With its mountains, numerous waterways and forests, West Virginia plays host to more than 300 species of birds throughout the year. Fifty species reside in-state permanently. Neotropical migrants visit twice a year. And birds known as temperate migrants winter in West Virginia after spending the summer further north. According to the state's department of Natural Resources, "late spring through early fall is when avian diversity is highest" in the state.
The Cardinalidae Family
Found throughout the state, the northern Cardinal became West Virginia's state bird in 1949. During the summer, the Cardinal is joined by its colorful, neotropical Cardinalidae family cousins, who breed in West Virginia. The rose-breasted grosbeak has a red-splashed breast; the blue grosbeak's orange-edged wings stand out against a blue body. The indigo bunting is entirely blue; the dickcissel sports yellow eye-stripes and a splash of yellow on its chest.
In the "Woodpecker Song," big band composer Glenn Miller called the pecking of the bird "his happy serenade on wood." Those serenades in West Virginia come from seven members of the Picidae family, all permanent residents to the state. Harder to find are the red-headed woodpecker and the yellow-bellied sapsucker. More commonly, you can see the larger red-bellied and pileated woodpeckers, the northern flicker, and the smaller downy and hairy woodpeckers.
Considered some of the most colorful neotropical birds to visit North America, 53 species of wood warbler compose the Parulidae family. More than two dozen of those species breed in West Virginia each summer. Male warblers display the rich colors of these New World birds. Cerulean warblers are found in large numbers in West Virginia during breeding season, as are yellow-breasted chats. Prothonotary warblers -- which nest in tree cavities -- are a rarer site.
Birds of Prey
Several prey species of birds find West Virginia a great place for year-round living. Six types of owls, including the eastern screech owl, the barred owl and the great horned owl, live in the state's forests. American kestrels reside in the state. And you can see red-tailed hawks, Cooper's hawks and sharp-shinned hawks all year. Summer months bring the osprey, the bald eagle and the northern harrier to the state for breeding.