Wildlife in North Carolina

"No matter where you are in North Carolina, you're very likely to see many forms of wildlife. The forests, valleys and rivers are home to various species of birds, mammals, fish and plants."

North Carolina Ecology

North Carolina is known for a diverse geographical range of elevations and landscapes. Its borders contain sub-tropical, temperate and boreal habitats. This unique combination of environmental aspects makes the Tar Heel State a haven for a wide spectrum of wildlife and plants to live and thrive. Altogether, the ecology is great for all 6 forms of animal life that include amphibians, birds, fish, invertebrates, mammals and reptiles.

North Carolina is home to many types of large animals..

  • Black Bear - As far as the North American Continent is concerned, a black bear can be considered a large animal, and is common in the forested areas. It often roams into areas inhabited by humans and can be identified by the solid black color of its fur coat, except for a brown face and light markings that sometimes appear on their chests.
  • Eastern Elk - is another good example of a large animal. Unfortunately, this large majestic animal used to thrive in heavy populations in the NC area, but hunting caused their numbers to become extinct in the late 1800's. Today, a Canadian sub-species can be seen in Haywood, Jackson, Swain counties and the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
  • Bald Eagle - The bird population is no exception either, as some of the biggest birds of North America roam the skies there. The bald eagle is a good example, and this symbolic predator roams the skies along with other predators like the golden eagle and various species of hawk and kite. Other large birds include the tundra swan, white ibis, egret, crane, stork, pelican, turkey, vulture, and others.

Of course, NC is home to the smaller and medium sized animals too. A few of them include..

  • Eastern Chipmunk
  • Nine-Banded Armadillo
  • Oak Toad
  • Cricket Frog
  • Green Anole
  • Eastern Spiny Softshell
  • Buff-Bellied Hummingbird
  • Six-Lined Racerunner
  • Eastern Cotton Tail
  • Black Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Bobcat
  • Red Fox
  • Red Wolf
  • Coyote

Travelers who are passing through North Carolina will notice three natural divisions - the Appalachian Mountains in the west (including the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains), the central Piedmont Plateau, and the eastern Atlantic Coastal Plain. So if you're new to these areas and just driving through, keep an eye out for a wide array of animals, like beavers, bobcats, coyotes, foxes, and many species of birds.

Bird Watching

Indeed, North Carolina is home to some really cool, majestic wildlife, and if you're into bird watching, North Carolina is certainly a good place to go. North Carolina is home to a diverse population of colorful avian life that includes just about every type of bird that a bird watcher can appreciate, from small songbirds to large waterfowl. If you're a longtime resident of North Carolina, then you're most likely familiar with the list of bird species that call North Carolina home. Many North Carolinians have the privilege of simply peering through their window to see anything from the Yellow Warbler to the Buff-Bellied Hummingbird.

The large bird population of NC includes migrating birds too. If you're near water, you might see a wood duck or a great blue heron.

State Bird of North Carolina

In 1943, North Carolina designated the northern cardinal as it's official state bird. Both the male and female cardinal are distinctly different in color, as the male cardinal is a bright scarlet red, while the female cardinal is more of a brownish color with a bit of reddish brown in the wings. Both are about the same size with a heavy bill.

Kids & Bird Watching

Parents can teach their kids by simply showing them where to go and what to listen for. By simply walking through nature, kids will be exposed to the natural sounds and movements that birds make. Kids can learn a lot from educational programs that encourage kids to learn about the environment. Schools that offer outdoor class curriculums promote awareness on plants and animals just by taking short walks through nature. And it's easy because birds are everywhere - in backyards, at parks, on a highwire, even on a ledge of a building. Helping your local environment is as easy as placing a birdhouse in your backyard. Doing your part in helping the environment will go a long way in supporting avian life.

First-Time Visitors

If you've never been to NC, you might want to make plans to go there and experience the many birds and animals that call North Carolina home.

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