Knoxville is a birding town! You may not know it, but there are over 12 different 'birding hotspots' identified by the TN Ornithological Society, all in and around Knoxville! The diverse ecosystems of our region offer ample opportunities to spot new bird species. Our home is a stopping point along many migratory routes, and you will spot the most bird species if you go looking during a migration season. In East Tennessee, the spring migration occurs from mid-March to mid-May and the fall migration from early September until mid-October.
If you are looking to get a head start before spring migration, your best bet in East Tennessee is to visit lakes and marshes for waterfowl, or grassy fields for sparrows. The Eagle Bend Fish Hatchery is a popular site for waterfowl, shorebirds, and wading birds. Some winter sightings at this site include American kestrel, great blue heron, and red shouldered hawk. The site is also popular with ducks during the winter, including green-winged teal, bufflehead, redhead, and northern shoveler.
Seven Islands State Birding Park has identified over 200 species of birds on location and is a great birding spot during the year-round. Search the open, grassy fields and along the shores of the French Broad River. In winter, hundreds of sparrows can be found, including field, savannah, song, swamp, white-throated and white-crowned. If you are new to birding, you can’t miss one of their educational programs! The Birding Basic Hikes on January 8th and 22nd are guided hikes with park rangers who will teach birdsongs and identification tips to birders of all ages. You can register for the event and see other birding programs on the Seven Islands calendar.
When spring migration begins, the perfect place to start your birding journey in Knoxville is Sharp’s Ridge Veterans Memorial Park, which is just a 10-minute drive north from downtown. Most birding here is done by walking or driving the road along the top of the ridge and using the observation deck, which offers great views of the Knoxville skyline and the Smoky Mountains in the distance. Bring some binoculars for the best results! After you have spotted a few birds, continue north to Collier Preserve in Powell, just a 15-minute drive from Sharp’s Ridge. The 12-acre preserve includes walking paths and wooden benches as well as a birding platform overlooking forested wetland. Over 50 species of birds have been seen in the Preserve. Many are known to nest here: barred owls; screech owls; hairy, downy, red-bellied, and pileated woodpeckers; chickadees; titmice; Carolina wrens; cardinals and robins. Wild turkeys like to hang out in the creek bottom areas and watch the creek for both green and great blue herons. You can even check out a field guide at the library next door to help you identify each species you come across.
Once you take notice of the different bird species flying around us, you may find it hard to stop watching! Check out the birding guide from Visit Knoxville for even more information on birding hotspots and popular species in our area. You can also download eBird to help identify and track the species you come across, and to see a log of what other birders have spotted at each location. Enjoy the time spent out in nature and remember to always ‘Leave No Trace’!