horses in Cades Cove

Cades Cove Wildlife Viewing: Top 3 Birding Areas in Cades Cove

eastern bluebird perched on tree branch
Experience Cades Cove - May 17, 2024

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most-visited national park in the United States, and Cades Cove is one of the most popular sections in the park for visitors. Cades Cove is known for being a great place to spot black bears and deer, but it can also be an excellent place for birding! There are a few areas where you can go to escape the crowds and go birding in relative solitude. Here are some of the best birding areas to spot the winged variety of Cades Cove wildlife.

1. Hyatt Lane

After you’ve traveled about three miles along the Cades Cove Loop Road, you’ll come across a turn for Hyatt Lane on your left. This a narrow, gravel and dirt road that cuts through the open valley. About halfway down Hyatt Lane you’ll come across Feezell Branch, a flowing creek with excellent cover vegetation. This location has a single parking spot, or there are a number of official parking spaces at the other end of the road at the Dan Lawson Place. You can park here and then walk to Feezell Branch. Some of the birds you may get to see at this birding spot include:

  • Eastern Bluebirds
  • Red-tailed Hawks
  • Red-Shouldered Hawks
  • Broad-Winged Hawks
  • Cooper’s Hawks
  • Northern Harriers (in winter)
  • Short-eared Owls (in winter)
  • Bald and Golden Eagles (in fall)

2. Cades Cove Visitor Center

hairy woodpecker hanging upside down on tree limb

The Cades Cove Visitor Center can be found about halfway around the Cades Cove Loop. The area around the visitor center includes a cable mill and other historic buildings, and this is a great place to spot Cades Cove wildlife, especially woodland birds. If you walk past the old homeplace and head left across the mountain stream, you’ll find a wedge of land between two branches of the stream that’s perfect for birdwatching. There are a lot of snags around that are great for nesting. Some common birds you may get to spot in this area could include:

  • Wood Warblers
  • Pileated Woodpeckers
  • Downy Woodpeckers
  • Hairy Woodpeckers
  • Red-bellied Woodpeckers
  • Red-headed Woodpeckers

3. Forge Creek Road

As you leave the Cades Cove Visitor Center parking lot, take the gravel road immediately to your right. This is Forge Creek Road. The road travels through a field where you may get to see Wild Turkeys. You’ll then cross a creek and head into the mountains. Keep to the left and you’ll reach a large parking area with a hiking trailhead to Gregory Bald. Along Forge Creek Road and this parking area, you may get the chance to see a variety of Cades Cove wildlife, including deer, black bears, and numerous species of birds. Some of the birds you might get to see include:

  • Wild Turkeys
  • Ovenbirds
  • Warblers
  • Northern Parulas
  • American Redstarts

More Wildlife to Spot in Cades Cove

This is not an extensive list of the birds you could see in Cades Cove or the places you may be able to spot them. You never know what you might find as you make your way through the cove! In addition to birds, there are several other types of Cades Cove wildlife you could see during your visit. Take a look at this list of common animals you might spot on the Cades Cove Loop Road and be on the lookout!

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