The rare birds of North Carolina should be on every avid birdwatcher’s wishlist!

The Old North State has a rich ecosystem that has a lot of birdwatching diversity. You can set up your watching point and spend hours on end looking at something amazing. Thankfully, the birdwatching site eBird also hosts a regional count of rare birds sighting, making it an exciting challenge for any enthusiast!

What are the rare birds of North Carolina that you should put on your list! Read on to learn more and store this useful information in your head to use on your next trip to the Southeastern United States!

Rare Birds Of North Carolina

Painted Bunting

The painted bunting is a shock of colors. They are built like finches, but the adult male has a consistent blue head, redbreast, and green-flecked wings and back. The stunning pattern may be hidden among thick bushes and grassy areas.

Red-Cockaded Woodpecker

The red-cockaded woodpecker has an incredibly minute detail to it – males have a red streak, decorating the side of the head like a “cockade.” Generally, both sexes are black and white with a speckled pattern, and they dwell around pine forests.

Black-capped Chickadee

The black-capped chickadee is an adorably round songbird. The compact body is decorated with a blackhead, white cheeks, cream belly, and grey-streaked back and wings. You can find them hanging around deciduous and mixed forests.

 birds of north carolina

Sedge wren

The sedge wren is a shy bird that has become a rarer sight over the years. It is small, compact, and round, and has the tendency to spike up its tail upright. Both males and females are speckled in brown and black, with a white chin and breast.

Upland sandpiper

The upland sandpiper was once known as the upland plover. They have interesting slender bodies and have a medium size between a robin and crow. Its distinctly small head (reminiscent of doves) and skinny neck set it apart from the rest.

Least bittern

The least bittern is actually the smallest member of the heron family. It looks hunchback due to the way the head connects to the body. The small head is attached to a long and sharp yellow bill, the wings are decorated in shades of brown, plus the neck is striped white.

Parasitic Jaeger

These birds are known in Europe as arctic skuas. This aggressive name derives from their tendency to steal other animals’ food. They can have light or dark morph colors and they are almost the size of geese. They are often found hunting around the open ocean in search of their next meal.

 rare birds

Henslow’s sparrow

The Henslow’s sparrow was named after a botanist acquainted with Charles Darwin. This passerine bird has a simple song coming from its small, yellow-olive washed body. They are often found in hayfields and pastures.

Red-tailed hawk

The red-tailed hawk is a large raptor that is pretty common throughout the United States but shows up sometimes in North Carolina. Its shrill cry is a common Hollywood trope. Their eponymous red tail has a distinct shade from the rest of their body, giving a mark so it’s easier to spot.

Cave swallow

Regular swallows are a pretty common sight, but the cave swallow is a rarer family member that is an expert in catching insects mid-flight. The almost acrobatic, tiny birds are marked with chestnut patches and distinct dark blue backs. They hide around in corners near water.

Orchard oriole

The orchard oriole sets itself apart from other orioles with a deeper orange breast. They feed on insects and nectar and can be found close to rivers. They nest in groups and can be found occupying just one tree.

Eastern Screech Owl

The eastern screech owl is nocturnal so you might not be able to catch this one in time! They are small robin-sized owls that appear in a variety of morphs, including grey and red. They typically hand around trees near the water and won’t appear on the plains.

 rare birds of nc

Northern Saw-Whet Owl

The northern saw-whet owl is a small and round owl that is nocturnal, which makes them even harder to find. They do not have ear tufts and they are streaked in various shades of brown and white. They hand around very thick and dense forests. 

Worm-eating Warbler

The worm-eating warbler has such a distinct title, but it’s a big fan of insects as well. It hides among the undergrowth very well thanks to its muted yellow-green feathers on both sexes. Though small, their relatively big bills can take on their favorite prey.

Brown Creeper

The brown creeper’s other name is the American treecreeper. They have a back that is patterned in whites and browns, which can be perfect camouflage against the trees that they cling onto. Their small and slender forms and downcurved bills make them even harder to see.

White-breasted nuthatch

The white-breasted nuthatch is a very small and compact bird. It has a blue-grey color decorating its back and wings, similar to other nuthatches. You can find them among forests, their fast-flying and agile form catching insects for their next meal.

 rare birds of north carolina

Ross’s Goose

The Ross’s goose is a small, stocky goose. They can be all-white with black wingtips, or have a patterned dark grey or blue body with white wingtips. Being waterfowl they hand around in flocks new lakes and ponds.


The diversity of North Carolina’s birds is an incredible mark of the dedication of the region to champion nature. How conducive the state is to the rare birds of NC will make it any professional or amateur birdwatcher’s paradise.

Many rarely sighted birds are not endangered, but many do have declining populations. We hope that the balance of nature is maintained so that these rare birds continue to propagate the cycle and thrill even more birdwatching enthusiasts.

Do you go to North Carolina to do some birdwatching? Do you have a favorite story or anecdote to share about the beautiful state? Let us know about it in the comments below!

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