are dark, its legs are white, and a hooked upper beak is used to tear meat. 

Unlike some other species of owl, the barn owl does not hoot and makes a piercing eerie “shree” scream instead. 

Barn owl hunts animals on the ground which it locates by sound, thanks to its acute hearing but also excellent eyesight. It will swallow its entire prey and several times a day it might spit out pellets of fur and undigested material. 

The barn owl is a cavity nester and might even use man-made nest boxes.

It is a monogamous species and stays together for life. 

Barn owls mostly breed in East Tennessee from spring to fall, more than once per year.

They have a clutch size of two to eighteen eggs that the female incubates while the male feeds her.

Great Horned Owl

great horned owl

Scientific name: Bubo virginianus
Lifespan: 15-25 years
Wingspan: 35.8-60.2 in

With a wingspan of almost 5 feet, length of almost 2 feet, and weight of up to 3.5 pounds, great horned owls are the largest owls nesting in East Tennessee.

You will find them in multiple habitats, including mountains, grasslands, conifer forests, chaparrals, and others.

These aggressive birds of prey can be identified by their long, earlike tufts, intimidating yellow eyes, and deep hooting calls. Great horned owls also have gray-brown plumage with a mottled pattern and white patch at their throats. 

These owls are never easy to spot but you can try to locate them by their low-pitched but loud “ho-ho-hoo hoo hoo” call.

They have the most diverse diet of all North American raptors and can feed on rabbits, hares, rats, mice, voles, other small mammals, larger mid-sized mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates. 

Great horned owls rely on their acute hearing and excellent eyesight to locate their prey before flying in near silence and catching the unsuspecting animal by surprise. 

Great horned owls are monogamous birds and may stay together for over five years, sometimes even for a lifetime. They are one of the earliest nesting species in Tennessee and usually lay 2-5 eggs around January. 

Canada Goose

canada goose

Scientific name: Branta canadensis
Lifespan: 10-24 years
Wingspan: 50-73 in

Canada goose is the only goose that nests in East Tennesee, and other parts of the state. With its 6 ft wingspan, 3.5 ft length, and weight of over 14 pounds, the Canada goose is also the largest in Tennessee.

It is commonly found around wetlands, parks, fields, and golf courses; you will identify a Canada goose by its brown color above that is paler below, black neck and head, white cheeks, and black bill and legs.

They were almost extirpated from Tennessee in the late 19th century, but with their recent reintroduction being so successful, Canada geese became a nuisance in parks and golf courses.

Canada geese can be found in urban and cultivated habitats with lots of food and few natural predators. There are 7 subspecies of Canada goose – one of them, the giant Canada goose (B. c. maxima), is considered the largest goose in the world. 

In Tennessee, Canada geese start building their nests around late March or early April. They have a clutch size of 4 to 10 eggs that the female incubates.

Canada geese are also known for flying in a distinctive V-formation and series of loud “honk” calls.

House Sparrow

house sparrow

Scientific name: Passer domesticus
Lifespan: 3-5 years
Wingspan: 9 in

House sparrows are one of the most widespread and abundant songbirds in the world. They are common backyard birds of East Tennessee and can be seen there throughout the year.

These small birds got introduced to New York in the middle of the 19th century, and in just 60 years spread across the entire continent.

You will identify males by their large gray heads, white cheeks, black bibs, and reddish-brown necks. Males and females look different – females are slightly smaller and mostly buffish above and below. House sparrows also have very shallow tails with a very small split.

Look for house sparrows around human-modified habitats, including farms, residential, and urban areas.

Listen for their short and incessant chirping calls that sound like “chirrup,” “tschilp,” or “philip.” 

They are very social birds that will often form flocks with other species of birds. 

The oldest recorded captive house sparrow lived 23 years. They feed on grains and seeds, discarded food, and insects.

Read More: 20+ big black birds


This concludes our list of birds in East Tennessee.

There are several types of birds found in Eastern TN, including many types of songbirds, raptors, woodpeckers, hummingbirds, owls, ducks, and many others. 

Next time you see any of these birds in person, you should be able to recognize them with ease!

And if you enjoyed our article, here are our other popular reads on birds: Examples of black birds with yellow heads and Examples of white birds commonly found in Hawaii

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