North Carolina Bird Photos

Taken by Will Cook (except for the miscellaneous section).

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Anseriformes - Swans, Geese, & Ducks
Anatidae - Swans, Geese, & Ducks
Snow and Ross's Geese (Chen caerulescens and C. rossii). Lake Mattamuskeet, Hyde Co., NC, 11/15/03.
Ross's Goose with Snow Geese (Chen rossii and C. caerulescens). Southport, Brunswick Co., NC, 1/9/02.
Ross's Goose (Chen rossii). First record for Orange Co., NC 2/2/03.
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)
Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii minima). Three at Lake Mattamuskeet, Hyde Co., NC 12/29/04.
Brant (Branta bernicla hrota) - Lake Crabtree, Wake Co., NC 10/12/05
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor). Still somewhat rare in NC. Pea Island NWR, Dare Co., NC 11/5/04.
Tundra Swan (Cygnus columbianus). Abundant at Pea Island NWR, Dare Co., NC 11/5/04.
American Wigeon (Anas americana). An aberrant bird at Pea Island NWR, Dare Co., NC 10/17/03.
Blue-winged Teal (Anas discors) - Pea Island NWR, Dare Co., NC 1/18/04
Northern Pintail (Anas acuta) - Dare Co., NC 11/9/07
Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis) - French Broad River, Madison Co., NC 4/9/2012.
Surf Scoter (Melanitta perspicillata), female - Pea Island NWR, Dare Co., NC 11/11/06

Galliformes - Game Birds
Phasianidae - Pheasants, Grouse, & Quail
Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus) - Alleghany Co., NC 6/25/05.
Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo)

Procellariiformes - Tubenoses
Procellariidae - Petrels, Shearwaters, and Fulmar
Black-capped Petrel (Pterodroma hasitata) - off Cape Hatteras, Dare Co., NC 5/31/07
Cory's Shearwater (Calonectris diomedea) - off Cape Hatteras, Dare Co., NC 5/31/07
Greater Shearwater (Puffinus gravis) (with Wilson's Storm-Petrel) - off Cape Hatteras, Dare Co., NC 5/31/07

Hydrobatidae - Storm-Petrels
Wilson's Storm-Petrel (Oceanites oceanicus) (with Greater Shearwater) - off Cape Hatteras, Dare Co., NC 5/31/07
Leach's Storm-Petrel (Oceanodroma leucorhoa) - off Cape Hatteras, Dare Co., NC 5/31/07

Pelecanidae - Pelicans
American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos). Large flock at Pea Island NWR, Dare Co., NC 11/4/04.

Phalacrocoracidae - Cormorants
Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) - Pea Island NWR, Dare Co., NC
Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo). Adult and immature at Wrightsville Beach, New Hanover Co., NC 1/8/05.

Ciconiiformes - Storks & kin
Ardeidae - Egrets & Herons
Tricolored Heron (Egretta tricolor) - Dare Co., NC 11/10/07
Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) - Hyde Co., NC 1/16/06
Green Heron (Butorides virescens) - Blacksburg, VA 7/13/07
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (Nyctanassa violacea) - Clarendon Co., SC 6/14/07

Threskiornithidae - Ibises & Spoonbills
White Ibis (Eudocimus albus) - Dare Co., NC
Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus). The first record for the Christmas Bird Count at Mattamuskeet NWR, Hyde Co., NC, 12/29/2001.
White-faced Ibis (Plegadis chihi). The first NC record, Nags Head, Dare Co., NC, 7/9/02
White-faced? Ibis (Plegadis sp.) - immature in Dare Co., NC, November 2008.

Falconiformes - Raptors
Cathartidae - New World Vultures
Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus) with Common Raven - Alleghany Co., NC 4/16/05.
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) - Chatham Co., NC 3/17/06.

