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Five Feathered Friends

Five Feathered Friends

Get to know the looks, songs, diets and habits of these five common birds, and you’ll have feathered friends worth watching wherever you go in the Tennessee Valley.

Northern Cardinal

One of the most beautiful songbirds, the cardinal is abundant in the Tennessee region and can be found everywhere from suburbs to cities to forests.

Did you know?

  • A cardinal will often spend its whole life within a mile of where it hatched.
  • Cardinals are often referred to as winter birds, but in fact they don’t migrate.
  • Their diet is seeds, fruits, buds and insects. They frequently visit bird feeders.
  • The bright red cardinals you see are males. Females look very different: they are mostly grayish-brown with reddish wings, crest and tail.
  • Male cardinals are so territorial they have been known to fight their own reflections in glass windows. If this happens at your house, it’s best to cover the window with a dull surface until breeding season is over.

American Robin

The robin is a familiar neighborhood bird across the entire continental U.S. You may see them more often in the South during winter months because robins migrate to warmer states to spend the winter. They’re easy to identify because no other North American bird is gray on the back and wings, with an orange breast. They can be found in all habitats, and their eggs are easy to spot because of their unique “robins-egg blue” color.

Did you know?

  • Homesick European settlers named the robin for their familiar “Robin Red-breast”, the European Blackbird, which is similar in appearance although the two species are not related.
  • Male and female robins look alike although females are slightly lighter in color.
  • Earthworms are an important part of a robin’s diet. They also eat fruit.

Northern Mockingbird

The official state bird of Tennessee since 1933, the mockingbird is a year-round resident across most of the continental U.S. Its scientific name, Mimus polyglottos, means “many-tongued mimic”. This is because of the bird’s ability to mimic not only dozens of other bird calls but even man-made devices such as musical instruments, car alarms and cell phones. Perhaps the loudest of the songbirds, mockingbirds often sing early in the morning and on moonlit nights.

Did you know?

  • Mockingbirds eat ants, beetles, grasshoppers, seeds and berries.
  • Because of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, it is a crime to kill a mockingbird. But this doesn’t apply just to mockingbirds; it actually applies to all non-game birds, with rare exceptions such as pigeons and house sparrows, which can be pests.
  • A mockingbird’s repertoire may contain as many as 200 distinct songs.
  • Mockingbirds frequently give a “wing flash” display in which they flash their white-striped wings. This is believed to startle insects and make them easier to find.
Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren

The loud, clear song of this little brown bird is common across the entire Southeastern U.S. The Carolina wren can be seen in yards and gardens as well as swamps and woodlands. In Tennessee, they have a long nesting season, lasting from late March into August.

Did you know?

  • Carolina wrens can pair off any time of the year, and they may stay together for life. Members of a pair forage and move around the territory together.
  • Females help the males defend their territory by singing loudly with them. When the male sings aggressively toward a neighboring male, his mate will approach and give a chattering call that overlaps the male’s song.
  • Despite their robust song, Carolina wrens are very small birds. They are much more easily heard than seen.
Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove

One of the 10 most abundant birds in the United States, mourning doves can be found from southern Canada to Central America, and they nest all year round. The mourning dove lives in both rural and urban landscapes and is a frequent visitor to bird feeders. The distinctive, melancholy COOOO-coo-coo-coo-coo of its call is sometimes mistaken for the hooting of an owl.

Did you know?

  • The mourning dove is a popular game species and is hunted frequently. Despite this, its U.S. population is estimated at 350 million.
  • The female builds the nest with the male bringing sticks to her. It is a platform of twigs, often in tall trees and sometimes on a rock ledge or other solid structure. They will reuse a nest year after year.
  • Although mourning doves resemble pigeons, they are smaller and slimmer.

It’s always a good time for fun on the Tennessee Valley’s lands and waters. Not sure where to start? We have you covered! Check out some of the best recreational activities on our reservoirs. While you’re enjoying the lakes, trails, picnic areas and campgrounds, share your own stories and photos on Instagram using #TVAfun.

River Neighbors Newsletter

Get the all the latest news and inside information about recreation on TVA public lands and lakes.

Birdwatchers in Paradise

TVA has taken steps to make many of the public lands it manages attractive to avian life—making for some great birdwatching destinations. Here are some of the top spots for birdwatchers on TVA reservoirs:

  • Rankin Bottoms on Douglas
  • Songbird Trail on Norris
  • Chota Waterfowl Refuge on Tellico
  • Hiwassee Refuge on Chickamauga
  • Guntersville State Park
  • Muscle Shoals Reservation
  • Duck River Unit, Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge, Kentucky Reservoir

Read more about these destinations, and what you'll find there, by clicking here.