Trail Marker #5 -Birds of the E&A Railroad Trail, Elkin NC
Bird watching brings many benefits to both birds and the people watching them. Along this trail you may come into contact with two exceptional bird species found in the area. These include the Kingfisher and the Great Blue Heron.
Although a year-round resident of Surry County, the Blue Heron may be difficult to spot during late spring and early summer. They can commonly be found around any medium to large sized body of water as their diet mainly consists of small fish. However, these beautiful waders have also been known to east insects, rodents, and even small birds.
The Kingfishers are a group of small to medium-sized brightly colored birds ranging in colors from black to red to green. In addition to their colorful plumage, these birds are also distinguishable by their large heads, long sharp pointed bills, short legs, and stubby tails. Kingfishers nest in tree hollows and holes dug into the ground, primarily along the creek bank. These beautiful birds feed on a wide variety of items, but are most famous for hunting and eating fish. They have also been known to eat crustaceans and small amphibians.
Birds below are commonly found along the trail and are listed in alphabetical order:
Acadian Flycatchers are a migratory bird seen here during their breeding season in late spring and early summer, as they are known to breed along the Big Elkin Creek. As with most flycatchers their main diet is insects and can be seen flying out from their perch to catch a flying insect and returning to the same perch or a perch nearby. Both sexes have the same general appearance. The Acadian Flycatcher is a small bird about 5.75 inches long.
The American Goldfinch can be seen year round in along the trail and in the park. American Goldfinch’s eat seeds of trees, wildflowers, and shrubs. The male becomes a bright yellow with a black cap in the spring and summer and becomes brownish or grayish in the fall and winter, while the female is duller overall with no black cap all year round. The American Goldfinch is a small bird measuring only 5 inches in length.
The Belted Kingfisher is seen along all areas of the Big Elkin Creek, but the best place to spot one is flying up and down a stream calling, or sitting on an exposed perch overhanging the water, and can be found here year round. Belted Kingfishers mainly eat fish and since they hunt by sight they require clear water to find prey. They also eat small crustaceans, aquatic insects, reptiles, and amphibians. The female can be identified by a reddish band under the blue-gray band on the breast. The Belted Kingfisher will have the same general appearance year round and is a medium size bird about 13 inches in length.
The Brown Thrasher can be seen year round along the trail in the dense second-growth vegetation. The Brown Thrasher feeds on insects and fruit depending on the season. Both female and male have the same appearance and their appearance is the same year round. This is a medium size bird measuring 11.5 inches in length.
The Eastern Bluebird can be seen year round along the trail in the trees and on the power lines in the park. The Eastern Bluebird is a member of the Thrush family and eat insects, worms, and fruit. The male is a bright blue on the back and into the head, while the female is much duller in color. This is a medium size bird measuring 7 inches in length.
The Gray Catbird is a close cousin to the Brown Thrasher that is seen in the spring and summer in trees and dense second-growth vegetation along the trail. The Gray Catbird feeds on insects and fruit depending on the season. Both female and male have the same appearance and their appearance is the same year round. This is a medium size bird measuring 8.5 inches in length.
Great Blue Heron
The Great Blue Heron sits along the banks of the Big Elkin Creek near the public library, usually by the dam's waterfall. Great Blue Herons can be seen year round along the waterways or in open fields, as they eat fish, small birds, and mammals. The Great Blue Heron will have the same general appearance year round, and both sexes have the same general appearance. It is a large bird with a wing span of six feet.
Northern Red Cardinal (male)
The Northern Cardinal can be seen year round along the trail in the bushes and the trees. The Northern Cardinal feeds on seeds, grain, fruit, and insects. The male is Cardinal Red, for which it gets its name from, and the female is quit duller. This is a medium size bird measuring 8.75 inches in length.
The Red-bellied Woodpecker can be seen year round along the trail in the trees. The Red-bellied Woodpecker eats insects and nuts and will cache food to eat during the winter months. The male and female are similar in appearance with the male having the red on the crown of the head extending forward to the bill. This is a medium size bird measuring 9.25 inches in length.
The White-throated Sparrow arrives to the trail in late fall and leaves in early springs to go north to its breeding grounds, and can be seen in the low dense brush along the trail. The White-throated Sparrow eats primarily seeds during its stay here along the trail. Both male and female have the same appearance. This is a medium size bird measuring 6.75 inches in length.
About the photographer: This gorgeous collection of photographs was taken by bird enthusiast, Ron Storey, who took some of these photos along the Elkin E&A Railroad trail. He is a nature photographer that lives in Elkin.