List of birds of North Carolina

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The northern cardinal is the state bird of North Carolina.

In the U.S. state of North Carolina, 473 species of birds have been recorded.[1] This number includes the bird species that have been sighted in North Carolina and are believed to be of wild origin. The North Carolina Bird Records Committee maintains the records for bird sightings in North Carolina and produce the list used by most birders to objectively evaluate species recorded in the state. The committee votes on the validity of new records of bird species in the state. The committee last met in 2011.

Official bird lists are sorted by taxonomic sequence. The taxonomic treatment (designation and sequence of orders, families, genera and species) and nomenclature (common and scientific names) used by the North Carolina Bird Records Committee follows the conventions of the American Ornithologists' Union's 1998 Check-list of North American Birds, the recognized scientific authority on the taxonomy and nomenclature of North American birds. The American Ornithologists' Union's Committee on Classification and Nomenclature, the body responsible for maintaining and updating the Check-list, "strongly and unanimously continues to endorse the biological species concept (BSC), in which species are considered to be genetically cohesive groups of populations that are reproductively isolated from other such groups".[2] The Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy provides an alternative phylogenetic arrangement based on DNA-DNA hybridization.

Unless otherwise noted, all species listed below are considered to occur regularly in North Carolina as permanent residents, summer or winter visitors, or migrants. The following codes are used to designate some species:

  • (I) - Introduced: Birds introduced to North America by humans, either directly or indirectly
  • (E) - Extinct
  • (P) - Provisional list: Birds that have been approved by the committee but are only known from one or two sight records are listed as provisional; there is no physical evidence, i.e. specimen, photograph or video recording, of the species in the state. By their very nature, these birds are considered irregular or of rare occurrence in North Carolina.
  • (R) - Rare: Birds that have been seen less than ten times in North Carolina but do not meet the requirements for the Provisional list

Note: Birds marked with asterisk (*) are not identified to species, but are distinct enough to be considered as a separate entry


Table of contents

See also        References         External links

Ducks, geese and swans[edit]

Order: Anseriformes Family: Anatidae

The family Anatidae includes the ducks and most duck-like waterfowl, such as geese and swans. These birds are adapted to an aquatic existence with webbed feet, bills which are flattened to a greater or lesser extent, and feathers that are excellent at shedding water due to special oils. In North Carolina, 44 species have been recorded.

Pheasants, turkeys and grouse[edit]

Order: Galliformes Family: Phasianidae

Phasianidae consists of the pheasants and their allies. These are terrestrial species, variable in size but generally plump with broad relatively short wings. Many species are gamebirds or have been domesticated as a food source for humans. In North Carolina, one species has been introduced. Turkeys have a distinctive fleshy wattle that hangs from the underside of the beak and a fleshy protuberance that hangs from the top of its beak called a snood. As with many galliform species, the female (the hen) is smaller and much less colorful than the male (the tom). With wingspans of 1.5–1.8 meters (almost 6 feet), the turkeys are the largest birds in the open forests in which they live and are rarely mistaken for any other species. One species has been recorded in North Carolina. Grouse inhabit temperate and subarctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere. They are game and are sometimes hunted for food. In all North Carolinian species, males are polygamous and have elaborate courtship displays. These heavily built birds have legs feathered to the toes. Most species are year-round residents and do not migrate. One species has been recorded in North Carolina.

New World quail[edit]

Order: Galliformes Family: Odontophoridae

The New World quails are small, plump terrestrial birds only distantly related to the quails of the Old World, but named for their similar appearance and habits. In North Carolina, one species has been recorded.

Loons[edit]

Order: Gaviiformes Family: Gaviidae

Loons are aquatic birds, the size of a large duck, to which they are unrelated. Their plumage is largely gray or black, and they have spear-shaped bills. Loons swim well and fly adequately, but are almost hopeless on land, because their legs are placed towards the rear of the body. In North Carolina, three species have been recorded.

