Tennessee Birds: Common Birds in Tennessee (TN)

Last Updated on February 25, 2022 by Lily Aldrin

There are numerous habitats in the ‘Volunteer State‘ where avian delights can be found. The Appalachian mountain range, the Valley region, and even coastal locations are just a few of Tennessee’s geographical characteristics that assist to ensure that a wide variety of birds spend seasons, if not the entire year, in the state.

Today, we’ll look at some instances of local avifauna and provide you with information on how to feed and locate these beautiful creatures, as well as several hotspots where you can spend some time away from the house doing what you enjoy.

There are over 434 distinct bird species that call it home. Birds in Tennessee range from common species like the Carolina Chickadee to uncommon species like the Olive-sided Flycatcher.

Tennessee’s state bird is the Northern Mockingbird, which was designated as such in 1933.

The Northern Mockingbird which is also the state bird of Tennessee is regarded as one of North America’s most beautiful songbirds. Throughout the year, it can be found in Tennessee.

Wood DuckWood Duck
Wild TurkeyWild Turkey
Eastern PhoebeEastern Phoebe
Purple MartinPurple Martin
Prothonotary WarblerProthonotary Warbler
Orchard OrioleOrchard Oriole
Pine SiskinPine Siskin
Northern ParulaNorthern Parula
Blue GrosbeaksBlue Grosbeaks
Rose-breasted GrosbeakRose-breasted Grosbeak
Hermit ThrushHermit Thrush
Northern MockingbirdNorthern Mockingbird

1. Wood Duck

Wood Duck


The Wood Duck is Tennessee’s most frequent nesting duck, and many people believe it to be the most beautiful of all the waterfowl in North America. Freshwater marshes, wooded wetlands, and riparian habitats are all places where they can be found.

By the early 1900s, this species had almost been hunted to extinction. The species has recovered thanks to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, as well as recovering beaver populations that have created wetland habitats and extensive use of artificial nest boxes.

The Wood Duck is a common breeding bird in the area, but a rare wintering duck in the rest of the state. Tennessee’s population has been increasing since the early 1960s, following substantial reductions in the early 1900s. This growth is due to the maturation of forests across the state, as well as TWRA’s vigorous nest box operations on public and private property.


The Wood Duck’s breeding range is from southern Canada to the eastern part of the United States, along the Pacific Coast, and inland to a few isolated places. The southwestern United States and the southern three-quarters of its breeding range are where this duck spends the winter. Wood ducks are uncommon to be locally abundant over the state during the breeding season, with lesser numbers present in the winter.


The male Wood Duck has a highly patterned iridescent-green and white head, a tall crest, a red bill and eye, a black back, a dark reddish breast, and pale golden flanks. The female is gray-brown in color with a white eye patch and a bushy crest on her head.

The male is in “eclipse plumage” from June to September, resembling the female but with a different head pattern and a mainly crimson bill.

2. Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey is the largest breeding bird in Tennessee. This large-bodied, large-footed species only fly short distances and spends the night on trees.


The historic range of Wild Turkey included southern Canada, the United States, and central Mexico. It was an important food source for Native Americans and early settlers, but overhunting had wiped out most of the species’ range by the early 1900s, including much of Tennessee. Thanks to contemporary wildlife management, this bird has been restored across its historic range and into 49 of the 50 United States.


These birds prefer fields or mature forests with scattered openings as their preferred habitat. Wild Turkey is a huge ground-dwelling bird with black plumage. Males are significantly larger than females. A beard is a tuft of feathers on the breast that all males and some females have.


Acorns, nuts, seeds, fruits, insects, buds, fern fronds, and salamanders are among the foods enjoyed by these birds.

3. Killdeer


Killdeers are the most common and well-known shorebird in North America, because of their usage of man-made habitats such as gravel roads, athletic fields, lawns, and mudflats near water.


The Killdeer’s breeding range is from southern Alaska to southern Mexico in the summer, and from southern Alaska to northern South America in the winter. In Tennessee, killdeers are frequent year-round residents.


A medium-sized shorebird with a brown upper body and a striking orange rump visible in flight, the Killdeer is a medium-sized shorebird. It features a vivid orange rump and two visible black bands across the breast. It has a huge eye, a round head, a short neck, and somewhat lengthy legs. Males and females have the same appearance.

