Pee Dee National Wildlife Refuge attracts birders from all around the country. Below are listed the most commonly seen or most freqently sought-after species.
Belted Kingfishers are found near water hunting for fish or other aquatic prey. They hover in the air until they spot an edible target and then drop straight down. They are blue-gray with white around the neck and a feathery crest on the top of their head. They are often heard making a load chattering noise when approached.
Like an over-sized Indigo Bunting, Blue Grosbeaks share the same habitats as well. Look for the oversized bill and rusty reddish wing bars to help distinguish them from Indigo Buntings. Also, Blue Grosbeaks have a habit of flicking their tails sideways. Blue Grosbeaks and Indigo Buntings are commonly found along the field edges and can often be seen from the refuge roads.
Some of the Canada Geese found on the refuge still migrate from their historical nesting grounds on Akimiski Island located in the Southern James Bay area of Canada. Although the majority of the Canada Geese found today in the Piedmont of North Carolina are resident birds, many of the refuge population are still true migratory geese. They arrive as early as October and often stay until sometime in March.Learn More
Snipe thrive in areas managed for waterfowl. These well camouflaged birds are usually found foraging along the edge of wetlands. They can be startling when approached as they often wait until the last second to take off with their raspy sound and a quick erratic flight pattern.
Gray Catbirds are known for their many different musical sounding songs. They are found in old field areas with thick vegetation. Many of these areas are managed on a 2 or 3 year rotation of early succesional growth to provide cover and food for many upland bird species.
Great Blue Heron
The Great Blue Heron is a wading bird also requiring the type of habitat frequented by waterfowl species. With their long stilt like legs they walk around in shallow water seeking their aquatic prey. They use their long bill to spear fish, frogs or any other small animal they can find. They nest in tree colonies known as rookeries, along the waters edge. During the breeding season the Great Blue Heron has a beautiful plume once sought after for woman's hats.
The Great Egret is an all white wading bird and is found in same type of habitat as the Great Blue Heron. The white plume of the Great Egret was also used to decorate woman's hats. Their popularity attracted plume hunters who almost led to their extinction. Fortunately for the Great Egret, regulations protecting migratory birds, have allowed the population to recover.
Indigo Buntings are commonly observed near woodland edges and farm fields and can be found along the Wildlife Drive from mid-April until Fall. The brilliant blue males sing from conspicuous perches in the fallow portions of the fields. The females are a warm brown. Note the conical, seed-eating bill.
Bobwhites, a popular game bird, are declining in many areas. They are still fairly common on the Pee Dee Refuge, especially in and around the farm fields. A permanent resident, listen for the “bob-white” calls from the males in spring. “Quail” are often not seen until they are flushed by approaching too closely.
Ospreys are also known as fish hawks, nicknamed after their favorite food. They hover above the water and dive down with a splash, when they locate their prey. The ospreys light colored underside appears to be white when flying overhead. Their dark colored back makes them look brown when perched.
Red-headed woodpeckers are a beautiful contrast of red, black and white. They are found in the transition zone between older forests and open fields. They can often seen be from the refuge roads.
The Ring-necked Duck is one of the more common wintering waterfowl species found on the refuge. They are dark colored with a prominent white ring around their bill. The copper colored ring around their neck is only visible when exposed to certain angles of sunlight. When taking off, they skim along the water with a quick wing beat and gradually rise into the air. As with all diving ducks their wings are smaller compared to their body size than the puddle ducks that make up the majority of the other refuge species.
The Ruby-crowned Kinglet is a tiny bird usually found in hardwood forests. Although hard to see, the males have a small red patch on their head that can be erected during their display. Their wings also twitch nervously as the look for insects under the bark in the Winter.
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are common in the Spring and Summer. Flowers on the refuge that attract hummingbirds include thistle and trumpet creeper. They seem to be in a non-stop flight mode and are the only birds that can fly backwards. Refuge staff also maintains hummingbird feeders at the office.
Sandhill Cranes are occasionally found on the refuge during the winter. When visiting, they are usually seen foraging in the open grain fields or along the edge of the wetland areas. The Sandhill Crane stands 4 feet tall and has a wingspan of over 6 feet.
The scarlet tanager is one of the most brilliantly colored birds found on the refuge. They are most commonly observed in the Spring and Fall. Scarlet Tanagers prefer trees with thicker foliage and for this reason are often heard before they are seen.
Wild turkeys have made an excellent comeback on the refuge. Pee Dee NWR participated in a successful restocking program with the North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission. During this time captive birds where released to help rebuild the population. Now in the Spring time it is common to observe tom turkeys strutting in the fields and to hear them gobbling in the woods.
Wood Ducks are the only wild ducks found during the Summer in this part of North Carolina and are the only ducks to nest on the refuge. They nest in cavities of dead trees in the hardwood bottoms. In addition, the refuge has a successful nest box program providing approximately 50 man made cavities. Learn More
Wood Thrush breed in deciduous and mixed pine and hardwood forests where there are large trees, moderate understory, shade, and abundant leaf litter for foraging. The ideal habitat has trees over 50 feet tall, a moderate understory of saplings and shrubs, an open floor with moist soil and decaying leaf litter, and water nearby.Learn More
The Yellow-breasted Chat is a large warbler with a thick bill and a long tail. They are common in the Spring and Summer. They prefer thick brush making them difficult to actually observe. Many birdwatchers compare this Chat to a Mockingbird or Thrasher due to its size and mannerisms.
Yellow-throated Warblers are found in both pine and hardwood forests and can often be seen on the lower limbs and branches of trees.. They are common in the Spring and Summer. They are named for the bright yellow throat patch that stands out against their white belly and black streaked sides.
Page Photo Credits Sandhill Cranes by Will Stuart, Belted Kingfisher by Will Stuart, Blue Grosbeak by Will Stuart, Canada Geese by K Hendrickson, Common Snipe by Will Stuart, Gray Catbird by Will Stuart, Great Blue Heron by Will Stuart, Great Egret by Will Stuart, Indigo Bunting by Will Stuart, Northern Bobwhite by Will Stuart, Osprey by Keith Hendrickson, Red-headed Woodpecker by Will Stuart, Ring-necked Duck by Will Stuart, Ruby-crowned KInglet by Will Stuart, Ruby-throated Hummingbird by Will Stuart, Sandhill Cranes, and others below by Will Stuart
Last Updated: Dec 10, 2014