Tennessee & Kentucky: Winter 2016–2017

1 December–28 February

Chris A. Sloan

Brainard Palmer-Ball, Jr.

Recommended citation:

Sloan, C. and Palmer-Bell, Jr., B. 2020. Winter 2016–2017: Tennessee and Kentucky. <https://wp.me/p8iY2g-98L> North American Birds.

Climatic conditions during winter 2016–2017 were overall mild, with variable precipitation during the season. The average temperature during December was very close to normal at all major recording stations for Kentucky and west Tennessee, and slightly above average for the rest of Tennessee.  However, January and February were much warmer than normal, with average temperatures roughly 7–8°F higher than normal and 9–10°F higher than normal at all major recording stations other than east Tennessee during January and February, respectively. Most of the region received slightly more than one-and-a-half times the normal amount of precipitation during December and January—the exception being the far west, where Paducah received about three-fourths the normal amount of precipitation during January. February turned somewhat dry, with most major recording stations recording roughly one-half to about three-fourths the normal amount of precipitation. As a result of the mild temperatures during mid-winter, very little snowfall was reported anywhere in the region during the season.

It was the second winter in a row with an above-normal number of reports of lingering migrants and summer residents across the region. In Kentucky, these included Sora, Spotted Sandpiper, American Bittern, House Wren, Henslow’s Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Lark Sparrow, Orange-crowned Warbler, Cape May Warbler, and Yellow-throated Warbler. In Tennessee, these included Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Common Gallinule, Spotted Sandpiper, American Bittern, Green Heron, Cattle Egret, Osprey, Blue-headed Vireo, White-eyed Vireo, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, House Wren, Grasshopper Sparrow, Lark Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Yellow-breasted Chat, Baltimore Oriole, Ovenbird, Orange-crowned Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Palm Warblers, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and Dickcissel.

Rarities in Tennessee included Eurasian Wigeon, Thayer’s Gull, Iceland Gull, White-faced Ibis, Ash-throated Flycatcher, and Spotted Towhee. The lone rarity in Kentucky was a Say’s Phoebe. Winter finches were very scarce, although Red-breasted Nuthatches were present in above-average numbers for the first time in four years.

Cited Contributors (sub-regional compilers in boldface)

Chris Agee, Deb Anderson, Sharon Arnold, Gary Bailey, Jamie Baker (JBa), Matthan Beachy, Jane Bell (JBe), Pat Bell, Carol Besse (CBs), Warren Bielenberg, Clay Bliznik (CBl), Eric Bodker (EBo), Ray Bontrager (RBo), John Brunjes (JBr), Evan Buck (EBu), Kevin Calhoon (se. Tennessee), Phillip Casteel, Robert Chadwick (RCh), Hap Chambers, Mary Clark, Robert Colvis (RCo), Lisa Combs, Bobbi Davis (BDa), Roseanna Denton, Steve Denton, Bruce Dralle (BDr), Tom Durbin, Melissa Easley, Dean Edwards, Bates Estabrooks, Chuck & Lola Estes (C&LE), Tom Ewing, Harry & Sue Farthing (H&SF), Frank Fekel, Bambi Fincher, Caleb Fligor, Graham Gerdeman, Steve Graham, Teresa Graham, Mark Greene, Lisa Gyure, Joe Hall (JHa), Erin Harper (EHa), Cheryl Hiers, Janet Howard (JHo), Tom Howe, Susan Hoyle (SHo), Eddie Huber (EHu), Susan Hubley (SHu), Lisa Hughes, William Hull, Aaron Hulsey, Robert Ingle, Sonya Jackson, Jeff Jones (JeJ), Joel Jones (JoJ), Gail King, Richard L. Knight (RLK) (e. Tennessee), Tim Kreher, Joe Lacefield (JLa), David Lang (DLa), Ed LeGrand, John Lewis (JLe), Douglas Logan (DLo), Charlie Logsdon, Frank Lyne, Dax Manley, James Mason (JMa), Morton Massey (MMa), Kelly McKay (KMc), Janet McKnight (JMc), N.P. “Mac” McWhirter (NPM), Susan McWhirter, John Meredig (JMe), Keith Michalski (KMi), Mark Monroe, Charles Murray, Justin Nation, Robin Nation, Ken Oeser, Brainard Palmer-Ball, Jr., Sydney Penner, Charlie Plush (CPl), Gary Pogue, Josh Powell, Dick Preston, Bill Pulliam (BPu), Tommy Quarles, Reuben Raber, Pete Range, Doug Raybuck, Geoff Roberts, Tommie Rogers, Jeffery Rose, Cyndi Routledge, Steve Routledge, Michael Ryon, Beth Schillings, Katie Sellers (KeS), Kathy Sellers (KyS), Damien Simbeck (DSi), Zachary Slinker, Chris A. Sloan (CAS), Mike Smith, Dan Snell (DSn), Jennifer Snyder (JSn), Jeff Sole (JSo), Pam Spaulding, Stephen Stedman, Jack Stenger (JSte), Ruben Stoll, Victor Stoll, Del Striegel (DSt), Jay Sturner (JStu), Colin Sumrall (CSu), Dave Svetich (DSv), Faye Sykes, Wayne Tamminga, Mark Tower (MTr), Marilee Thompson (MTh), Michael C. Todd (MCT) (w. Tennessee), Greg Tomerlin, Alan Troyer, Chloe A. Walker (CAW), Nolan Walker, John Walko, Clay Walters, Robert Wheat, Eric Williams (EW), Terry Witt (TWi), Libby Wolfe, Ted Wolff (TWo), Stefan Woltmann (SWo), Seth Wright (SWr), Brian Wulker, Ben Yandell, Mary Yandell, Stephen Zipperer (middle Tennessee).


