This week, after writing the last two weeks about declining species of local birds, I want to talk a bit about some that are increasing locally.
Wild turkeys were absent from Mecklenburg County two decades ago but now can be found in all quadrants. The recent Charlotte Christmas Bird Count recorded wild turkey for the very first time, with three individuals at the Renaissance Golf Course off Tyvola Road.
Raptors in general are increasing nationally and locally. Bald eagles can be seen with increasing regularity along the Catawba River and occasionally elsewhere; a pair can be seen in south Charlotte, hopscotching the lakes at some local golf country clubs. They are also seen often at Lake Twitty in Union County.
Peregrine falcons are seen much more often than they used to be, primarily during the migrations. The Cooper’s hawk used to be outnumbered by its smaller cousin, the sharp-shinned hawk; now the reverse is true. Red-shouldered hawks, once uncommon in Mecklenburg, are now easy to see in most neighborhoods.
I often get inquiries as to where to look for pileated woodpeckers in this area. The answer used to be “good luck.” Now, luck is not needed so much. This spectacular woodpecker is present along many of the wilder greenways and nature preserves where large trees are present. As preserved woodlands and river bottoms have matured, the trees have attracted this species.
Some smaller insectivorous species are faring pretty well here, too. Cliff swallows now nest under many of the larger bridges in the area. Look under the N.C. 27 bridge at Mount Holly or the U.S. 74 bridge over the Pee Dee River. This species has been moving east and south for some years now. Its cousin, the tree swallow, is following the same pattern. It has reached the northern and southwestern portions of Mecklenburg County already.
So the news is not all bad for our local birds. There are some others that are also increasing, and many familiar backyard feeder and nesting birds are at least holding steady. Enjoy!