Grebes[edit]

Order: Podicipediformes Family: Podicipedidae

Grebes are small to medium-large freshwater diving birds. They have lobed toes and are excellent swimmers and divers. However, they have their feet placed far back on the body, making them quite ungainly on land. In North Carolina, six species have been recorded.

Albatrosses[edit]

Order: Procellariiformes Family: Diomedeidae

The albatrosses are amongst the largest of flying birds, and the great albatrosses from the genus Diomedea have the largest wingspans of any extant birds. In North Carolina, two species have been recorded.

Fulmars, petrels and shearwaters[edit]

Order: Procellariiformes Family: Procellariidae

The procellariids are the main group of medium-sized "true petrels", characterized by united nostrils with medium septum and a long outer functional primary. In North Carolina, twelve species have been recorded.

Storm-petrels[edit]

Order: Procellariiformes Family: Hydrobatidae

The storm-petrels are the smallest seabirds, relatives of the petrels, feeding on planktonic crustaceans and small fish picked from the surface, typically while hovering. The flight is fluttering and sometimes bat-like. In North Carolina, seven species have been recorded.

Tropicbirds[edit]

Order: Pelecaniformes Family: Phaethontidae

Tropicbirds are slender white birds of tropical oceans, with exceptionally long central tail feathers. Their long wings have black markings, as does the head. In North Carolina, two species have been recorded.

Boobies and gannets[edit]

Order: Pelecaniformes Family: Sulidae

The sulids comprise the gannets and boobies. Both groups are medium-large coastal seabirds that plunge-dive for fish. In North Carolina, three species have been recorded.

Pelicans[edit]

Order: Pelecaniformes Family: Pelecanidae

Pelicans are very large water birds with a distinctive pouch under their beak. Like other birds in the order Pelecaniformes, they have four webbed toes. In North Carolina, two species have been recorded.

Cormorants[edit]

Order: Pelecaniformes Family: Phalacrocoracidae

Cormorants are medium-to-large aquatic birds, usually with mainly dark plumage and areas of colored skin on the face. The bill is long, thin and sharply hooked. Their feet are four-toed and webbed, a distinguishing feature among the Pelecaniformes order. In North Carolina, two species have been recorded.

Darters[edit]

Order: Pelecaniformes Family: Anhingidae

Darters are cormorant-like water birds with very long necks and long, straight beaks. They are fish eaters which often swim with only their neck above the water. In North Carolina, one species has been recorded.

Frigatebirds[edit]

Order: Pelecaniformes Family: Fregatidae

Frigatebirds are large seabirds usually found over tropical oceans. They are large, black or black-and-white, with long wings and deeply forked tails. The males have colored inflatable throat pouches. They do not swim or walk and cannot take off from a flat surface. Having the largest wingspan-to-body-weight ratio of any bird, they are essentially aerial, able to stay aloft for more than a week. In North Carolina, one species has been recorded.

Bitterns, herons and egrets[edit]

Order: Ciconiiformes Family: Ardeidae

The family Ardeidae contains the herons, egrets and bitterns. Herons and egrets are medium to large wading birds with long necks and legs. Bitterns tend to be shorter necked and more secretive. Unlike other long necked birds such as storks, ibises and spoonbills, members of Ardeidae fly with their necks retracted. In North Carolina, 12 species have been recorded.

Ibises and spoonbills[edit]

Order: Ciconiiformes Family: Threskiornithidae

The family Threskiornithidae includes the ibises and spoonbills. They have long, broad wings. Their bodies tend to be elongated, the neck more so, with rather long legs. The bill is also long, decurved in the case of the ibises, straight and distinctively flattened in the spoonbills. In North Carolina, four species have occurred.

Storks[edit]

Order: Ciconiiformes Family: Ciconiidae

Storks are large, heavy, long-legged, long-necked wading birds with long stout bills and wide wingspans. They lack the powder down that other wading birds such as herons, spoonbills and ibises use to clean off fish slime. Storks lack a pharynx and are mute. In North Carolina, one species has been recorded.

