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Bird Checklists of the United States

Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge

Union City, Tennessee


Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge is located on and around the upper portion of historic Reelfoot Lake in the extreme northwest corner of Tennessee. The refuge was established in 1941 on lands leased from the State of Tennessee. Subsequent land purchased extended the refuge into Kentucky, and it now consists of 10,428 acres. The Reelfoot area is a major stopover point and wintering area for waterfowl of the Mississippi Flyway. A smaller area, Lake Isom National Wildlife Refuge, comprising 1,850 acres and lying five miles south of Reelfoot was established by Presidential proclamation in 1938. The primary objective habitat for migratory birds.

Reelfoot and Lake Isom National Wildlife Refuges are administered from refuge headquarters, 4343 Highway 157, Union City, Tennessee 38261. The 20,000 acre Reelfoot Lake was formed by a series of severe earthquakes during the winter of 1811-12. It is situated on the Mississippi River floodplain, midway between the river to the west and the towering Chickasaw Bluff to the east. Most privately owned wetlands and woodlands, which formerly surrounded the lake, have been drained and cleared for conversion to valuable farmland. However, the wooded bluff remains, and stands of majestic bald cypress are still present in and around the lake. The swamp forest bordering the lake is almost impenetrable, giving way to thick mats of aquatic vegetation on the lake's surface and vast stretches of head-high grasses extending into much of the shallow water. This varied habitat provides home and sanctuary for large numbers of birds - as well as numerous other wildlife species.

The refuge and adjacent areas are of year-round interest to birders, from the casual observer to the serious ornithologist. Spring, especially during April and May, is the best period for observing transient species, with special emphasis on shorebirds and warblers. Summer is a time for viewing marsh and wading birds, and serious birders will find it rewarding to work the lake by paddle boat in the early morning and late evening hours.

With the arrival of fall and winter also comes the multitude of waterfowl which use Reelfoot each year: mallards, gadwall, American wigeon, and Canada geese predominate. However, large concentrations of ruddy ducks and coots are also present, and virtually all species common to the Mississippi Flyway may be seen at Reelfoot during the course of the winter. The refuges normally have peak waterfowl populations of approximately 60,000 Canada geese and 250,000 ducks. While parts of the refuges are closed to public entry during the peak waterfowl use period, excellent birding opportunity is still available.

In recent years Reelfoot Lake has attained much prominence from its wintering bald eagles. The best period for seeing these stately birds is from mid-December through mid-March.

How to use your checklist

The bird checklist was designed to be informative and simple to use. The list is arranged in the order established by the American Ornithological Union.

This checklist includes 238 species of birds and is based on observations by refuge personnel and visiting ornithologists. If you should find an unlisted species, please let us know at Refuge Headquarters. We will appreciate your help in updating our records.


Symbols which appear in this checklist represent the following:

Seasonal appearance
Sp - Spring - March to May
S - Summer - June to August
F - Fall - September to November
W - Winter - December to February

Seasonal abundance
a - abundant: a common species which is very numerous
c - common: certain to be seen in suitable habitat
u - uncommon: present but not certain to be seen
o - occasional: seen only a few times during a season
r - rare: seen at intervals of 2 to 5 years
* - nests on the refuge