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Killdeer forage in pastures, cultivated fields, sporting grounds, airports, golf courses, gravel parking lots, sandbars, and mudflats. Killdeer nesting sites in Tennessee include pastureland, recently plowed fields, lake and pond margins, gravel roads, parking lots, gravel rooftops, airports, and golf courses.

4. Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe

Due to its habit of breeding atop buildings and bridges, this flycatcher is probably the most well-known in Tennessee. It breeds from western Canada to the Atlantic Coast, as well as south to middle Texas and Georgia. The Eastern Phoebe is found in Tennessee all year, but there are fewer of them in the winter when some birds migrate south.


This little songbird stands up and pumps its tail frequently, especially after landing. It has dark greyish brown upperparts and pale underparts that may be yellow-washed. There are no eye-ring or wing bars on the Eastern Phoebe. Males and females have the same appearance.

Habitat & Food

It nests on buildings, barns, and beneath bridges in rural and agricultural regions. Insects in the air and the occasional little fruit are the preferred food of this bird.

5. Purple Martin

Purple Martin

The Purple Martin is North America’s largest swallow, and it relies nearly entirely on human-made birdhouses for nesting in the eastern United States.


This is Tennessee’s first spring migratory, arriving around the first of March and nesting in every county. After the breeding season in July and August, adults and fledglings build large communal roosts, usually near large bodies of water, but also in urban and suburban settings where they can find protection from predators.


This enormous swallow has a gigantic head, broad, pointed wings, and a short, slightly notched tail. The male is completely bluish-black, while the female is bluish-black on the back, dingy grey on the bottom, with a darker chest and a grey collar around the neck.

Habitat & Food

This bird breeds near human settlements with birdhouses, particularly near water and vast open spaces and feeds in jungle clearings and agricultural areas throughout the winter, and may roost in village plazas. This bird’s preferred meal is flying insects.

6. Prothonotary Warbler

Prothonotary Warbler

The Prothonotary Warbler was given its name by Louisiana Creoles in the 18th century, who felt the bird’s plumage resembled that of a prothonotaries, a Catholic Church official who advises the Pope.


The Prothonotary Warbler is a rare eastern warbler that nests in tree holes in flooded woodlands. It can be found across much of the eastern United States during the breeding season, from Florida to eastern Texas, and north to Wisconsin and New Jersey. The species’ breeding stronghold is in the southeastern United States’ lowlands, particularly the Mississippi Alluvial Valley.


The head and chest of this little songbird are golden yellows, with a vivid black eye, solid grey wings, and a white belly. During the non-breeding season, the Prothonotary Warbler’s plumage does not alter.

Habitat & Food

This bird-like to live in wooded swamps, flooded bottomland woods, and along slow-moving rivers. During the breeding season, they eat insects and snails. These species eat fruits, seeds, and nectar, as well as insects, on their wintering grounds.

7. Orchard Oriole

Orchard Oriole
Credits – Wikipedia

The Orchard Oriole is the tiniest North American oriole, and it could be mistaken for a warbler at first glance. The male is a deep chestnut-brown and black color, but it can appear almost entirely black in low light.


This bird prefers open places with dispersed trees, such as orchards, parks, and residential areas, and prefers areas near lakes and streams to breed.


When the breeding season finishes in July, the Orchard Oriole is one of the earliest migrants to leave Tennessee. The breeding range runs east of the Rocky Mountains from southern Mexico to northwestern South America, while the winter range stretches from southern Mexico to northwestern South America.


The male and female have vastly distinct physical characteristics. The adult male has a beautiful chestnut-brown hood, back, and tail, as well as black wings with one thin white wing bar. The female has olive-yellow upper wings and brighter lower wings with two white wing bars. Males do not mature into adult plumage until their second autumn.

Habitat & Food

Orchard Orioles nest in gardens, orchards, pastures, and residential settings, often near streams and lakes. Insects, spiders, honey, and fruit are among their favorite foods.