Barren River Lake (Allen/Barren, KY); Britton Ford (Britton Ford, Big Sandy Unit, Tennessee N. W. R., Henry, TN); Cross Creeks (Cross Creeks N. W. R., Stewart, TN); Duck River (Duck River Unit, Tennessee N. W. R., Humphreys, TN); Long Point Unit (Long Point Unit Reelfoot N. W. R., Fulton, KY); Sauerheber (Sauerheber Unit Sloughs W. M. A., Henderson, KY).


Peak counts of Greater White-fronted Goose from the traditional wintering locales in Kentucky included 8750 at Sauerheber 14 Dec (CPl); up to 8530 at Ballard W. M. A., Ballard during the last week of Dec (RCo); and 1900 at the Long Point Unit 4 Jan (GP). Also of interest were tallies of 8000 and 10,000 at Doug Travis W. M. A., Carlisle, 31 Jan and 3 Feb, respectively (TK). Further interesting reports of this species in Kentucky included 11 along McGill Wyan Road, Laurel 22 Dec (CBl); 40 at Lake Linville, Rockcastle 23 Dec (JSo); 500 southwest of Owensboro, Daviess 23 Jan (SG, TG); and at least 1000 south of Rumsey, McLean 23 Jan (SG, TG). Peak counts of Snow Goose in Kentucky included 15,000 north of Sauerheber 5 Jan (KMi) as well as impressive tallies of 80,000 and a near state record high count of 150,000 at Doug Travis W. M. A., Carlisle, 31 Jan and 3 Feb, respectively (TK). In addition, a very unusual movement appeared farther east than normal 17–18 Jan, with more than a dozen reports of flocks of 25–1000 from the central part of Kentucky, most in flight headed southwest and west. In subsequent days, the following abnormal high counts were also reported farther west: 3000 southwest of Owensboro, Daviess, and 8000 south of Rumsey, McLean, both 23 Jan (TG, SG). It is thought that these birds were displaced in some way by inclement weather along the Mississippi River flyway (fide JBr). In middle and east Tennessee, where Snow Geese are uncommon, small flocks were widely reported in December; 23 found during the Chattanooga C. B. C. 17 Dec (fide KC) furnished one of the highest counts ever for Hamilton, TN.