New World vultures[edit]

Order: Ciconiiformes Family: Cathartidae

The New World vultures are not closely related to Old World vultures, but superficially resemble them because of convergent evolution. Like the Old World vultures, they are scavengers. However, unlike Old World vultures, which find carcasses by sight, New World vultures have a good sense of smell with which they locate carcasses. In North Carolina, two species have been recorded.

Osprey[edit]

Order: Falconiformes Family: Pandionidae

The osprey is a medium-large fish-eating bird of prey or raptor. It is widely distributed because it tolerates a wide variety of habitats, nesting in any location which is near a body of water and provides an adequate food supply. It is the only member of its family.

Hawks, kites and eagles[edit]

Order: Falconiformes Family: Accipitridae

The family Accipitridae is a family of birds of prey, which includes hawks, eagles, kites, harriers and Old World vultures. These birds have very large powerful hooked beaks for tearing flesh from their prey, strong legs, powerful talons and keen eyesight. In North Carolina, 14 species have been recorded.

Caracaras and falcons[edit]

Order: Falconiformes Family: Falconidae

Falconidae is a family of diurnal birds of prey, notably the falcons and caracaras. They differ from hawks, eagles and kites in that they kill with their beaks instead of their talons. In North Carolina, four species have been recorded.

Rails, gallinules and coots[edit]

Order: Gruiformes Family: Rallidae

Rallidae is a large family of small to medium-sized birds which includes the rails, crakes, coots and gallinules. The most typical family members occupy dense vegetation in damp environments near lakes, swamps or rivers. In general they are shy and secretive birds, making them difficult to observe. Most species have strong legs and long toes which are well adapted to soft uneven surfaces. They tend to have short, rounded wings and to be weak fliers. In North Carolina, nine species have been recorded.

Limpkins[edit]

Order: Gruiformes Family: Aramidae

The limpkin is a large bird in a monotypic family. It is similar in appearance to the rails, but skeletally it is closer to the cranes. It is found in marshes and gets its common name from its appearance of limping as it walks. In North Carolina, one species has been recorded.

Cranes[edit]

Order: Gruiformes Family: Gruidae

Cranes are large, long-legged and long-necked birds. Unlike the similar-looking but unrelated herons, cranes fly with necks outstretched, not pulled back. Most have elaborate and noisy courting displays or "dances". In North Carolina, one species has been recorded.

Lapwings and plovers[edit]

Order: Charadriiformes Family: Charadriidae

The family Charadriidae includes the plovers, dotterels and lapwings. They are small to medium-sized birds with compact bodies, short, thick necks and long, usually pointed, wings. They are found in open country worldwide, mostly in habitats near water. In North Carolina, eight species have been recorded.

Oystercatchers[edit]

Order: Charadriiformes Family: Haematopodidae

The oystercatchers are large, obvious and noisy plover-like birds, with strong bills used for smashing or prying open molluscs. In North Carolina, one species has been recorded.

Stilts and avocets[edit]

Order: Charadriiformes Family: Recurvirostridae

Recurvirostridae is a family of large wading birds, which includes the avocets and stilts. The avocets have long legs and long up-curved bills. The stilts have extremely long legs and long, thin, straight bills. In North Carolina, two species have been recorded.

Sandpipers, curlews, stints, godwits, snipes and phalaropes[edit]

Order: Charadriiformes Family: Scolopacidae

Scolopacidae is a large diverse family of small to medium-sized shorebirds including the sandpipers, curlews, godwits, shanks, tattlers, woodcocks, snipes, dowitchers and phalaropes. The majority of these species eat small invertebrates picked out of the mud or soil. Different lengths of legs and bills enable multiple species to feed in the same habitat, particularly on the coast, without direct competition for food. In North Carolina, 37 species have been recorded.