8. Pine Siskin

Pine Siskin

The Pine Siskin is a common winter visitor to Tennessee, but its population varies greatly from year to year. This is one of the “irruptive” winter finches, with annual variations in northern conifer cone production thought to be related to the number of wintering birds. The Pine Siskin is a social bird that congregates in groups during the winter months when it frequents thistle seed bird feeders.

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In the summer, Pine Siskins can be seen at higher elevations in East Tennessee, although nesting has only recently been documented on Roan Mountain. It is not uncommon for siskins to stay and nest far south of their regular breeding territory after a large irruptive winter.

From Alaska and Canada to the northern United States and western highlands of the United States, the Pine Siskin range extends. They spend some winters across their breeding region, while others travel as far south as the Gulf Coast.


The Pine Siskin is a small brown finch with a narrow, pointed bill and a highly striped short, notched tail. Yellow markings on the wing and tail are especially noticeable when the bird is flying. The male and female have similar appearances, although the male has more yellow.


Pine Siskins forage in flocks high in the trees, and their call notes, which are frequently emitted in flight, can be heard regularly. During the breeding season, Pine Siskins can be found in open coniferous and mixed coniferous-deciduous woods, as well as in residential areas with thistle seed bird feeders in the winter.


Small seeds, as well as tree buds, insects, and spiders are the foods consumed by these birds.

9. Northern Parula

Northern Parula

The Northern Parula is the smallest eastern wood-warbler, and its habit of foraging high in trees at the tops of branches makes it difficult to see. The song, which begins with a rising buzzy trill and ends with an abrupt sound, is common in Tennessee’s bottomland and ravine forests in the spring.

The Northern Parula migrates from early April until late September. From southeastern Canada to the Gulf Coast, the breeding range stretches across the eastern part of the United States.


The Northern Parula is a tiny, energetic warbler with a short neck and short tail. It has a gray-blue upper back, two bold white wing bars, a brilliant yellow throat and breast, a white belly, and a white eye-ring interrupted by a black eye-line. The male and female have similar appearances, but the male has a prominent reddish-brown and black breast-band.

Habitat & Food

Bottomland, riparian, and ravine forests are the habitats of this species, and insects and spiders are their main sources of food.

10. Blue Grosbeaks

Blue Grosbeaks

Blue Grosbeaks are solitary species that can be found throughout Tennessee during the summer. They appear in brushy fields and hedgerows adjacent to grasslands and croplands between the end of April and the end of September. The causes of this massive range extension are unknown.


Blue Grosbeaks are migratory birds that can be found in the southern United States, Mexico, and Central America. The winter range includes southern Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.


The male and female have extremely different looks, although they both have a huge cone-shaped bill. The male has two broad rusty-brown wing bars, while the female has predominantly brown wings with two buffy-brown wing bars.


Early successional habitats for Blue Grosbeaks include brushy pastures and abandoned fields with numerous shrubs and saplings, as well as hedgerows adjacent to hayfields and small grain fields, and recent clear-cuts.


Insects, other invertebrates, and seeds make up their diet.

11. Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

The male Rose-breasted Grosbeak’s plumage is striking, with a rich rose triangle in the middle of the white breast. The female has a distinct plumage that resembles that of a huge brown streaky sparrow.

The Rose-breasted Grosbeak spends a lot of time in the treetops, and its singing and peculiar metallic, chink, call-note help to identify it. Unlike many other songbirds, both the male and female Rose-breasted Grosbeaks sing.


This migratory bird migrates from its breeding habitats in much of Canada and the eastern United States to its wintering grounds in southern Mexico and northern South America. Although the Rose-breasted Grosbeak only nests at higher elevations in East Tennessee’s mountains, it is a common spring and fall migrant across the state.


A bright rosy red triangle in the center of a white breast distinguishes the breeding male. The female has the appearance of a huge sparrow. Her back is streaked with brown, her breast is streaked white, she has two white wing-bars, and her face is vividly patterned with a white stripe over the eye.

The male has a rose-colored underwing, while the female has a yellow one, and both have a thick pinkish-white to the slate grey conical bill. The female looks like a first-year bird.

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Habitat & Food

Second-growth woodlands, orchards, suburban parks, and gardens are all good places for this bird to breed, especially along the edges of deciduous and mixed forests. Winters were spent in various tropical open woodlands. Their food consists of insects, seeds, fruits, and buds.