Accipitridae - Kites, Eagles, & Hawks
Swallow-tailed Kites (Elanoides forficatus) near the Cape Fear River, Columbus and Bladen Cos., NC, 7/19/03.
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) - Biology Dept. parking lot, Duke University, Durham, NC 12/22/03.
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis). Adult Eastern with no trace of a belly band. Hyde Co., NC, 1/25/02.
Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperi). Immature in Durham Co., NC, 11/11/2001.

Falconidae - Falcons
Merlin (Falco columbarius). Pea Island NWR, Dare Co., NC 10/19/03

Gruiformes - Rails & Cranes
Gruidae - Cranes
Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis) - Guilford Co., NC 3/2005.

Charadriidae - Plovers
American Golden-Plover (Pluvialis dominica)
Semipalmated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus)
Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus) - Shackleford Banks, Carteret Co., NC 10/30/05
Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) eggs in the "nest" - Flat River impoundment, Falls Lake, Durham Co., NC, 4/13/03.

Recurvirostridae - Stilts & Avocet
American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana). South Pond, Pea Island NWR, Dare Co., NC 10/19/03.

Scolopacidae - Sandpipers
Willet (Catoptrophorus semipalmatus). Snoozing in the waves at Pea Island NWR, Dare Co., NC 11/6/04.
Hudsonian Godwit (Limosa haemastica) - Dare Co., NC 11/9/08
Marbled Godwit (Limosa fedoa) - Dare Co., NC 11/7/08
Red Knot (Calidris canutus) - Dare Co., NC 11/9/07
Sanderling (Calidris alba) - Dare Co., NC 11/9/07
Purple Sandpiper (Calidris maritima)
Dunlin (Calidris alpina)
Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos) - Jordan Lake, Chatham Co., NC 9/17/07
American Woodcock (Scolopax minor) - Person Co., NC 4/1/06
Red Phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius) - Jordan Lake, Chatham Co., NC 9/15/07

Laridae - Gulls & Terns
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) - Lake Mattamuskeet, Hyde Co., NC 1/25/02
Laughing Gull (Leucophaeus atricilla)
Franklin's Gull (Leucophaeus pipixcan) - Jordan Lake, Chatham Co., NC 11/5/06
Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis) - Dare Co., NC 11/9/08
Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) - Dare Co., NC 11/9/08
Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus) - Dare Co., NC 11/3/05
Glaucous Gull (Larus hyperboreus). Jordan Lake, Chatham Co., NC 2/17/04
Sandwich Tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis) - wire-killed bird, Dare Co., NC 11/9/07
Royal Tern (Thalasseus maximus) - Dare Co., NC 11/9/07
Black Skimmer (Rynchops niger) - Carteret Co., NC 9/22/2012

Alcidae - Alcids
Thick-billed Murre (Uria lomvia). Fort Macon, Carteret Co., NC, 3/12/03.

Columbiformes - Pigeons & Doves
Columbidae - Pigeons & Doves
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura). Durham Co., NC 8/21/05. One of our most common birds.
Common Ground-Dove (Columbina passerina). Carteret Co., NC, 12/26/03. Snowy Owl at Bald Head Island

Strigiformes - Owls
Strigidae - Typical Owls
Snowy Owl (Nyctea scandiaca). The bird at Bald Head Island (Brunswick Co., NC), 11/27/01.
Barred Owl (Strix varia). Fort Caswell, Brunswick Co., NC, 1/5/02.

Apodiformes - Swifts & Hummingbirds
Apodidae - Swifts
Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica) - pair at nest with 3 eggs - Madison Co., NC 7/27/2012

Trochilidae - Hummingbirds
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) - female on nest, Mason Farm, Chapel Hill, NC 5/23/06
Calliope Hummingbird (Stellula calliope) - North Carolina's first adult male, Orange Co., NC, 11/10/02
Allen's Hummingbird (Selasphorus sasin) - North Carolina's first record, Dare Co., NC 3/22/03

Coraciiformes - Kingfishers & kin
Alcedinidae - Kingfishers
Belted Kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon). Oregon Inlet, Dare Co., NC 1/26/02.

