The Piedmont is a term used to refer to the central portion of the State of North Carolina, 'The Ol' North State', situated in the middle of the state, roughly halfway between the coastal portion, or Eastern North Carolina and the mountainous portion, or Western North Carolina.
Geographically, it ranges from a more coastal like landscape in, and along its eastern side to a more hilly/mountainous landscape on its western side.
It encompasses parts of the Yadkin/Pee Dee River basin as well as the Catawba River basin. A number of associated tributaries feed into these.
For the person who loves nature in general, and birding in particular, Piedmont North Carolina affords a wide variety of places to easily pursue their passion and add to their “life list.”
Just as the Piedmont region of North Carolina is such a large area geographically, so too are the number of species of birds a person might come into contact with, in the area.
In an effort at fairness, the subsequent data contained here was obtained by querying eBird from “The Cornell Lab of Ornithology” for each county in the Piedmont region. The total number of species entered for each county, along with their most reported species, their middlemost reported, and a representative least reported was compiled and utilized to determine the entries you will see here.
The area boasts 36 counties with 321 species reported in one county on the high end to 169 being reported on the low end. This averages 226 species being reported in each county. It’s easy to see, the whole region offers many birding opportunities.
Leading off the "Notable Species" in North Carolina in general, and the Piedmont Region in particular, it follows it should be the Northern Cardinal since it is the official state bird of North Carolina and as such certainly belongs on the "Notable Species" list.
What is truly notable is the richness of the State of North Carolina when it comes to the wide range of potential sightings a birder might encounter depending on whether they are birding in the Coastal (Eastern), Piedmont (Central), or Mountain (Western) region of the state. North Carolina, as a whole, reports 481 species with the Red-winged Blackbird and Double-crested Cormorant taking the top two spots and the Red-tailed Hawk and Brown Thrasher the two in the middle of the list. .
Counting just the most, the middle, and the least reported species, the Piedmont region of the state reports 60 separate species. This does not take into account those reported that fall in between these categories.
The Ring-billed Gull is the most reported in 11 of the 36 counties in the region. The Common Grackle is not as common as its name might imply. It is the most reported species in 10 counties in the region. The Red-winged Blackbird in 5, along with the Purple Martin, European Starling, and Double-crested Cormorant rounding out the remainder of the list.
The “middle most reported species cover a wide range with the Yellow-billed Cuckoo being “most-reported” in this group with 28 other species filling out the middle.
The “least” reported, often with just one sighting, takes into account 19 separate species. The Painted Bunting, Dickcissel, Western Tanager, and Wilson's Warbler are the most prominent in this range.
Birds you are less likely to see in the Piedmont Region of North Carolina might include Wilson's Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Swainson's Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Cerulean Warbler, Painted Bunting, Rose-breasted Grosbeak.
Birds you can see here include:
American Robin, Common Grackle, European Starling, Red-winged Blackbird, Ring-billed Gull, Northern Cardinal, Eastern Bluebird, Dickcissel, Painted Bunting, Western Tanager, Carolina Chickadee, Brown Thrasher, House Finch, Northern Mockingbird, American Crow, Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Within the Piedmont section of North Carolina you are prone to see increasing numbers of bears and deer in more suburban/urban areas as well as squirrels, and rabbits. And in the usual rural areas, wild turkeys and other game birds.
History and Use
The Piedmont of North Carolina is part of the area of early settlement of the state with what has been called “The Great Wagon Road.”
This was a “path/trail/road” settlers followed from areas in the Philadelphia, PA area, down through Maryland and Virginia into North Carolina to settle what was then “the frontier.” This “Road” continued on into South Carolina as well.
In addition, local legend, with some degree of justification, holds that Daniel Boone, of American frontier fame, and/or his family spent time along the upper reaches of the Yadkin-Pee Dee River Basin.
Areas of Interest
Yadkin-Pee Dee River & Catawba River Basins
The Yadkin-Pee Dee River Basin affords plenty of opportunities to combine some great birding with it's many reservoirs and lakes to include [Map 8]W Kerr Scott Reservoir, High Rock Lake, [Map 9]Tuckertown Reservoir, Badin Lake, Lake Tillery, and [Map 10]Falls Reservoir.
