Birdwatching in Sevierville


With red-tailed hawks soaring overhead, ruby-throated hummingbirds hovering near blossoms, wood ducks paddling along waterways, warblers flitting to and for, and great blue herons migrating through each year, Sevierville, Tennessee is great territory for birders.

Here are some of the best spots to pull out the binoculars, spotting scopes, and zoom lenses to see some of the feathered creatures in Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park houses a rich variety of ecosystems including hardwood forests, rugged geologic formations, wetlands, caves, and mile-high peaks—all of which offer diverse habitats for birds. Some 240 species of birds have been spotted in the park with 60 residing year-round. Nearly 120 different bird species breed in the park, while others stop during migration. Avian populations and diversity change with the seasons, with springtime songbirds, fall warblers, and winter purple finches to name just a few. Surprises can happen: Both the long-eared owl and the ross’ goose were documented in the park for the first time during the winter of 2016/17. Whether you hike, bike, ride horseback, or hang out on an observation deck, opportunities to see birds abound throughout the park. Stop by a visitor center for ranger recommendations.

Seven Islands State Birding Park boasts aquatic and grassland habitats that attract nearly 200 species of birds throughout its 416 acres along the French Broad River. Songbirds, hawks, and waterfowl can be observed along the more than eight miles of nature trails while Barn Owls take refuge in several old barns. Watch birds while trekking a trail or paddling a canoe and kayak along the river. Popular sightings include purple martins and tree swallows. Many species migrate through the park, including summer tanagers, blue grosbeaks, indigo buntings, white-crowned sparrows, and savannah sparrows.

Rankin Bottoms Wildlife Refuge ranks as East Tennessee’s premier site for warm-season waterbirds and is a very popular area of Douglas Lake for birdwatching, photography, and kayaking. Located on the north end of Douglas Lake at the junction of the French Broad and Nolichucky Rivers and near Douglas Shores Campground, the area is usually flooded from April to September. Birds of interest include double-crested cormorants, great blue herons, black-crowned night heron, greater yellowlegs, and short-billed dowitchers, among others.

The Greenways of Sevierville is a network of seven paved, lit walkways that connect the city to its natural surroundings. Located near waterways, trees, and gardens, the routes vary in length from a half-mile to just over two miles; a pleasure to walk, run, cycle, skate, or roll. Sevierville has so many trees it was named a Tree City USA in 1985, and those trees attract birds from cardinals to bald eagles, Carolina chickadees to red-bellied woodpeckers, and many more. Want to linger among trees? Head to the new five-acre John Sevier Memorial Grove, adjacent to the Middle Creek Greenway, which is planted with 60 hardwoods and evergreens.

Rent a cabin for your stay and whether you prefer it to be remote, have a great view, or both, it can serve as a comfortable nature observatory. Whether the cabin faces the mountains, overlooks the river, or is nestled among trees, its spacious porches, screened rooms, picture windows, and even private hot tubs can be an ideal place to sit, stare at nature, and wait for birds to fly into view and sing their joyful tunes.

Eagle Mountain Sanctuary is the largest exhibit of non-releasable bald eagles in the U.S. The American Eagle Foundation houses a number of bald eagles in the netted 400,000 cubic foot sanctuary at Dollywood on a steep wooded hillside, offering the chance to get an up-close look at the spectacular creatures. Visit whenever Dollywood is open to observe bald eagles, including several nesting pairs. For a more in-depth look at some of America’s birds of prey, take in a “Wings of America” show at Dollywood’s open-air theater for an up-close look at eagles, hawks, falcons, owls and vultures—some in dramatic free flights—along with informative insights from a professional handler. The Wings of America show at Dollywood runs from mid-March through the end of October.

Bonus: Get a bird’s eye view of the Smokies!

Soar up to 1,200-feet into the air with Scenic Helicopter Tours. Each tour flies over the Great Smoky Mountains and surrounding farms, fields, waters, and other natural and manmade sights. Several different tours are available, all with breathtaking vistas and the chance to hover up in the clouds. Whether or not you get to look down at a circling hawk, you’ll walk away from the experience with a greater understanding of how our feathered friends see the world.

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