Picidae - Woodpeckers & kin
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) - Chapel Hill, NC
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) - Chatham Co., NC 2/16/06
Northern (Yellow-shafted) Flicker (Colaptes auratus auratus) - Carroll Co., VA 10/7/01.
Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) - Chatham Co., NC 5/16/03

Passeriformes - Passerines
Tyrannidae - Tyrant Flycatchers
Eastern Wood-Pewee (Contopus virens) - Grayson Co., VA 9/23/07
Gray Flycatcher (Empidonax wrightii). First North Carolina record, Chatham Co., NC. Tropical Kingbird at Pea Island
Say's Phoebe (Sayornis saya) - Carteret Co., NC 12/2/05
Ash-throated Flycatcher (Myiarchus cinerascens). Alligator River NWR, Dare Co., NC, 12/28/01.
Tropical Kingbird (Tyrannus melancholicus). Pea Island NWR, Dare Co., NC 11/3/01. The bird that showed up for the Wings Over Water festival.
Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis). Lake Mattamuskeet, Hyde Co., NC 1/18/03.

Laniidae - Shrikes
Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus) - Scotland Co., NC 4/20/05.

Corvidae - Jays & Crows
Common Raven (Corvus corax) with Black Vulture - Alleghany Co., NC 4/16/05

Hirundinidae - Swallows
Purple Martin (Progne subis) - Durham Co., NC 5/7/2011
Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) - Alleghany Co., NC 4/15/06
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) - babies, Fort Stevens, OR 8/6/06

Paridae - Tits
Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) - Chapel Hill, NC 12/11/05
Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor) - Chapel Hill, NC 3/4/06

Troglodytidae - Wrens
Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)

Turdidae - Thrushes
Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis)
Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus) - Chapel Hill, NC 12/21/03

Mimidae - Mimic-Thrushes
Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis)
Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) - Chapel Hill, NC 9/30/05
Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) - Dare Co., NC 6/4/06 White Wagtail at Falls Lake 10/22/02

Sturnidae - Starlings
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

Motacillidae - Wagtails & Pipits
White Wagtail (Motacilla alba). First North Carolina record, Falls Lake, Wake Co., NC 10/22/02.

Calcariidae - Longspurs
Chestnut-collared Longspur (Calcarius ornatus) - Fort Fisher, New Hanover Co., NC 4/30/2011

Parulidae - Wood-Warblers
Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapilla) - 3 chicks in nest, Wake Co., NC 5/8/2011
Pine Warbler (Setophaga pinus) - Chatham Co., NC 3/5/06
Myrtle Warbler (Setophaga [coronata] coronata) - Dare Co., NC 11/10/06
Audubon's Warbler (Setophaga [coronata] auduboni) - Chapel Hill, NC

Thraupidae - Tanagers
Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea) - Chatham Co., NC 9/17/07

Emberizidae - New World Sparrows
Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus) - Chapel Hill, NC
Cassin's Sparrow (Peucaea cassinii) - Scotland Co., NC 4/30/2011 - first state record
Bachman's Sparrow (Peucaea aestivalis) - Holly Shelter Game Land, Pender Co., NC 4/23/06
Vesper Sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus) - Dare Co., NC 10/2/05 (poor photo).
Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis) - Pea Is. NWR, Dare Co., NC 11/10/07
Ipswich Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis princeps) - Oregon Inlet, Dare Co., NC 1/26/02
Grasshopper Sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum) - Pea Is. NWR, Dare Co., NC 11/10/07
Saltmarsh Sparrow (Ammodramus caudacutus) - Oregon Inlet, Dare Co., NC 11/3/05
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) - Franklin, NC 5/12/06
Harris's Sparrow (Zonotrichia querula). Winnabow, Brunswick Co., NC 4/25/04.
White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys). Immature, Pea Island NWR, Dare Co., NC 11/7/04.