In recent years, the number of reports of Ross’s Goose has continued to increase. Also, the number of reports of birds that appear to be hybrids or back-crosses has increased; however, the blurred line between hybrids and “good” Ross’s is confusing, and the authors have tended to be more inclusive of small, but slightly odd-looking birds being reported herein as Ross’s. In Kentucky, one to at least 65 Ross’s Geese were reported at 15 locales; the high count of at least 65 came from the Lower Hickman Bottoms, Fulton 13 Feb (BPa). In Tennessee, one to 41 were reported from at least thirty-five locations across the state! One to 7 Cackling Geese were reported at seven Kentucky and four Tennessee locales during the season.

The blurred line between Mute Swans that are part of established populations, mostly originating from the Great Lakes, and those that simply represent local birds that are likely non-reproducing and simply feral has been difficult to distinguish. The authors now consider it likely that birds traditionally reported herein from n. Fayette, KY, the Reformatory Lake, Oldham, KY, and several locales in Shelby, KY may simply be feral birds originating from local collections. Up to 5 at Frankfort, Franklin, KY during the first week of Feb were more likely of origin from established populations (ph. RCh, et al.). The origin of other Mute Swans reported on eBird was not critically evaluated.

The wintering flock of Tundra Swans at Sauerheber peaked at 105 on 20 Dec (CPl), and there were three additional reports in Kentucky: 8 south of Rumsey, McLean 16 Jan (TG, SG) that had apparently been present for a couple of weeks according to local residents; 6 at Lake Reba, Madison 28 Jan (ph. RCh); and 6 at Spindletop Farm, Fayette 19 Feb (ph. DSv et al.). In Tennessee, there were eight reports from four locations: 2 at Duck River 29–31 Dec (JN, RS, VS, AT), with one still present 9–11 Jan (RW, et al.) and 19 Feb (CR, SR); one at Cross Creeks 9–18 Jan (RW), 10 Feb (CR, SR), and 23 Feb (CR, SR); a juvenile at Pinson Mounds S. P., Madison, TN 31 Jan–4 Feb (MMa, et al.); and 2 at Britton Ford 5 Feb (CR, SR).

Additional peak counts of waterfowl of interest in Kentucky included 1000 Gadwall in the Upper Hickman Bottoms, Fulton 1 Feb (HC, ME, JP); 520 American Wigeon at and immediately adjacent to the Long Point Unit 17 Feb (BWu, MMo, BPa); 1300 Green-winged Teal at Ballard W. M. A., Ballard 19 Dec (BWu, BPa, SG, TG); and 500 Hooded Mergansers on Lexington Reservoirs #2/#3 on 15 Dec (SP, DLa, et al.). Exceptional waterfowl tallies in Tennessee included 225 Redheads on John Sevier Lake, Hawkins, TN 15 Feb; 4000 Ring-necked Ducks on Reelfoot Lake, Obion, TN 20 Dec (MG); and 461 Greater Scaup at Pace Point, Big Sandy Unit, Tennessee N. W. R., Henry, TN 23 Dec (RS, VS), the last representing the second highest count ever for the state.  In addition, a tally of 140 Red-breasted Mergansers on Boone Lake, Sullivan/Washington, TN 19 Dec (RLK) was a noteworthy count for northeastern Tennessee.

A male Gadwall × Mallard observed at Somerset, Pulaski, KY during Nov was seen again 17 Feb (ph. RD). A male Mallard × Northern Pintail was present at Freeman Lake, Hardin, KY 16 Jan (ph. JSn). Blue-winged Teal are rare in the region during winter, so a total of four reports during the season was noteworthy: one at Reelfoot Lake, Obion 21 Dec (MCT); 2 at Duck River 31 Dec (AT); one at Barren River Lake, KY 9 Jan (†RBo); and one in White, TN 27 Jan (SZ). A male Eurasian Wigeon at Reelfoot Lake, Obion, TN 20 Dec (ph. MG) and another at Duck River 2 Feb (MMa) added to the approximately twenty state records.