LOONS Sp S F W ___ Common Loon o - o o
GREBES Sp S F W ___ Pied-billed Grebe* c u c c ___ Horned Grebe u - u u
PELICANS AND ALLIES Sp S F W ___ American White Pelican r - r r ___ Double-crested Cormorant u u u o ___ Anhinga r r r -
HERONS, EGRETS AND ALLIES Sp S F W ___ American Bittern u u u r ___ Least Bittern* c c c - ___ Great Blue Heron* c c c c ___ Great Egret* u c u o ___ Snowy Egret* o o o - ___ Little Blue Heron* c c c - ___ Cattle Egret u u o - ___ Green Heron* c c c - ___ Black-crowned Night-Heron* u u u r ___ Yellow-crowned Night-Heron u u u r
IBISES, SPOONBILLS AND STORKS Sp S F W ___ Wood Stork - r r -
WATERFOWL Sp S F W ___ Greater White-Fronted Goose - r r - ___ Snow Goose o - u u ___ Canada Goose c o a a ___ Wood Duck* c c c u ___ Green-winged Teal c - c c ___ American Black Duck c - c c ___ Mallard* a c a a ___ Northern Pintail c - c c ___ Blue-winged Teal c o c o ___ Northern Shoveler c - c u ___ Gadwall c - c c ___ American Wigeon c - a - ___ Canvasback u - u u ___ Redhead u - u c ___ Ring-necked Duck a - c c ___ Whistling Swan - - r r ___ Lesser Scaup c - c c ___ Harlequin Duck - - - - ___ Oldsquaw r - r r ___ White-winged Scoter r - r r ___ Common Goldeneye u - u c ___ Bufflehead o - u c ___ Hooded Merganser* c o c c ___ Common Merganser u - u u ___ Red-breasted Merganser o - o r ___ Ruddy Duck c - c c
VULTURES, HAWKS AND ALLIES Sp S F W ___ Black Vulture* c c c u ___ Turkey Vulture* c c c u ___ Osprey* o o o r ___ Mississippi Kite* o o - - ___ Bald Eagle u - u c ___ Sharp-shinned Hawk o - o o ___ Northern Harrier c - c c ___ Cooper's Hawk u u u u ___ Red-shouldered Hawk u u u u ___ Broad-winged Hawk u u u - ___ Red-tailed Hawk* c c c c ___ Rough-legged Hawk - - - r ___ Golden Eagle o - o u ___ American Kestrel c u c c ___ Peregrine Falcon r - r r
GALLINACEOUS BIRDS Sp S F W ___ Wild Turkey* u u o u ___ Northern Bobwhite* c c c c
RAILS, GALLINULES, COOTS AND CRANES Sp S F W ___ King Rail u u u - ___ Virginia Rail u - u - ___ Sora u c u - ___ Purple Gallinule* u u u - ___ Common Moorhen* u u u - ___ American Coot* c u a a
SHOREBIRDS Sp S F W ___ Black-bellied Plover o - o - ___ American Golden Plover o - o - ___ Semipalmated Plover c - c - ___ Killdeer* c c c c ___ Greater Yellowlegs c u c - ___ Lesser Yellowlegs c o c r ___ Solitary Sandpiper c o c - ___ Willet r - - - ___ Spotted Sandpiper c o c - ___ Upland Sandpiper o - o - ___ Semipalmated Sandpiper c o c - ___ Least Sandpiper c u c o ___ Pectoral Sandpiper c o c - ___ Stilt Sandpiper u - u - ___ Short-billed Dowitcher o - o - ___ Common Snipe c - u u ___ American Woodcock* u r u r ___ Franklin's Gull o - o r ___ Bonaparte's Gull o - u c ___ Ring-billed Gull c - c a ___ Herring Gull u - u c ___ Caspian Tern o - o - ___ Common Tern r o o - ___ Forster's Tern o - o - ___ Least Tern u c u - ___ Black Tern u u u -
PIGEONS, DOVES Sp S F W ___ Rock Dove* c c c c ___ Mourning Dove* c c c c
CUCKOOS Sp S F W ___ Black-billed Cuckoo o u o - ___ Yellow-billed Cuckoo c c c -
OWLS Sp S F W ___ Barn Owl* o o o o ___ Eastern Screech-Owl* u u u u ___ Great Horned Owl u u u u ___ Barred Owl* c c c c ___ Short-eared Owl - - - r
GOATSUCKERS Sp S F W ___ Common Nighthawk* c c c - ___ Chuck-will's-widow* u c c - ___ Whip-poor-will* u r u -
SWIFTS, HUMMINGBIRDS Sp S F W ___ Chimney Swift* c c c - ___ Ruby-throated Hummingbird* c c c -
KINGFISHERS Sp S F W ___ Belted Kingfisher c c c c
WOODPECKERS Sp S F W ___ Red-headed Woodpecker* c c c c ___ Red-bellied Woodpecker* c c c c ___ Yellow-bellied Sapsucker c - c c ___ Downy Woodpecker* c c c c ___ Hairy Woodpecker* u u u u ___ Northern Flicker* c c c c ___ Pileated Woodpecker* c c c c
FLYCATCHERS Sp S F W ___ Olive-sided Flycatcher r - r - ___ Eastern Wood-Pewee c c c - ___ Yellow-bellied Flycatcher r - r - ___ Acadian Flycatcher* c c c - ___ Least Flycatcher r - r - ___ Eastern Phoebe* c c c - ___ Great Crested Flycatcher c c c - ___ Eastern Kingbird* c c c -
LARKS Sp S F W ___ Horned Lark* c c c c
MARTINS AND SWALLOWS Sp S F W ___ Purple Martin* c c c - ___ Tree Swallow c c a r ___ Northern Rough-winged Swallow* c c c - ___ Bank Swallow* c c c -
JAYS AND CROWS Sp S F W ___ American Crow* c c c c ___ Fish Crow* u c u u
CHICKADEES AND TITMICE Sp S F W ___ Carolina Chickadee* c c c c ___ Tufted Titmouse* c c c c
NUTHATCHES Sp S F W ___ Red-breasted Nuthatch - - - o ___ White-breasted Nuthatch* u u u u
CREEPERS Sp S F W ___ Brown Creeper u - u u
WRENS Sp S F W ___ Carolina Wren* c c c c ___ Bewick's Wren* u u u u ___ Marsh Wren u - u r ___ House Wren u - u o ___ Sedge Wren u - u - ___ Winter Wren u - u c
KINGLETS AND GNATCATCHERS Sp S F W ___ Golden-crowned Kinglet c - c c ___ Ruby-crowned Kinglet c - c c ___ Blue-gray Gnatcatcher* c c c -