Gulls, terns and skimmers[edit]

Order: Charadriiformes Family: Laridae

Gulls are typically medium to large birds, usually gray or white, often with black markings on the head or wings. They have stout, stout, longish bills and webbed feet. The large species take up to four years to attain full adult plumage, but two years is typical for small gulls. In North Carolina, 19 species have been recorded. Terns are in general medium to large birds, typically with gray or white plumage, often with black markings on the head. They have longish bills and webbed feet. They are lighter bodied and more streamlined than gulls and look elegant in flight with long tails and long narrow wings. In North Carolina, 14 species have been recorded. Skimmers are tropical and subtropical species. They have an elongated lower mandible. They feed by flying low over the water surface with the lower mandible skimming the water for small fish. One species has been recorded in North Carolina.

Skuas[edit]

Order: Charadriiformes Family: Stercorariidae

They are in general medium to large birds, typically with gray or brown plumage, often with white markings on the wings. They have longish bills with hooked tips and webbed feet with sharp claws. They look like large dark gulls, but have a fleshy cere above the upper mandible. They are strong, acrobatic fliers. Five species have been recorded in North Carolina.

Auks, murres and puffins[edit]

Order: Charadriiformes Family: Alcidae

Alcids are superficially similar to penguins due to their black-and-white colors, their upright posture and some of their habits; however, they are only distantly related to the penguins and are able to fly. Auks live on the open sea, only deliberately coming ashore to nest. In North Carolina, seven species have been recorded.

Pigeons and doves[edit]

Order: Columbiformes Family: Columbidae

Pigeons and doves are stout-bodied birds with short necks and short slender bills with a fleshy cere. In North Carolina, seven species have been recorded.

Lories, parakeets, macaws and parrots[edit]

Order: Psittaciformes Family: Psittacidae

Parrots are small to large birds with a characteristic curved beak. Their upper mandibles have slight mobility in the joint with the skull and they have a generally erect stance. All parrots are zygodactyl, having the four toes on each foot placed two at the front and two to the back. In North Carolina, one extinct species has been recorded.

Cuckoos, roadrunners and anis[edit]

Order: Cuculiformes Family: Cuculidae

The family Cuculidae includes cuckoos, roadrunners and anis. These birds are of variable size with slender bodies, long tails and strong legs. The Old World cuckoos are brood parasites. In North Carolina, four species have been recorded.

Barn owls[edit]

Order: Strigiformes Family: Tytonidae

Barn owls are medium to large owls with large heads and characteristic heart-shaped faces. They have long strong legs with powerful talons. In North Carolina, one species has been recorded.

Typical owls[edit]

Order: Strigiformes Family: Strigidae

Typical owls are small to large solitary nocturnal birds of prey. They have large forward-facing eyes and ears, a hawk-like beak and a conspicuous circle of feathers around each eye called a facial disk. In North Carolina, eight species have been recorded.

Nightjars[edit]

Order: Caprimulgiformes Family: Caprimulgidae

Nightjars are medium-sized nocturnal birds that usually nest on the ground. They have long wings, short legs and very short bills. Most have small feet which are of little use for walking and long, pointed wings. Their soft plumage is cryptically colored to resemble bark or leaves. In North Carolina, five species have been recorded.

Swifts[edit]

Order: Apodiformes Family: Apodidae

The swifts are small birds which spend the majority of their lives flying. These birds have very short legs and never settle voluntarily on the ground, perching instead only on vertical surfaces. Many swifts have long swept-back wings which resemble a crescent or boomerang. In North Carolina, two species have been recorded, although on was only identified to genus.

Hummingbirds[edit]

Order: Apodiformes Family: Trochilidae

Hummingbirds are small birds capable of hovering in mid-air due to the rapid flapping of their wings. They are the only birds that can fly backwards. In North Carolina, eleven species have been recorded.

Kingfishers[edit]

Order: Coraciiformes Family: Cerylidae

Kingfishers are medium-sized birds with large heads, long, pointed bills, short legs and stubby tails. In North Carolina, one species has been recorded.

Woodpeckers, sapsuckers and flickers[edit]

Order: Piciformes Family: Picidae

Woodpeckers are small to medium-sized birds with chisel-like beaks, short legs, stiff tails and long tongues used for capturing insects. Some species have feet with two toes pointing forward and two backward, while several species have only three toes. Many woodpeckers have the habit of tapping noisily on tree trunks with their beaks. In North Carolina, nine species have been recorded.