Surf Scoters were found on four occasions in Kentucky: one above Kentucky Dam 13/17 Dec (AH/HC, ME); 2 on Lake Reba, Madison 20–25 Dec (ph. TQ, RCh, et al.); 2 on the Ohio River above Markland Dam, Gallatin 27 Dec (ph. WH); and 2 on Lexington Reservoirs #2/#3 on 23 Jan (CBl, ph. LC, et al.). In Tennessee, 15 on South Holston Lake, Sullivan 19 Dec (RLK) established a record high count for the state. Elsewhere, one to 12 were reported from a remarkable eight other locations in west and east Tennessee. There were four Kentucky reports of White-winged Scoter: one on Green River Lake, Adair 9 Dec (ph. RD); 5 on Green River Lake, Taylor 16 Dec (BPa, JBa); one on Lake Linville, Rockcastle 18 Dec (ph. RD); and 8 at Lexington, Fayette 1 Jan (ph. BY, MY, et al.). There were also four reports from Tennessee: one on Boone Lake, Sullivan/Washington 19 Dec (PR); 3 on Reelfoot Lake, Obion 20 Dec (MG), with 5 present the following day (DP); 2 at Steele Creek Park, Sullivan 21 Dec (MC); and 4 on the Tennessee River, Hamilton 12 Jan (BDr). There were only four reports of Black Scoter, all from Tennessee: one on the Watauga River, Carter 19 Dec (H&SF, m. ob.); 3 at Cherokee Dam, Jefferson 19 Dec (MMa) with one still present two days later (C&LE); one on Reelfoot Lake, Obion 20 Dec (MG); and one at Chester Frost Park, Hamilton 14-18 Jan (LW, m. ob.).

A male Long-tailed Duck on Kentucky Lake above the dam, Livingston 17 Feb (BPa, MMo, BWu) was the only one reported in Kentucky; in Tennessee, at least eight individuals were reported from six locations 11 Dec–12 Jan. Common Mergansers were again reported in above average numbers in northeastern Tennessee, with eight reports of one to 7 individuals 9 Dec–24 Feb; elsewhere in the state, there were six reports of one to 13 individuals 5 Dec–19 Feb.

Grebes through Terns

A Red-necked Grebe on Reelfoot Lake, Obion, TN 20 Dec (MG) was the only one reported. No Eared Grebes were reported away from the regular wintering location on South Holston Lake, Sullivan, where one to 2 were present 10 Jan–19 Feb (RLK, m. ob.).

A White-winged Dove was in Dyersburg, Dyer, TN 16 Jan (ph. KyS).

A Ruby-throated Hummingbird in Nashville, TN 10 Dec (GG) was a winter rarity for the region. Three Rufous Hummingbirds were present in Kentucky during the season: the immature female at Salt Lick Bend, Cumberland remained through the season (SJ); the immature male at Douglass Hills, Jefferson lingered to 19 Dec (BDa, banded BPa, et al.); and an immature male present at Taylor Mill, Kenton since sometime in October lingered to 4 Jan (TE, banded BPa, et al.). Three Rufous Hummingbirds were also documented in Tennessee: one in Fairview, Williamson 25 Sep–6 Mar (CR); one in Brentwood, Williamson 5–9 Dec (CR); and one in Antioch, Davidson 6 Dec (CR).

Virginia Rails were reported from two Kentucky locales: 2 heard at the Ken Unit Peabody W. M. A., Ohio 2 Jan (BPa, CBl) with 3 heard there 17 Feb (BPa, MMo, BWu); and 3 heard southeast of Martwick, Muhlenberg 2 Jan (BPa, CBl), with 2 heard there 17 Feb (BPa, MMo, BWu), and one heard there 18 Feb (CBl). In Tennessee, there were four reports: 2 at Standifer Gap Marsh, Hamilton 17 Dec+ (TR); one at Nee Road Marsh, Gibson 23 Dec (MG); one at Chota Refuge, Monroe 28 Dec (BE); and one at Gupton Wetland, Roane 24 Feb (EL). Single Soras heard at different spots southeast of Martwick, Muhlenberg, KY 2 Jan (BPa, CBl) represented a first for the state during winter; one of these birds was heard calling again 17/18 Feb (BPa, BWu, MMo/CBl). A Sora was also reported in Blount, TN 10 Dec (TH). A Common Gallinule along Riverport Road, Shelby, TN 22 Dec (†DLo) furnished Tennessee’s second winter record.

