The Outer Banks of North Carolina might just be the best place to bird in the Carolinas during the winter. These long, thin barrier islands, jutting far out into the ocean, provide important foraging and stopover habitat for hundreds of species of birds throughout the year. Bordered on one side by the Atlantic and the Pamlico Sound on the other, the open expanse of sandy shoreline, ocean, bays, lakes and impoundments attract wintering waterfowl and gulls by the thousands.
We’ll make the long trek across the state, birding along the way of course. We’ll watch for Short-eared Owls and Northern Harriers at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. Snow Geese winter in the tens of thousands and we’ll find an abundance of duck species on the impoundments on the Outer Banks at Pea Island NWR. Along the beaches and at places such as Cape Point we should see a selection of wintering gulls and shorebirds and towards the end of our trip we should find a few Bald Eagles kicking around Lake Mattamuskeet. Because of the sheer number of birds that winter here, quite a few rare species turn up every year, sometimes hidden in large flocks of common species (such as a Cackling Goose in a flock of Canadas, or a Ross’ in a flock of Snow). We will keep an ear on the ‘birding grapevine’ and chase any rarities that are in the area if time allows.
Join Kevin in this exploration of one of North Carolina’s prime winter birding hotspots!
Some of the Birds We Hope to See
Loons (Red-throated and Common), Horned and Pied-billed Grebes, a wealth of waterfowl species including: Tundra Swan, Snow Goose, Brant, American Black Duck, Surf, White-winged and Black Scoters, Red-breasted, Hooded and Red-breasted Mergansers, Canvasback, Redhead, American (and possibly Eurasian) Wigeon, Ruddy and Ring-necked Ducks, Greater and Lesser Scaups, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal and more, plus gulls (Great and Lesser Black-backed, Bonaparte’s, Ring-billed, Herring), Terns, rails, and a selection of shorebirds and waders, Short-eared Owl, Northern Harrier, Bald Eagle, American Kestrel, Merlin and Peregrine Falcon and many more.