NC's Best Birding Preserves

Elk Knob State Park, Roanoke River and Nags Head Woods


Cerulean Warbler

This beautiful warber is one of the more hard-to site in NC; it can be found on the Roanoke River.

Black Raven

The Common Raven is one of the world’s smartest birds, and can be seen at Elk Knob State park.

Elk Knob State Park

The Amphibolite Mountains in the northwestern corner of North Carolina are home to a great diversity of birds, both resident and migratory, and have been designated as an Important Bird Area by The Audubon Society.

Elk Knob covers 2,841 acres of the Amphibolites and was protected by TNC in 2002. Today it is a state park that is home to over 100 species of birds including northern saw-whet owls, broad-winged hawks, ravens, ruffed grouse, chestnut-sided warblers, black-throated blue warblers, ovenbirds, and Canada warblers.

Elk Knob State Park is part of the North Carolina Birding Trail and visitors can hike along the 1.9 mile (one-way) Summit Trail for great birding and spectacular views.

Roanoke River

The Roanoke River flows over 137 miles across North Carolina’s coastal plain and contains the largest intact bottomland forest ecosystem remaining in the mid-Atlantic. These bottomland forests and wetlands provide critical habitat for wildlife and more than 200 species of birds have been observed in the floodplain -- including 51 species of neotropical migrants. TNC has helped to protect over 94,000 acres in the Roanoke River floodplain.

During spring and summer, birders can see large numbers of neotropical migrants including Prothonotary warbler, Louisiana waterthrush, American redstart, and the rare cerulean warbler. Other commonly seen birds include wood duck, mallard and eastern wild turkey.

TNC's Roanoke Preserves are not open to the public, but the Roanoke River can be accessed via the Roanoke River Paddle Trail and the paddle trail's camping platforms. For information on planning paddle trips on the Roanoke, visit the Roanoke River Partners website; also check out the Fish and Wildlife's bird checklist.

Nags Head Woods

This extensive ecological preserve on the Outer Banks protects a remarkable range of unique habitats including forested dunes, interdune ponds, marshes, and wetlands.

The diversity of Nags Head Woods makes it a great place for birds -- more than 100 species have been document on the preserve. In addition, the preserve serves as an important nesting area for more than 50 species including green heron, wood duck, red-shouldered hawk, clapper rail, ruby-throated hummingbird, pileated woodpecker, Prothonotary warbler, and summer tanager.

When you arrive at the preserve, please visit our outdoor information counter for trail guides and more information on the flora and fauna of Nags Head Woods. This trail map and animal brochure also include birds of the area.

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