Local peak counts of Sandhill Crane at the two major wintering/staging locales in Kentucky included 13,000 at Barren River Lake 19 Dec (WT) with 12,400 there 9 Jan (WT), and 13,600+ w. of Cecilia, Hardin 29 Jan (EHa) with ca. 12,000 there 9 Feb (CL). A tally of 18,879 Sandhill Cranes at Hiwassee Refuge, Meigs, TN during the Hiwassee C.B.C. 2 Jan (fide KC) established a record high count for the state. A Whooping Crane in Warren, TN 6 Dec (NPM, SM) was the only one reported away from Hiwassee Refuge, Meigs, TN, where 2 were present 28 Dec (TWi) and one was present for the Hiwassee C.B.C. 2 Jan (fide KC).

Single Greater Yellowlegs were reported in Knox, TN 28 Dec (SHo) and at Laurel Hill W. M. A. 14 Jan (BS, MMa). There were two reports of Lesser Yellowlegs: one at the Ensley Pits, Shelby, TN 18 Dec (JW) and 2 in Union, TN 21 Jan (MR). A Pectoral Sandpiper in the Lower Hickman Bottoms, Fulton, KY 17 Feb (BPa, BWu, MMo) established a new early arrival date for the state by four days; 2 at Camp Jordan, Hamilton, TN 22 Feb (BDr) were also exceptionally early.

As is the norm, small numbers of Least Sandpipers lingered at Kentucky Lake, Calloway and Marshall, KY and likely wintered; other reports of interest included up to ca. 12 lingering at Frogue Pond, Todd, KY into mid-Dec, with one lingering there to 11 Feb (ph. SA); small numbers at Guthrie Swamp, Todd, KY to 26 Dec (ph. SA); one north of Franklin Crossroads, Hardin, KY 22 Jan (ph. BPa, ph. BWu); 3 west of Miller, Fulton, KY 13 Feb (BPa); and 4 in the Lower Hickman Bottoms, Fulton, KY 27 Feb (JP). A tally of 379 at the Ensley Pits, Shelby, TN 20 Dec (JW) was a relatively high mid-winter concentration for Tennessee.

Two Spotted Sandpipers were found at the Pfeiffer Fish Hatchery, Franklin—where one wintered last year—18 Dec (JeJ, JoJ) with one there 30 Dec (†GR). There were two additional reports: singles at Gibson County Lake, Gibson, TN 13–22 Dec (MG) and along the Cumberland River at the mouth of Wolf Creek, Russell, KY 20 Jan (SD fide RD). A Dunlin at Old Hickory Lake, Nashville, TN 19 Feb (PC, MS) was a rare winter find in middle Tennessee.

A tally of 1900 Bonaparte’s Gulls at Barren River Lake 13 Feb (RBo) represented a local high count. An adult Little Gull was at Reelfoot Lake, Lake, TN 16–17 Dec (MCT, ph. CAS, et al.). Single Laughing Gulls were at Gibson County Lake, Gibson, TN 6 Dec (MG) and at Reelfoot Lake, Obion, TN 21 Dec (DP). A Franklin’s Gull at Ft. Loudoun Lake, Knox/Blount, TN 18–21 Dec (JStu et al. / DE) was rare for east Tennessee and rare anywhere in the region during winter. Three Thayer’s Gulls were reported: one at Duck River 31 Dec (†RS); a first-cycle individual at Paris Landing S. P., Henry, TN 15 Jan (†MG, JHa); and a second-cycle individual at Kentucky Dam 8 Feb (ph. BPa). A first-cycle Iceland Gull at Pickwick Dam, Hardin, TN 19 Dec (†/ph RS, VS) established approximately the eighth state record. Away from the Kentucky Lake area, where small numbers are now present every winter, there were three Tennessee reports and one Kentucky report of Lesser Black-backed Gull.

