Birds

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Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge provides a variety of habitat for over 200 species of birds. For a complete list, download our Refuge Wildlife List. Below, we have highlighted some of our more sought-after and/or most common species.

All photos on this page are courtesy of Jeff Lewis.

  • Snow Goose

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    This refuge is an important winter home for enormous flocks of Snow Geese, which roost on the lake and feed in the various farm fields. Formations in the sky are a common sight, especially early and late in the day. Each winter birders visit the refuge to search the flocks for a Ross’s Geese, a smaller, western relative.

  • Tundra Swan

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    Tundra Swans over-winter here in large numbers and are a common sight in the sky. These noisy birds are often seen feeding in the farm fields with snow geese. They also feed on submerged aquatic vegetation.

  • Wood Duck

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    These beautiful woodland ducks nest on the refuge in tree cavities. A permanent resident, they can be found in and around the wetter areas of the refuge, where they are often only seen as they fly away in alarm. Vegetable matter makes up the majority of their diet, although they do eat insects, as well.

  • American Coot

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    These abundant waterbirds can be easily found in the various impoundments and ditches on the refuge, feeding primarily on floating aquatic vegetation in shallow water. Often mistaken for ducks, coots are more closely related to rails. They have large, lobed feet that allow them to walk across floating vegetatio

  • Bald Eagle

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    Bald Eagles are increasing in numbers and are regularly seen during the fall and winter months, particularly in the vicinity of waterfowl flocks. They often perch in tall trees around the perimeter of farm fields. Bald Eagles feed on a wide variety of prey items, including waterfowl, mammals and fish.

  • Red-tailed Hawk

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    Although found on the refuge year-round, Red-tails are more common in winter where they can often be seen flying overhead or perched on tall, dead snags, where they watch for their mammal prey. Only the adult birds sport the red upper tail for which they are named.

  • American Kestrel

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    These colorful raptors are fairly common during the winter months. They are usually seen perched on utility wires or snags where they watch for insect and small rodent prey. These small falcons are very fast and occasionally eat small birds.

  • Prothonotary Warbler

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    These beautiful golden-yellow birds are neo-tropical migrants. They live most of the year in Central or South America, migrating to North American during our summer to breed. Prothonotary Warblers prefers wet habitats and nest in tree cavities.

  • Red-winged Blackbird

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    Red-winged Blackbirds nest in freshwater marshes during the summer months. In fall and winter they gather in huge flocks, where they can easily be found in farm fields, feeding on weed seeds and grains. The adult male birds sport the red “shoulder patch” for which they were named.

  • Gray Catbird

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    Catbirds breed on the Pocosin lakes Refuge and can be found year-round. They are one of our three mimics (family Mimidae), birds that often mimic the songs of other birds. They feed on insects, spiders and berries.

  • Swamp Sparrow

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    Swamp Sparrows are one of several species of sparrow that spend the winter in our area. Swamp Sparrows prefer moist habitats with dense cover in which to hide from predators.