Grandfather Mountain towers above its surrounding region with a 1,500-foot vertical drop into the Linville River Valley to the west and a 4,000-foot vertical drop into the Catawba River basin to the east. It is these extreme variations in elevation on Grandfather that create conditions to support 16 distinct Ecological Communities ranging from rich cove forests and acidic cove forests to heath balds and high elevation rocky summits.
Variations in terrain, soil, vegetation, wind, water, sunlight and microclimates create habitat for as many as 200 different bird species. About 100 of these are documented breeding colonies, which according to David Lee, former Curator of Birds at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences, is one of the highest number of breeding birds in the east.
Where to look
- The most convenient place to see birds is on the feeders outside the windows of the Nature Museum Restaurant. There you will see an abundance of the birds native to the area such as Nuthatches, Tufted-Titmice, Carolina Chickadees and Juncos.
- We recommend the Profile Trail for woodland species such as Warblers (especially in spring), Scarlet Tanagers, Louisiana Water Thrushes and a number of varieties of Vireos.
- We recommend the Black Rock Trail for the species native to the high elevation spruce fir ecosystem. Pine Siskins, Kinglets, Winter Wrens, Magnolia Warblers, Hermit Thrushes and Peregrines are all frequent flyers in the Black Rock area.