As is the norm, a few Forster’s Terns appeared to winter on Kentucky Lake, Calloway and Marshall, KY; also reported were 2 on Lake Barkley at Devil’s Elbow, Trigg, KY 19 Feb (JP).

Loons through Falcons

Single Red-throated Loons were found at Paris Landing S. P., Henry, TN 14 Dec (MCT); at Pace Point, Big Sandy Unit, Tennessee N. W. R., Henry, TN 18 Dec (BPu); and on Woods Reservoir, Franklin, TN 18 Jan (NPM, SM)—interestingly, 2 Red-throateds were there 11 Feb (DSn), along with a single Pacific Loon. The only other reports of Pacific Loon were of one on Reelfoot Lake, Obion, TN 21 Dec (MCT, MG) and 2 on J. Percy Priest Lake, Davidson, TN 21-24 Jan (GT, m. ob.).

The mild winter resulted in an above-average number of American White Pelicans lingering on Lake Barkley, KY and Kentucky Lake, KY through the season. In addition, a flock of 7 on Dewey Lake, Floyd, KY 19 Dec (ph. ZS) was exceptional for the eastern portion of the state. American White Pelicans are also becoming increasingly common during winter in eastern Tennessee, with a high count of 60 this winter at Hiwassee Refuge, Meigs 12 Feb (CM).

Three American Bitterns were quite unusual for the season: one at Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains N. P., Sevier, TN 20–21 Dec (ph. FS, m. ob.); one at Spindletop Farm, Fayette, KY 10 Jan (ph. DSv); and one at Norton Commons, northeast Jefferson, KY 8–12 Feb (ph. PB, JBe, et al.). One to 7 Great Egrets lingered at five Kentucky locales into mid-December, with four later reports: one in the vicinity of Guthrie Swamp, Todd to 4 Jan (ph. SA); one at the Lexington Reservoirs #2/#3 from 15 Dec–4 Jan (DLa, SP, et al.); one at Debord Pond n. of Monticello, Wayne 8 Feb (ph. RD); and one at Cave Lake, Wayne 18 Feb (†RBo). A Green Heron at Centennial Park, Nashville, TN 23 Dec–21 Feb (CH, m. ob.) and a Cattle Egret at Ted Rhodes Golf Course, Nashville, TN 18 Feb (KeS), were both also very rare for the season. A Green Heron also apparently wintered at Pumphouse Pond, Pulaski, KY, where a bird has also been reported twice in previous years; this individual was seen 12 Jan and 15 Feb (†/ph. RD). A White-faced Ibis at Duck River 27 Dec (ph. VS) established only the third winter record and approximately the 16th overall for Tennessee.

An extraordinarily early Osprey was below Kentucky Dam 28 Feb (†RS, VS). There were an exceptional three winter records in Tennessee: one at Warrior’s Path S. P., Sullivan 22 Nov–19 Dec (GB, BF); one to 2 at Knoxville area lakes through the season (m. ob.); and one at Crooked Branch Park, Nashville, TN 31 Dec (PC, MS). An adult Northern Goshawk was found in Gibson, TN 9 Jan (†MG). A Harlan’s Hawk was at Bogota W. M. A., Dyer, TN 1 Dec (VS, RS).

One to 3 Golden Eagles were reported at the traditional wintering locale at Bernheim Forest, Bullitt/Nelson, KY during the season (m. ob.); also reported in Kentucky were singles along the Kentucky River near Gratz, Owen 1 Dec (RR) and at the Long Point Unit 18 Dec (†JHa, †GK). In Tennessee, four were reported during the Big Sandy C.B.C. in Henry, TN 18 Dec (fide BPu), and four others were reported from regular wintering locations. Formerly regular in small numbers across at least central and western Kentucky each winter, Rough-legged Hawks have become a relatively good bird anywhere in the region over the past 10–15 years; one in northeast Daviess, KY 17 Dec (MTh fide JHo) was the only one reported in the entire region during the season.