Cardinalidae - Cardinal Grosbeaks
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) The official state bird of NC and Virginia (and a bunch of other states).
Black-headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus) at Elizabeth City, Pasquotank Co., NC 2/14/03.

Icteridae - New World Blackbirds
Brewer's Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus) at Cape Hatteras, Dare Co., NC, 10/18/03.
Boat-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus major)
Shiny Cowbird (Molothrus bonariensis). 'Stumpy' the tailless Shiny at Pea Island NWR, Dare Co., NC 11/7/04.
Bullock's Oriole (Icterus bullockii) - Chatham Co., NC
Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula)
Scott's Oriole (Icterus parisorum) - First NC record, Catawba Co., NC 1/31/08

Fringillidae - Finches & kin
Purple Finch (Carpodacus purpureus)
House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus) male (right) with Common Redpoll at Ocracoke, Hyde Co., NC 1/17/04.
Common Redpoll (Carduelis flammea) at Ocracoke, Hyde Co., NC 1/17/04.
American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis)

Calliope Hummingbird ©2002 Will Cook

The term "digiscoping" refers to taking a digital photograph through a spotting scope. For more information, see Stéphane Moniotte's web site.
Also, see my tests of the power of the digiscoping technique.

Museum specimens:
Carolina Parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis) and Passenger Pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) from the Duke University collection, 1/15/03.
Unusual Specimens at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, 9/6/01.

Miscellaneous: (photos of rare or unusual birds in NC taken by miscellaneous people)
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) - Near albino in Raleigh, NC by Barbara and Chuck Gaul, 11/12/00.
Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) - Juvenile in Southport, NC, 11/19/02, by Tom Vaught.
Iceland Gull (Larus glaucoides) - Photographed 4/28/02 aboard the Cedar Island-Ocracoke ferry by Helmut Mueller.
Barred Owl (Strix varia) - A very pale individual in Chapel Hill, 2/7/02.
Barred Owl (Strix varia) - A fluffy baby owl on the UNC campus in Chapel Hill. Kirsten Snyder, 5/31/04
Long-eared Owl (Asio otus) - Raleigh, 1/8/03. Hit a window in downtown Raleigh, now in the hands of the American Wildlife Refuge.
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) - Near albino in Chatham Co., NC. Photo by Renee Underwood, 8/2005.
Pacific-slope Flycatcher (Empidonax difficilis) at Jordan Lake, NC. Photos, vocalizations, and description of the first North Carolina record of this bird, seen January 15-22, 2000. Photos by Derb Carter.Pacific-slope Flycatcher
Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis) - Alligator River NWR, Dare Co. Photo by Van Atkins, 1/26/02.
Scissor-tailed Flycatchers (Tyrannus forficatus) - Breeding in Monroe, NC. Photo by Mary Welty, 7/15/00.
Mystery sparrow in Blythewood, SC. Photos by Rich Blake, 1/10/11.
Green-tailed Towhee (Pipilo chlorurus) - The first NC record, found at Southport, NC on 1/5/02 by Greg Massey. Photo by Van Atkins, 2/1/02.

Outside links:
Green-breasted Mango (Anthracothorax prevostii) in Concord, NC, which came to a feeder 11/12-12/6/00.
Durham Mystery Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis). Photos and discussion of the melanistic and erythristic bird that had many experts baffled.

Calliope Hummingbird ©2002 Will Cook

Recommended Bird Books:

Though web sites are helpful, it's much easier to learn how to identify birds by studying good books. There are so many available now, it can be difficult to figure out which ones to get. Here are a few to get you started.

Field Guides

A Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern and Central North America
by Roger Tory Peterson (2010)

This is the classic Eastern field guide, revised in 2010. Recommended for beginners and backyard birders, since there are fewer Western species to confuse you. Many birders start out with this guide, then move to the more advanced guides as their skills and interests develop.

The Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds
by Richard Crossley (2011)

Jam-packed with photos, this unique new guide is a must-see!