Tyrant flycatchers[edit]

Order: Passeriformes Family: Tyrannidae

Tyrant flycatchers are passerine birds which occur throughout North and South America. They superficially resemble the Old World flycatchers, but are more robust and have stronger bills. They do not have the sophisticated vocal capabilities of the songbirds. Most, but not all, are rather plain. As the name implies, most are insectivorous. In North Carolina, 20 species have been recorded.

Shrikes[edit]

Order: Passeriformes Family: Laniidae

Shrikes are passerine birds known for their habit of catching other birds and small animals and impaling the uneaten portions of their bodies on thorns. A typical shrike's beak is hooked, like a bird of prey. In North Carolina, two species have been recorded.

Vireos[edit]

Order: Passeriformes Family: Vireonidae

The vireos are a group of small to medium-sized passerine birds restricted to the New World. They are typically greenish in color and resemble the wood warblers except for their heavier bills. In North Carolina, eight species have been recorded.

Jays, crows, magpies and ravens[edit]

Order: Passeriformes Family: Corvidae

The Corvidae family includes crows, ravens, jays, choughs, magpies, treepies, nutcrackers and ground jays. Corvids are above average in size among the Passeriformes, and some of the larger species show high levels of intelligence. In North Carolina, four species have been recorded.

Larks[edit]

Order: Passeriformes Family: Alaudidae

Larks are small terrestrial birds with often extravagant songs and display flights. Most larks are fairly dull in appearance. Their food is insects and seeds. In North Carolina, one species has been recorded.

Swallows and martins[edit]

Order: Passeriformes Family: Hirundinidae

The Hirundinidae family is adapted to aerial feeding. They have a slender streamlined body, long pointed wings and a short bill with a wide gape. The feet are adapted to perching rather than walking and the front toes are partially joined at the base. In North Carolina, eight species have been recorded.

Chickadees and titmice[edit]

Order: Passeriformes Family: Paridae

The Paridae are mainly small stocky woodland species with short stout bills. Some have crests. They are adaptable birds, with a mixed diet including seeds and insects. In North Carolina, three species have been recorded.

Nuthatches[edit]

Order: Passeriformes Family: Sittidae

Nuthatches are small woodland birds. They have the unusual ability to climb down trees head first, unlike other birds which can only go upwards. Nuthatches have big heads, short tails and powerful bills and feet. In North Carolina, three species have been recorded.

Treecreepers[edit]

Order: Passeriformes Family: Certhiidae

Treecreepers are small woodland birds, brown above and white below. They have thin pointed down-curved bills, which they use to extricate insects from bark. They have stiff tail feathers, like woodpeckers, which they use to support themselves on vertical trees. In North Carolina, one species has been recorded.

Wrens[edit]

Order: Passeriformes Family: Troglodytidae

Wrens are small and inconspicuous birds, except for their loud songs. They have short wings and thin down-turned bills. Several species often hold their tails upright. All are insectivorous. In North Carolina, six species have been recorded.

Kinglets[edit]

Order: Passeriformes Family: Regulidae

The kinglets are a family of birds which are very small insectivorous birds in the genus Regulus. The adults have colored crowns, giving rise to their name. In North Carolina, two species have been recorded.

Gnatcatchers[edit]

Order: Passeriformes Family: Polioptilidae

These dainty birds resemble Old World warblers in their structure and habits, moving restlessly through foliage while seeking insects. The gnatcatchers are mainly a soft bluish gray in color and have the long sharp bill typical of an insectivore. Many species have distinctive black head patterns (especially males) and long, regularly cocked black-and-white tails. In North Carolina, one species has been recorded.