One to 2 Barn Owls were reported at four Kentucky locales during the season; in addition, birds were detected in four nest boxes at the Sinclair Unit Peabody W. M. A., Muhlenberg 15 Feb (EW). Four Barn Owls were reported from three Tennessee locations. One to 11 Short-eared Owls were found at eight, mostly traditional, Kentucky locales; up to 6 at Perryville Battlefield State Historical Site, Boyle, KY during early Feb (JLa et al.) and one northeast of Zula, Wayne, KY 10 Feb (RBo) were local firsts. Long-eared Owls are rare in Tennessee: one originally found in late Nov was still at Hop-In Refuge, Obion 2 Dec (MG), and another was found in Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains N. P. 1 Jan (ph. TH).

There were reports of single Merlins from more than two dozen Kentucky locales and over twenty Tennessee locales, some now becoming traditional for wintering. Peregrine Falcons were reported on eleven occasions from eight Tennessee counties, including 2 at Paris Landing S. P., Henry, 22 Dec (RS, VS).

Flycatchers through Dickcissels

An Ash-throated Flycatcher, Tennessee’s eighth, was at Radnor Lake S. N. A., Nashville, TN 9–21 Dec (ph. SWr, m. ob.). A Say’s Phoebe was present south of Bloomfield, Nelson, KY 25 Jan (ph. DM, et al.). Remarkably, at least 7 Blue-headed Vireos were reported in Tennessee during the season, including 5 from Shelby; this season’s reports likely exceeded the total of all prior winter records for the state! A White-eyed Vireo, also rare during winter, was at Champey Pocket, Reelfoot Lake, Lake, TN 17 Dec (MG, VS, RS). A tardy Tree Swallow was at Lake Peewee, Hopkins, KY 5 Dec (TG, SG); 3 at Frogue Pond, Todd 8 Feb (AT) were the earliest spring birds reported in Kentucky. A Northern Rough-winged Swallow was a rare winter visitor at Randolph Landing, Dyer, TN 1 Dec (RS, VS).

A Black-capped Chickadee was present at Yatesville Lake W. M. A., Lawrence, KY 21 Jan/6 Feb (BPa, ph. BWu, JSte, DSv, ph. LC/JSo, DLa, CBl) where the species seems to occur somewhat regularly during flight years. Red-breasted Nuthatches were well distributed region-wide during the season (e.g. one to 23 reported on 23 Kentucky C. B. C.s), but numbers did not seem as high as during late fall, suggesting that many birds continued farther south to winter.

It was another exceptional winter for House Wrens in the region, with no fewer than 21 individuals reported from at least 15 locales in Kentucky, and at least 11 individuals reported from ten Tennessee locations; as would be expected, most reports were from the southern and western portions of the region. A Marsh Wren was heard southeast of Martwick, Muhlenberg, KY 2 Jan (BPa, CBl). Three Marsh Wrens were found in Tennessee: one in Hawkins 1 Nov–7 Dec (SHu); one at Champey Pocket, Reelfoot Lake, Lake 17 Dec (MG, VS, RS); and one in Blount 21 Jan (TH). Three Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, rare during winter, were reported from Tennessee: one at Sequoya Park, Knox 5 Dec (ph. CSu); one at Champey Pocket, Reelfoot Lake, Lake 17 Dec (MG, RS, VS); and one in Benton 18 Dec (BPu, VS, JH).

An injured Gray-cheeked Thrush was found on the Anchorage Trail, Jefferson, KY 18 Dec (ph. PS, JBe, PB, CBs). A Gray Catbird wintered on the Anchorage Trail, Jefferson, KY (ph. TQ, RCh, et al.), and four were reported from Tennessee: one at Gupton Wetland, Roane 11 and 28 Dec (EBo); one at Lakeshore Park, Knox 8 Dec (EBu); one at Bells Bend Park, Nashville 25 Jan (FF); and one at Shelby Bottoms, Nashville 8 Feb (JLe). A tally of 360 American Pipits south of Bailey’s Point, Barren River Lake, Allen, KY 9 Jan (RBo) was a noteworthy high count for the region.

