Protected Birds

The Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA) allows the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service to list species of plants and animals as federally threatened or endangered. These United States designations are defined as follows:

  • “Endangered” means a species is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.
  • “Threatened” means a species is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future.

The State Endangered Species Act (N.C. General Statutes Chapter 113 Article 25) empowers with N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission to recognize species as needing additional conservation. State-listed designations and their definitions are as follows:

  • “North Carolina Endangered” designation is given to any native or once-native species of wild animal whose continued existence as a viable component of the State’s fauna is determined by the Wildlife Resources Commission to be in jeopardy or any wild animal determined to be “‘Endangered” pursuant to the ESA.
  • “North Carolina Threatened” designation is given to any native or once-native species of wild animal that is likely to become an endangered species within the forseeable future throughout all of a significant portion of its range or one that is designated as “Threatened” pursuant to the ESA.
  • “North Carolina Special Concern” designation is given to any species of wild animal native or once native to North Carolina that is determined by the Wildlife Resources Commission to require monitoring but that may be taken under regulations adopted under the provisions of Article 25.

Species with either a United States or a North Carolina designation should be addressed in your forest management plan and taken into consideration during all activities in your woodlands.


(Picoides borealis)

The Red-cockaded woodpecker was listed as “endangered” in 1970 and is now one of only two woodpecker species protected by the Endangered Species Act. Because it prefers mature longleaf pine, North Carolina’s population has decreased dramatically with the loss of the state’s longleaf pine forests. Today its presence is limited to extensive managed areas with longleaf pine stands.

(Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

Although bald eagles were removed from the Endangered Species List in 2007, they are still protected under the Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Acts.  In North Carolina, Wildlife Resources Commission biologists continue to monitor and identify the locations of new bald eagle nests and provide technical guidance to landowners about how to protect bald eagles and their nesting sites.

(Peucaea aestivalis)

The Bachman’s Sparrow is state listed North Carolina Special Concern.  Habitat loss and fire suppression are considered the most significant threats to the Bachman’s sparrow. In general, prime habitat is mature pine stands that are frequently burned. Sparrows will abandon a site if fire is excluded for more than three years.  For these reasons, in North Carolina this bird is found only in the coastal plain and is highly restricted to managed longleaf pine stands.

(Aegolius acadicus)

The Northern Saw-whet Owl is state-listed North Carolina Threatened.  Northern Saw-whet Owls are forest birds. One of the most common owls in forests across northern North America, and the smallest owl in eastern North America saw-whets are highly nocturnal and seldom seen.

(Sphyrapicus varius)

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is state listed North Carolina Special Concern. During winter this bird is fairly common throughout the state, but it nests only at middle and high elevations in the mountains. In summer, it breeds primarily where there are numerous dead trees, such as in recently burned or diseased areas, but it is mysteriously local in its distribution, being practically absent in some mountain counties. However, it is always associated in summer with mature and open stands of hardwoods, and never in dense forests.

(Certhia americana)

The Brown Creeper is state listed North Carolina Special Concern. In our state, it nests in the middle and higher elevations of the mountains; it winters statewide. As it nests essentially only beneath loose bark on tree trunks — no other North American bird does that — it requires mature forests, usually spruce-fir, but also in mixed forests.

(Dendroica cerulea)

The Cerulean Warbler is state listed North Carolina Special Concern. It is one of the more strongly declining songbirds in the eastern part of the United States. It was petitioned to list as Federally Threatened about a decade ago, but the petition failed, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service felt that the species was still too numerous to list. In North Carolina, nesting occurs mainly in the mountains, and along the Roanoke River.