As well, the Catawba River Basin, which cuts through Piedmont North Carolina, has along it’s length[Map 16] Lake James, Lake Rhodhiss,[Map 17] Lake Hickory, Lookout Shoals Lake, Lake Norman,[Map 18] Mountain Island Lake & Lake Wylie.
There will be many potential birding spots along these chains. A goodly amount, but not all, of the shoreline will be private property. But as long as you are "on the water" you should be in an acceptable place. As always, good maps will be an invaluable asset and should be available locally.
Public Game Lands
There are a number of public game lands situated throughout the area that may provide the opportunity for good birding. As well as Public Boating Access points, with varying levels of amenities, can be found along both the Yadkin-Pee Dee and Catawba River basins. The natural resources found in, and around, these places have the potential to lend themselves quite well to birding pursuits. The regulation and use of these game lands, access points, and waterways are under the auspices of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission'. Information regarding these areas, and their use, can be found on their website.
National Parks, Forests, Refuges, and Preserves
For a couple of really nice "natural" locations for birding in the Piedmont Region, the [Map 6]Pee Dee National Wildlife Refuge, near Wadesboro, NC and the [Map 7]Uwharrie National Forest, near Troy, NC stand out for obvious reasons. To see why, click on the links for their respective web sites.
North Carolina State Parks, Forests, and Trails
For those who would like to combine their birding efforts with some additional enjoyment of nature, the region has available the Yadkin River State Trail , a part of the North Carolina State Parks – NC Trails. This canoe/kayak trail covers approximately 130 miles of the Yadkin-Pee Dee River through 9 counties, starting with [Map 4]Wilkes County and ending in [Map 5]Montgomery County, with multiple access points along it's length. The upper portion is a quieter, more natural, bird-friendly area reminiscent of the river as it existed before the dams were put into play. A canoe/kayak, binoculars, packed lunch, and map can combine to make a memorable birding experience. Information regarding the trail is also available from the Yadkin River Keeper .
Mountains to Sea Trail
The North Carolina State Parks, State Trails section has an interesting possibility for potential birding sites now in the Mountains to Sea Trail. This trail, when completed, will cover approximately 1175 miles through all regions of the state beginning from Clingman’s Dome in Western North Carolina, traveling through the Piedmont Region of North Carolina before winding through Eastern North Carolina and ending at Jockey’s Ridge on the state's Outer Banks. Consult the North Carolina State Trails and Friends of the Mountains to Sea Trail for further details.
[Map 14]Hanging Rock State Park in [Map 13]Stokes County represents another good location for birding and nature. There are a number of amenities, wooded trails, etc. available there that will help to make this a memorable birding destination. It is also the number 1 eBird hotspot in Stokes County. Check their website for details.
Pilot Mountain State Park in Surry County[Map 15] offers a combination of trails, both hiking and paddling, as well as other amenities for those looking for a good place to bird and enjoy nature. As always, check their website before you go for details and up-to-date information.
[Map 19]Lake Norman State Park, along the shore of Lake Norman, in Iredell County is a growing location that offers birding opportunities that may be found along their hiking trails, camping sites, and other public areas. Check their website for details about the trails and other areas.
A North Carolina State Park in the Piedmont region with a rather large birding potential would have to be the [Map 20]William B Umstead State Park. Wiliam B Umstead is situated on the eastern side of the region in Wake County which is where the state capital is located.
It boasts a multitude of amenities to include more than 20 miles of hiking trails of varying lengths, and approximately 13 miles of multi-use trails for equestrian and bicycle use. This, by itself, represents a large potential birding potential.
Umstead also has available other amenities and facilities as well as camping for those that might want to make an extended visit.
Check the park’s website for specifics concerning use and availability.
Rockingham County is in the north-central portion of the Piedmont region of the state, just below Virginia. [Map 21]Haw River State Park , in this county, is a park with over 1,400 acres in size with multiple amenities to include over 5 1/2 miles of combined trails, on natural surfaces and boardwalk, that travel through wooded areas, wetlands, and around a lake. Check their website for more details.
It offers, depending on the river flow at the time, kayaking as well as backcountry camping where you must “carry in” your equipment.
The over 25 miles of trails in the park, coupled with the other amenities, combine to give this a good potential for some satisfying birding experiences.