National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, 5th Edition
by National Geographic Society (2006)

This is the standard field guide for North American birders. The illustrations range from fantastic to so-so, but this is the most comprehensive guide. If you would like to be an advanced birder, you need this book.

The Sibley Guide to Birds
by David Sibley (2000)

This tome is almost too big to use as a field guide - better to use this at home or in the car, while taking the National Geographic guide in the field. The illustrations are top-notch, though the book doesn't cover as many species as the National Geo. If you would like to be an advanced birder, you need this book.

The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America
by David Sibley (2003)

This is a smaller version of the Sibley Guide, covering only birds of the East. Recommended for beginners, since there are fewer Western species to confuse you. The illustrations are excellent.

Birds of North America
by Kenn Kaufman (2001)

An excellent photographic guide, great for beginners as well as advanced birders.

Stokes Field Guide to Birds: Eastern Region
by Donald & Lillian Stokes (1996)

A good photographic accompaniment to one of the field guide with paintings. Recommended for beginners since it covers only the eastern species.

All the Birds of North America
by Jack Griggs (2002)

A different approach to bird ID, grouping species by habitat, size, and shape instead of taxonomic order. The illustrations are nice, but I wouldn't recommend this as your only guide.

National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds: Eastern Region
by National Audubon Society (1994)

This photographic guide must be mentioned because it sucks in a lot of beginners. Unfortunately, the arrangement of this book makes it very difficult to learn your birds. The photos, however, are a nice supplement to a field guide with paintings. I wouldn't recommend anyone to use this as their sole field guide.

Birds of North America: A Guide to Field Identification
by Chandler S. Robbins, Bertel Bruun, Herbert S. Zim (2001)

The main positive features of the venerable Golden Guide are the maps that include migration routes and the sonograms of calls - these are not found in the other field guides. However, the paintings are not very life-like and the book is a bit out of date.

Bird Song Guides

Birding by Ear: Eastern and Central North America (Audio CD)
by Richard K. Walton, Robert W. Lawson (2002)

Highly recommended introduction to identifying 85 species of birds by their songs and calls. After you try this out, you'll want to move on to Birding by Ear 2 and the more comprehensive Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs (below).

More Birding by Ear: Eastern and Central North America (Audio CD)
by Richard K. Walton, Robert W. Lawson (2000)

Just as great as the first in the series, covering 96 additional species.

Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs: Eastern Region (Audio CD)
by Lang Elliot (1997)

Comprehensive resource for bird calls and songs. May be too comprehensive for a beginner, but indispensible if you would like to be able to identify any bird call you hear. Covers 372 species on 3 CDs.

North Carolina Bird Books

Birds of the Carolinas

Birds of the Carolinas, 2nd edition
by Eloise F. Potter, James F. Parnell, Robert P. Teulings, and Ricky Davis (2006)

This is a useful accompaniment to your field guide, with details on the status and distribution of birds in the Carolinas.

A Birder's Guide to Coastal North Carolina
by John Fussell (1994)

Not a field guide, but a comprehensive guide to birding locations in coastal NC. Indispensible to birders travelling in the eastern part of the state.

Birding North Carolina
edited by Marshall Brooks & Mark Johns (2005)

A new guide to 44 of the best birdwatching locations across the state. Includes descriptions of each site, with information about key species, where and when to go, how to get there, and what to look for. I contributed the sections on Jordan Lake and Mason Farm.

Other Bird Books

The Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior
by David Sibley (2001)

If you're interested in more than just identification, this is a great companion to the Sibley Guide to Birds.

National Geographic Complete Birds of North America
edited by Jonathan Alderfer (2005)

Another great tome for those interested in more than just identification, this comprehensive resource covers every North American species! Includes illustrations, maps, descriptions of behavior, migration routes, and much more.

Comments? Questions? E-mail me at

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All photographs and text ©2013 by Will Cook unless otherwise noted.