Joy of Birds

A Guide to Fall Migration in the Mountains and Piedmont

Migration season has arrived, and North Carolina’s mountain birds are on the move! Spot them at Blue Ridge Parkway, Mount Mitchell State Park, Roan Highlands, and New River Corridor before they make the journey to their wintering grounds from the Southeastern US to the Caribbean, South America and Central America.

August Departures

North Carolina’s migration season officially kicks off in August when the first batch of birds will migrate to the warmer southern hemisphere. Some of the travelers include the Red-eyed Vireo, Worm-eating Warbler, Yellow Warbler and Common Nighthawk.

Birds like the American Redstart and the Black-and-white Warbler will also travel to their wintering grounds across Central America, South America and the Caribbean.

Mark your calendars! Most of these birds will be passing through the Southern Appalachian Mountains by mid-August, where they can be found foraging during stopovers.

More departing species include:

  • Acadian Flycatcher
  • Hooded Warbler
  • Barn Swallows
Common Nighthawk
Common Nighthawk Photo: Richard Stebbins/Audubon Photography Awards

September Departures

The mountains are a wonderful place to catch migrating birds as they prepare to leave during September. Things are really heating up this month, when species like the Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Black-throated Green Warbler and Northern Waterthrush will depart for the Southern hemisphere. You can also spot the Mourning Warbler, Nashville Warbler and Swainson ’s Thrush as they pass through. If you are in the Piedmont, keep an eye out for flocks of Chesnut-sided Warbler, Gray Catbird and Black-throated Blue Warbler feasting on berries and fueling up for the long flight. 

More departing species include Eastern Kingbird, Tennessee Warbler, Canada Warbler, and Baltimore Oriole.​

October Arrivals and Departures

North Carolina’s newest arrivals will reach our state in October, and they’re a colorful bunch! These birds include the Swamp Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco and White-crowned Sparrow. Unfortunately, arrivals also mean departures. Many of them may overwinter, but species like the Indigo Bunting and Blue-headed Vireo will leave NC during the first couple of weeks of October. The Savannah Sparrow will also make an appearance as it passes through the mountains.

More departing species include:

  • Northern Parula
  • Blackpoll Warbler
  • Tree Swallow

Have a caught a glimpse of any of our travelers this migration season? We want to hear from you! Tell us about it on Facebook.

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