County and Municipal Parks
Many of the Counties and Municipalities in the Piedmont Region also have some noteworthy parks, many of which have extremely nice natural features which would make some great birding areas.
One of the county parks you might enjoy is [Map 1]Dan Nicholas Park in Rowan County[Map 2]. In addition to recreational and leisure possibilities, you will find there natural areas, camping, and trails. In particular, one trail that has good birding possibilities circumnavigates the lake/pond in the park as well as some of the wooded areas.
Another county park in Rowan that's also a good birding spot is [Map 11]Sloan Park off Sloan Rd in the northwestern portion of Rowan County. It's a country park with some woods, hiking paths and other amenities. Reference the picture at the top of this article for a look at a portion of a trail here. In addition, it's an eBird hotspot.
Another [Map 3]Davidson County park that affords good potential for birding as well as touching on a bit of US frontier history is [Map 12]Boone's Cave Park. This park, which is close to the Yadkin-Pee Dee River is said to be where US frontier legend Daniel Boone and/or some of his family lived for a time as they explored the developing western frontier.
Additional Birding Resources
The NC Birding Trail is another resource/aid to help a birder plan where to take their next birding excursion. There are many entries covering locations across the state literally from the mountains to the sea!
Access and Facilities
North Carolina's Piedmont region is crisscrossed by portions of interstate highways I-85, I-40, and I-77. In addition, it is served, commercially and privately, by Charlotte-Douglas International Airport (CLT) in Charlotte, Piedmont-Triad International Airport (PTI) in Greensboro, Raleigh-Durham International Airport in Morrisville, Concord-Padgett Regional Airport (JQF) in Concord as well as a number of general/private aviation facilities scattered throughout the state.
Keep in mind much, but not all, of the shoreline along both the Yadkin-Pee Dee and Catawba River Basins will be private property. Signs denoting public areas "may" be present, but not always. However, as long as you are "on the water" and obey the signs that are posted, you should experience no trouble. Good maps of the rivers will be an invaluable asset.
- eBird. 2017. eBird: An online database of bird distribution and abundance [web application]. eBird, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Available: http://www.ebird.org. (Accessed: Date June 26, 2020).
- Rudersdorf, Amy. 2010. "NC County Maps." Government & Heritage Library, State Library of North Carolina.
- Wikimedia Public Domain Usage by permission of author David Benbennick, Map of North Carolina highlighting Lincoln County, The coloring and notations contained within. by sbarnhardt, CC0 1.0
- BirdForum Opus contributors. (2023) Piedmont Region of North Carolina. In: BirdForum, the forum for wild birds and birding. Retrieved 2 December 2023 from https://www.birdforum.net/opus/Piedmont_Region_of_North_Carolina
- North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (*NB site currently only available in North America)
- Pee Dee National Wildlife Refuge
- Uwharrie National Forest
- Yadkin River State Trail
- Yadkin River Keeper
- Dan Nicholas Park
- Boone's Cave Park
- NC Travel/Tourism - Piedmont NC Region
- Sloan Park
- Hanging Rock State Park
- Pilot Mountain State Park
- NC Birding Trail
- North Carolina State Trails
- Lake Norman State Park
- William B Umstead State Park
- Haw River State Park
- Eno River State Park
- Friends of the Mountains to Sea Trail
- Dan Nicholas Park on Google Maps
- Rowan County NC on Google Maps
- Davidson County NC on Google Maps
- Wilkes County NC on Google Maps
- Montgomery County NC on Google Maps
- Pee-Dee National Wildlife HQ on Google Maps
- Uwharrie National Forest on Google Maps
- W Kerr Scott Reservoir on Google Maps
- Tuckertown Reservoir on Google Maps
- Falls Reservoir on Google Maps
- Sloan Park on Google Maps
- Boone's Cave Park on Google Maps
- Stokes County NC on Google Maps
- Hanging Rock State Park Visitors Center on Google Maps
- Surry County NC on Google Maps
- Lake James on Google Maps
- Lake Hickory on Google Maps
- Mountain Island Lake on Google Maps
- Lake Norman State Park on Google Maps
- William B Umstead State Park Visitors Center on Google Maps
- Haw River State Park on Google Maps
- Eno River State Park on Google Maps