head of a red-shouldered hawk
The red-shouldered hawk is but one of many species of birds at the Obed Wild and Scenic River.  Migratory seasons in the Cumberland Plateau vary for most bird species.
The Obed Wild and Scenic River has dozens of different bird species that fly amongst the trees and ridges of the park. Many common birds such as the cardinal, the crow, and the turkey vulture are visable throughout the year at all times of day. Some birds, such as the barred owl, are experts at using their camoflaging feathers to make seeing them an occasional experience. Many Obed hikers will see or hear a variety of birds throughout the park on a typical walk. This bird page includes descriptions of some of the more popular birds at the Obed, but by no means is it a complete listing of the birds who fly above the Obed Wild and Scenic River.

Wild Turkey

The wild turkey is the largest nesting bird in Tennessee. They are brown in color and barred in black. Their bodies are covered in an iridescent bronze sheen. Their heads and necks have a reddish waddle. The turkey's tail is fan-shaped with white and buff-colored tips. The male (or Tom, as he is known) has a long beard on his chest. The female (or hen) is usually smaller than the male and lacks the beard. The male will be around 48 inches in height, while the female registers an average of 36 inches in height. The female constructs her nest in a small depression filled with grass or leaves in pine or oak woodlands. She will lay eight to 15 brown-spotted eggs each year.

Turkey Vulture

The turkey vulture measures about the same size as an eagle. When in flight their wingspan can often measure up to six feet. This bird is dark in color with a silvery undertone. Their habitat is usually in forests and woodlands. The female will lay her two off-white colored eggs near rocks or in hollow trees. The turkey vulture has the well earned reputation of being a scavenger, and is not bashful about eating from dead animal carcasses.

Cooper's Hawk

The cooper's hawk is a medium-sized hawk with short, rounded wings. Its back is dark grey or brown and its underside is barred reddish and white. A cooper's hawk wingspan can stretch out to 35 inches, and it can weigh up to 21 ounces. The cooper's hawk captures small birds with its feet and squeezes its prey repeatedly to administer a painful and agonizing death. Sometimes the cooper's hawk will holds its prey under water to drown it prior to nibbling at the remains.

an owl perched on a branch
Barred owls can see sharply for long distances.  They eat rodents, insects, and small fish.  They also prefer living near streams and rivers.

Barred Owl

The barred owls are colored brownish-grey, with white bars across most of its body (hence the name barred). A feature specific to the barred owl is their inner eyelid that can be closed to block sunlight. Additionally, the barred owl has dark brown eyes, in contrast to many owl species with yellow eyes. Its brown eyes help it to see better in bright light. The barred owl has a small, pointed beak that is very sharp. The barred owl, like most owls, are carnivorous. They eat mice, squirrels, foxes, rabbits, bats, small birds, other owls, snakes, lizards, fish and bugs. Barred owls usually perch in a tree to watch and listen for prey. The female lays three to four white eggs each year in an unlined cavity in a hollow tree.

Red-Shouldered Hawk

The red-shouldered hawk can measure up to 16 inches in height, and can have a wingspan of up to 40 inches. It has a long, dark tail with several white narrow bars. It also has broad, arched wings. Its brown head and reddish breast contrast with a pale belly. The red-shouldered hawk's habitat is mostly forests, bottomland hardwoods, and flooded swamps. Their diet is made up of small mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and crayfish. The female will lay two or three spotted, white eggs each year in a large mass of twigs and leaves. Like most birds of prey, the red-shouldered hawk has excellent eyesight and sharp talons with which to capture a meal.

Broad-winged Hawk

The broad-winged hawk is a medium-sized hawk with dark brown, mottled upperparts and brownish-white underparts. Black margins are visible under their wings when spread out in flight. It has a dark-banded tail. An adult broad-winged hawk can range between 13 to 17 inches in length and can weigh between 11 and 17 ounces. Adults can also have a three-foot wingspan. The female will lay up to four brown eggs each year. A nest of sticks and leaves serves as the usual home for the broad-winged hawk.

Eastern Screech Owl

The Eastern screech owl gets its name from the distinct call that it makes. The piercing screech call is made in defense of their homes, to call one another, and to announce the site of food. The Eastern screech owl measures only eight to nine inches in length, making it one of the smallest pirds of prey in North America. The Eastern screech owl has pointed ear tufts, but does not have external ears, only crescent-shaped openings on the sides of their head. Their triangular-shaped feathers help to amplify sound and create a fierce appearance to predators. The Eastern screech owl is mostly a nocturnal hunter, preying on mice, insects, snakes, lizards, and even other small birds.

Great Blue Heron

The Great Blue Heron is actually more greyish in color than blue. It has a pale-yellowish bill which extends over half a foot in length. The great blue heron typically measures more than two feet in height, and its large size enables it to feed on a variety of prey, from fish to frogs to small mammals, birds and insects. These birds nest in colonies in small trees. Their nests are made of sticks and are lined with leaves, hay, straw, and virtually anything soft that the heron can obtain.

Pileated Woodpecker

The Pileated Woodpecker is roughly the same size as a young crow. It has black and white striped feathers on its neck, and a red crest. The male can be determined by its red mustache, while the female can be determined by its black mustache. The pileated woodpecker also gets the nickname "logcock," thanks to its propensity for pecking on trees. The pileated woodpecker's food intake consists of carpenter ants living in dead roots and stumps of trees. A motivated pileated woodpecker can gnaw a deep hole through a two-foot thick sycamore tree in less than two days.

Blue Jay

The Blue Jay is one of the most handsome birds in the great outdoors. It combines colors of blue, black, and white on its feathers, along with a dirty white underside. Their prominent crest includes black facial markings. The blue jay can live in an oak forest, suburban yards, and city parks, making it one of the most adaptable birds in North America. The female will make her nest with sticks, tree branches, and grass. Blue Jays often bury acorns and seeds, giving them the reputation as tree planters. They migrate in large flocks every fall and spring.

American Crow

The American Crow is a large, stocky bird with a fan-shaped tail and a stout bill. Its feathers are dark black, and they almost appear to be glistening in the daylight. This bird makes its home near rivers or streams, orchards and city parks. Their nests are made of a large mass of twigs and sticks lined with grass, feathers, and small roots of plants and shrubbery. The crow has a very hoarse voice, and its caw-caw sound can be heard throughout this region of the United States. The crow is a scavenger, and will eat almost anything. Some of its favorite meals are animals that lie dead on the road after being struck by automobiles.

Northern Cardinal

The Northern Cardinal is also known as the red cardinal. The adult cardinal is generally eight to nine inches in height. The cardinal's face is black in color, with a stout bill. The male has more red feathers than the female, who has a greyish-brown color to her. The female will construct her nest in an area of thickets, gardens, brushy swamps or the edge of the woodlands. The nest will include a deep cut of twigs and leaves. The cardinal, like the blue jay, can be seen throughout this region in all seasons of the year.

Last updated: April 14, 2015

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