Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge
Southeast Region
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Prothontary Warbler
Credit: Barron Crawford, USFWS


Songbirds are among the smallest sized birds that use Tennessee NWR. They are often referred to as “perching birds” because they hold tightly to branches with their toes. For management purposes, songbirds are part of a group called “land birds” because they rely mainly on terrestrial habitats and some vegetated wetlands.

Both neo-tropical and resident species of songbirds can be found on Tennessee NWR. Neo-tropical songbirds typically winter in the tropics and nest in North America and are well known for their beautiful plumage and delightful songs. Common neo-tropical songbirds on the Refuge include: indigo bunting, common yellowthroat, prothonotary warbler, yellow-billed cuckoo, and summer tanager. Among the resident species that may be seen throughout the year are Eastern bluebird, American robin, red-winged blackbird, Carolina wren, and American goldfinch.


Wood Thrush.

Tennessee NWR is very important to songbird populations because changes in their traditional migration routes have decreased the availability of high quality stopover areas. Songbirds rely upon stopover areas similar to Tennessee NWR to meet the needs of their annual life cycle through rest and refueling during migration. The refuge is also important as nesting habitat for some species that prefer mature forest. There are thousands of acres of mature forest within this area of the state and Tennessee NWR contributes to this important habitat by providing approximately 20,000 forested acres.

Songbirds eat a wide variety of foods, including insects, seeds, berries, nectar, and fruit. Their appetite for insects is unparalleled by few species, and aids local farmers and foresters by consuming millions of insects that could potentially damage crops and trees.

Last updated: February 13, 2014