12. Hermit Thrush

Hermit Thrush

The Hermit Thrush is mostly a migrant and winter visitor in Tennessee, arriving in early October and leaving in late April. It’s the only brown thrush you’d expect to see in the state during the winter.

The Hermit Thrush is a small, silent bird that spends most of its time foraging in leaf litter or berry-filled tangles near the woodland edge. The propensity of flicking its wings while perched and fast-rising and slowly lowering its ruddy-colored tail is a behavioral trait that makes this bird easier to distinguish.

While no Hermit Thrush nests have been identified in Tennessee, males have been heard singing and juvenile birds have been found on Roan Mountain in the last 10 years. The breeding range of this species ranges from the boreal forest south to the western and northeastern United States, with recent expansion into the southern Appalachians. Wintering Hermit Thrushes can be found from Mexico to El Salvador across much of the Southeast and south.


The back of this medium-sized thrush is brown, while the tail is crimson. The Hermit Thrush frequently cocks its tail and flaps its wings. It also has a habit of abruptly raising and softly lowering its tails. Both the male and female have the same appearance. Its characteristic chip or tuck call sound, sometimes repeated from a low perch, may disclose its presence, even if it is difficult to see.

Habitat & Food

The Hermit Thrush spends the winter in damp forests with a deep understory, open woodlands, ravines, and sheltered areas. It breeds in deciduous, mixed, and coniferous forest interiors. It breeds in the Appalachian spruce-fir woodland at high elevations. Insects and other arthropods, as well as fruit throughout the winter, are the preferred food of this bird.

13. Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

Tennessee’s state bird is the Northern Mockingbird. Mimus polyglottos is the scientific name for this species, which means “many-tongued mimic.” The term alludes to the mockingbird’s capacity to imitate not only the songs of dozens of other birds, but also those of man-made objects including musical instruments, warning bells, cell phones, car horns, and squeaky hinges.

Many homeowners are familiar with the mockingbird’s habit of singing on moonlight spring nights. These songsters are mainly unmated males, but mated males may sing at night in well-lit places. The Northern Mockingbird is fiercely territorial, diving and attacking intruders such as householders and their dogs, as well as its own reflection in a window!


The Northern Mockingbird spends the entire year in most of the continental United States, as well as southern Mexico and the Caribbean. Despite recent losses in the southern part of their habitat, mockingbirds have traveled northward during the last century, especially in suburbs with berry-producing ornamental shrubs.


This medium-sized songbird has grey upperparts and white underparts. The white wing bars on the darker wings are visible in flight, as are the white patches on the wings. The tail is long and has white outer tail feathers, and it is frequently cocked. Males and females have the same appearance.

Habitat & Food

Mockingbirds can be found in open places with shrubby vegetation, such as parkland, cultivated land, and suburbia. Invasive multiflorous rose thickets are very appealing to them. Ants, beetles, grasshoppers, seeds, and berries are among their favorite foods.

Final Words

Be on the lookout for a variety of birds in this state that you may easily spot if you know where to look. Each bird has a favorite spot to roost, forage, and play, whether it’s on telephone poles, shrubs, or around certain trees like Oaks or Evergreens. Just keep your wits about you and a little patience, and you’ll come across some feathered delicacies that will amuse and astound you. All the best for your birding adventures!


Are there are finches in Tennessee?

House Finches can be found all year in Tennessee. House Finches, like other finches, frequent thistle feeders. They are more likely to be spotted at seed feeders than Goldfinches, so try attracting them with black sunflower seeds.

What is the state bird of Tennessee?

In 1933, the Mockingbird was named the official state bird. Mockingbirds are related to Brown Thrashers and Catbirds.

Are bluebirds found in Tennessee?

The Eastern Bluebird is one of Tennessee’s most beloved songbirds due to its bright blue color, wonderful call, and familial nature. It is a year-round inhabitant, though some birds may migrate short distances south from their nesting grounds to avoid extreme cold.

About Lily Aldrin

I am Lily Aldrin. I attended Cornell University, where I obtained my degree to become an Ornithologist so I could pursue my love of these magnificent creatures in and out of their natural habitats.