Old World flycatchers[edit]

Order: Passeriformes Family: Muscicapidae

Thrushes[edit]

Order: Passeriformes Family: Turdidae

The thrushes are a group of passerine birds that occur mainly but not exclusively in the Old World. They are plump, soft plumaged, small to medium-sized insectivores or sometimes omnivores, often feeding on the ground. Many have attractive songs. In North Carolina, 10 species have been recorded.

Mockingbirds and thrashers[edit]

Order: Passeriformes Family: Mimidae

The mimids are a family of passerine birds which includes thrashers, mockingbirds, tremblers and the New World catbirds. These birds are notable for their vocalization, especially their remarkable ability to mimic a wide variety of birds and other sounds heard outdoors. The species tend towards dull grays and browns in their appearance. In North Carolina, four species have been recorded.

Starlings[edit]

Order: Passeriformes Family: Sturnidae

Starlings are small to medium-sized Old World passerine birds with strong feet. Their flight is strong and direct and most are very gregarious. Their preferred habitat is fairly open country, and they eat insects and fruit. The plumage of several species is dark with a metallic sheen. In North Carolina, one species has been recorded.

Wagtails and pipits[edit]

Order: Passeriformes Family: Motacillidae

Motacillidae is a family of small passerine birds with medium to long tails. They include the wagtails, longclaws and pipits. They are slender, ground feeding insectivores of open country. In North Carolina, three species have been recorded.

Waxwings[edit]

Order: Passeriformes Family: Bombycillidae

The waxwings are a group of birds with soft silky plumage and unique red tips to some of the wing feathers. In the Bohemian and cedar waxwings, these tips look like sealing wax and give the group its name. These are arboreal birds of northern forests. They live on insects in summer and berries in winter. In North Carolina, one species has been recorded.

Longspurs and snow buntings[edit]

Order: Passeriformes Family: Calcariidae

Wood-warblers[edit]

Order: Passeriformes Family: Parulidae

The wood warblers are a group of small, often colorful passerine birds restricted to the New World. Most are arboreal, but some are more terrestrial, such as the Ovenbird. Most members of this family are insectivores. In North Carolina, 42 species have been recorded.

American sparrows, towhees and juncos[edit]

Order: Passeriformes Family: Emberizidae

Emberizidae is a large family of passerine birds. They are seed-eating birds with distinctively shaped bills. In Europe, most species are called buntings. In North America, most of the species in this family are known as sparrows, but these birds are not closely related to the Old World sparrows which are in the family Passeridae. Many emberizid species have distinctive head patterns. In North Carolina, 28 species have been recorded.

Cardinals, saltators and grosbeaks[edit]

Order: Passeriformes Family: Cardinalidae

The cardinals are a family of robust, seed-eating birds with strong bills. They are typically associated with open woodland. The sexes usually have distinct plumages. In North Carolina, eleven species have been recorded.

Blackbirds, meadowlarks, cowbirds, grackles and orioles[edit]

Order: Passeriformes Family: Icteridae

The icterids are a group of small to medium-sized, often colorful passerine birds restricted to the New World and include the grackles, New World blackbirds and New World orioles. Most species have black as a predominant plumage color, often enlivened by yellow, orange or red. In North Carolina, 15 species have been recorded.

Finches[edit]

Order: Passeriformes Family: Fringillidae

Finches are seed-eating passerine birds that are small to moderately large and have a strong beak, usually conical and in some species very large. All have twelve tail feathers and nine primaries. These birds have a bouncing flight with alternating bouts of flapping and gliding on closed wings, and most sing well. In North Carolina, 11 species have been recorded.

Old World sparrows[edit]

Order: Passeriformes Family: Passeridae

Old World sparrows are small passerine birds. In general, sparrows tend to be small plump brownish or grayish birds with short tails and short powerful beaks. Sparrows are seed eaters, but they also consume small insects. In North Carolina, one species has been recorded.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Official list of the birds of North Carolina". The Carolina Bird Club. Retrieved 2013-03-24. 
  2. ^ "Check-list of North American Birds, Seventh Edition". American Ornithologists' Union. Archived from the original on 2007-12-11. Retrieved 2007-12-15. 

External links[edit]