List of birds of North Carolina

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The northern cardinal is the state bird of North Carolina.

This list of birds of North Carolina includes species documented in the U.S. state of North Carolina and accepted by the North Carolina Bird Records Committee (NCBRC) of the Carolina Bird Club. As of January 2016, there are 465 species and a species pair definitively included in the official list. Twelve additional species, one of which is identified only at the genus level, are on the list but classed as provisional.[1] Of the 477 species, 84 are rare anywhere in the state, 82 are rare in some part of the state or in a single season, six have been introduced to North America, and four are extinct.

This list is presented in the taxonomic sequence of The Check-list of North American Birds (7th edition through the 57th supplement, 2016), published by the American Ornithological Society.[2] Common and scientific names are also those of the Check-list.

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 tags are used to designate some species:

  • (R) - Rare - a species whose report is reviewable by the NCBRC if the bird is found anywhere in North Carolina
  • (RC) - Rare coastal - a species whose report is reviewable by the NCBRC if the bird is found along the coast
  • (RD) - Rare downstate - a species whose report is reviewable by the NCBRC if the bird is found in the southern part of the state
  • (RI) - Rare inland - a species whose report is reviewable by the NCBRC if the bird is found away from the coast
  • (RM) - Rare in mountains - a species whose report is reviewable by the NCBRC if the bird is found in the mountainous part of the state
  • (RS) - Rare in spring - a species whose report is reviewable by the NCBRC if the bird is found in the spring
  • (I) - Introduced - a species introduced to North America by humans, either directly or indirectly
  • (E) - Extinct - a recent species that no longer exists
  • (P) - Provisional list - a species that has been approved by the NCBRC but is known only from sight records

Ducks, geese, and waterfowl[edit]

Wood ducks
Mallards
Northern shoveler
Hooded merganser

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, 45 species have been recorded.

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.

Pheasants, grouse, and allies[edit]

Ruffed grouse

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.

Grebes[edit]

Pied-billed grebe

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.

Pigeons and doves[edit]

Mourning dove

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.

Cuckoos and anis[edit]

Black-billed cuckoo

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.

Nightjars and allies[edit]

Common nighthawk

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]

Ruby-throated hummingbird

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, 11 species have been recorded.

Rails, gallinules, and coots[edit]

Virginia rail

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.

Limpkin[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, two species have 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.

Oystercatchers[edit]

American oystercatcher

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.

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, nine species have been recorded.

Sandpipers and allies[edit]

Willet
Sanderling
Ruddy turnstone
Wilson's snipe

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.

Skuas and jaegers[edit]

Pomarine jaeger

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.

Gulls, terns, and skimmers[edit]

Laughing gull
Ring-billed gull
Royal tern

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, 18 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.

Tropicbirds[edit]

Order: Phaethontiformes   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.

Loons[edit]

Common loon

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.

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]

Sooty shearwater

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, 13 species have been recorded.

Storm-petrels[edit]

Leach's storm-petrel

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.

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.

Frigatebirds[edit]

Order: Suliformes   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.

Boobies and gannets[edit]

Order: Suliformes   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.

Cormorants[edit]

Order: Suliformes   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. In North Carolina, two species have been recorded.

Anhingas[edit]

Anhinga

Order: Suliformes   Family: Anhingidae

Anhingas 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.

Pelicans[edit]

Brown pelican

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.

Bitterns, herons, and egrets[edit]

Great egret
Green heron

Order: Pelecaniformes   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. Members of Ardeidae fly with their necks retracted, unlike other long-necked birds such as storks, ibises and spoonbills.In North Carolina, 12 species have been recorded.

Ibises and spoonbills[edit]

Order: Pelecaniformes   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.

New World vultures[edit]

Turkey vulture

Order: Cathartiformes   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: Accipitriformes   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]

Red-tailed hawks at nest

Order: Accipitriformes   Family: Accipitridae

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, 15 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]

Great horned owl

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.

Kingfishers[edit]

Order: Coraciiformes   Family: Alcedinidae

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[edit]

Red-headed woodpecker

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.

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.

New World and African 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.

Tyrant flycatchers[edit]

Least flycatcher
Eastern kingbird

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, 19 species and a species pair have been recorded.

Shrikes[edit]

Loggerhead shrike

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 shrike's beak is hooked, like that of a typical bird of prey. In North Carolina, two species have been recorded.

Vireos[edit]

Red-eyed vireo

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]

Blue jay

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Corvidae

The family Corvidae 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]

Barn swallow

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Hirundinidae

The family Hirundinidae 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]

Carolina chickadee

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]

Brown-headed nuthatch

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]

Carolina wren

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.

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.

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.

Old World flycatchers[edit]

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Muscicapidae

Thrushes[edit]

Wood thrush

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, 11 species have been recorded.

Mockingbirds and thrashers[edit]

Northern mockingbird

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]

European starling

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.

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.

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.

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.

Finches[edit]

American goldfinch

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.

Longspurs and snow buntings[edit]

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Calcariidae

Wood-warblers[edit]

Chestnut-sided warbler
Black-throated blue warbler
Yellow-rumped warbler
Blackburnian warbler
Common yellowthroat

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.

New World sparrows[edit]

Saltmarsh sparrow
Chipping sparrow
Eastern towhee

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 and allies[edit]

Rose-breasted grosbeak

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]

Red-winged blackbird

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, 16 species have been recorded.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Official List of the Birds of North Carolina". North Carolina Bird Records Committee. January 2016. Retrieved 16 April 2017. 
  2. ^ http://www.americanornithology.org/content/checklist-north-and-middle-american-birds Check-List of North American Birds, 7th Edition, 57th Supplement retrieved 25 July 2016

Additional reading[edit]

  • Brooks, Marshall; Mark Johns (2005). Birding North Carolina. Helena, MT: Globe Pequot Press. ISBN 0-7627-3134-6. 
  • Porter, Eloise F.; James F. Parnell; Robert P. Teulings; Ricky Davis (2006). Birds of the Carolinas Second Edition. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 978-0-8078-5671-0. 

See also[edit]

External links[edit]