BLUEBIRDS, THRUSHES AND ROBINS Sp S F W ___ Eastern Bluebird* c c c c ___ Veery u - u - ___ Gray-cheecked Thrush c - c - ___ Swainson's Thrush c - c - ___ Hermit Thrush u - u u ___ Wood Thrush* c c c - ___ American Robin* c c c c
THRASHERS Sp S F W ___ Gray Catbird* c c c - ___ Northern Mockingbird* c c c c ___ Brown Thrasher* c c c u
PIPITS Sp S F W ___ American Pipit u - u u
WAXWINGS Sp S F W ___ Cedar Waxwing u - u u
STARLINGS Sp S F W ___ European Starling* c c c a
SHRIKES Sp S F W ___ Loggerhead Shrike* c c c c
VIREOS Sp S F W ___ White-eyed Vireo* c c c - ___ Solitary Vireo r - r - ___ Yellow-throated Vireo* c c c - ___ Warbling Vireo* c u c - ___ Philadelphia Vireo r - r - ___ Red-eyed Vireo* c c c -
WARBLERS Sp S F W ___ Blue-winged Warbler u - u - ___ Golden-winged Warbler u - u - ___ Tennessee Warbler c - c - ___ Orange-crowned Warbler r - r - ___ Nashville Warbler u - u - ___ Northern Parula* c u c - ___ Yellow Warbler u u u - ___ Chestnut-sided Warbler c - c - ___ Magnolia Warbler c - c - ___ Cape May Warbler o - o - ___ Yellow-rumped Warbler c - c c ___ Black-throated Green Warbler c - c - ___ Blackburnian Warbler u - u - ___ Yellow-throated Warbler* c c c - ___ Pine Warbler u - u - ___ Prairie Warbler* u o u - ___ Palm Warbler c - c - ___ Bay-breasted Warbler c - c - ___ Blackpoll Warbler c - c - ___ Cerulean Warbler* c u c - ___ Black-and-white Warbler* c o c - ___ American Redstart* c u c - ___ Prothonotary Warbler* c c c - ___ Worm-eating Warbler* o - o - ___ Swainson's Warbler* u o u - ___ Ovenbird u - u - ___ Northern Waterthrush u - o - ___ Louisiana Waterthrush* u u u - ___ Kentucky Warbler* c u c - ___ Connecticut Warbler r - r - ___ Common Yellowthroat* c c c - ___ Hooded Warbler* c u c - ___ Wilson's Warbler u - u - ___ Canada Warbler u - u - ___ Yellow-breasted Chat* c c c -
TANAGERS Sp S F W ___ Summer Tanager* c c c - ___ Scarlet Tanager u o u -
NEW WORLD FINCHES Sp S F W ___ Northern Cardinal* c c c c ___ Rose-breasted Grosbeak u - u - ___ Blue Grosbeak o - - - ___ Indigo Bunting* c c c - ___ Dickcissel c c c -
SPARROWS Sp S F W ___ Rufous-sided Towhee c u c c ___ American Tree Sparrow u - u u ___ Chipping Sparrow* u u u r ___ Field Sparrow* c c c c ___ Vesper Sparrow u - u r ___ Lark Sparrow r - r - ___ Savannah Sparrow c - c c ___ Grasshopper Sparrow u - u r ___ Le Conte's Sparrow u - u r ___ Fox Sparrow u - u u ___ Song Sparrow c o c c ___ Lincoln's Sparrow u - u o ___ Swamp Sparrow c - c c ___ White-throated Sparrow c - c c ___ White-crowned Sparrow u - c c ___ Harris' Sparrow - - - r ___ Dark-eyed Junco c - c c ___ Lapland Longspur - - - r
BLACKBIRDS, GRACKLES, COWBIRDS AND ORIOLES Sp S F W ___ Bobolink u - r - ___ Red-winged Blackbird* a a a a ___ Eastern Meadowlark* c c c c ___ Rusty Blackbird u - u u ___ Brewer's Blackbird - - o o ___ Common Grackle* c c a a ___ Brown-headed Cowbird* c c a a ___ Orchard Oriole* c c c - ___ Northern Oriole* u u u -
OLD WORLD FINCHES Sp S F W ___ Purple Finch o - o u ___ Pine Siskin o - - r ___ American Goldfinch* c c c c
WEAVER FINCHES Sp S F W ___ House Sparrow* a a a a
These additional species are of such accidental or rare occurrence on the refuge that they have been recorded only one or two times:
Western Grebe                           Western Kingbird
Eared Grebe                             Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
European Wigeon                         Vermillion Flycatcher
Cinnamon Teal                           Western Meadowlark
Greater Scaup                           Laughing Gull
Black Scoter                            Surf Scoter
Glossy Ibis                             Black Rail
Ruddy Turnstone                         Merlin
Long-eared Owl

For further information contact:
                        Refuge Manager
                        Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge
                        4343 Highway 157
                        Union City, Tennessee 38261      
                        Telephone: 901/538-2481

This resource is based on the following source:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  1992.  Birds of Reelfoot National Wildlife 
     Refuge.  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Unpaginated.
This resource should be cited as:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  1992.  Birds of Reelfoot National Wildlife 
     Refuge.  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Unpaginated.  Jamestown, 
     ND: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Online.
     http://www.npwrc.usgs.govreelfoot.htm 
     (Version 22MAY98).

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