Purple Finches lingered through the season in slightly above-normal numbers, with one to 28 reported on 24 Kentucky C. B. C.s. Seven Red Crossbills at Cookeville, Putnam, TN 15 Jan (SS) were remarkable away from the mountains of the eastern portion of the state. Pine Siskins continued to be very scarce during the season, with only a handful of reports of small numbers, mostly singles, at feeding stations during the season (eBird data).

For the first time in a number of years, a Smith’s Longspur returned to the field where the species formerly wintered regularly at Cates Landing, Lake, TN 16–17 Dec (MCT, m. ob.).

An impressive tally of 176 Chipping Sparrows on the Somerset C. B. C. 31 Dec (fide RD) certainly represented an all-time high C. B. C. count for Kentucky. Only 2 American Tree Sparrows—singles at Tiptonville, Lake 17 Dec (MG, RS, VS) and at Bogota W. M. A., Dyer 17 Feb (SZ)—were reported from Tennessee, where this species is much less regular than in Kentucky.

A Grasshopper Sparrow in Loudon, TN 27 Feb (†EBu, CW) was a rare winter visitor. A Henslow’s Sparrow flushed at West Kentucky W. M. A., McCracken 19 Dec (†BPa, BWu) represented a second-ever documented report for Kentucky during the winter. One to 2 Le Conte’s Sparrows were found at four Kentucky locales during the season; in Tennessee, a high count of 6 was found at Bogota W. M. A., Dyer 1 Dec (RS, VS). A Lark Sparrow was quite an exceptional find on the north side of Lexington, Fayette, KY 2 Jan (DSv, ph. LC), and 2 were found in Wilson, TN 2 Jan (JN, RN, CA, SZ).

Vesper Sparrow is a rare find in Kentucky during winter, so reports from three locales were unusual: up to 5 just east of Guthrie, Todd 14–15 Dec (†BPa, ph. SA) with 4–5 at the same locale 16–23 Feb (ph. SA); 8 northwest of Zion, Todd 16 Dec (†AT); and up to 6 north of Dot, Logan 8 Jan–19 Feb (ph. FL). Vesper Sparrows are equally rare in Tennessee during winter, but they were widely reported across Tennessee this season, including a remarkable 13 on the Savannah C. B. C. in Hardin 28 Dec (DSi, et al.). A Lincoln’s Sparrow was reported at West Kentucky W. M. A., McCracken, KY 30 Dec (†KMc, †TWo); singles were also reported at the Harpeth River Greenway, Nashville, TN (FF) and at Duck River (JN), both 4 Dec. A male Oregon [Dark-eyed] Junco wintered for the second year in a row in a yard at Douglass Hills, Jefferson, KY (ph. MY, BY). A Spotted Towhee at Gibson County Lake, Gibson, TN 27 Dec (ph. MG) furnished approximately the 20th record for the state.

A Yellow-breasted Chat in Davidson, TN 14 Dec+ (KeS) was exceptional for winter.

Fifteen to 20 Western Meadowlarks were found east of Hickman, Fulton, KY 13 Feb (ph./vo. BPa), with a few continuing in the area through the month (m. ob.), and typically small numbers were reported from several regular wintering locations in western Tennessee. A few Brewer’s Blackbirds at Oscar, Ballard 14/17 Feb (ph. BPa/BPa, BWu, MMo) were the only ones reported in Kentucky. Away from expected areas in the western part of the state, there were four reports from Tennessee: one on the Chattanooga C. B. C. 17 Dec (†TR); one at Link Road Swamp, Humphreys 31 Dec (RS); 3 at Bakersville, Humphreys 12 Jan (DSi) and 2 at Cedar Hill Swamp W. M. A., Robertson 25 Feb (CAW, NW, RI). Two Baltimore Orioles, rare during winter, were reported: one at Amnicola Marsh, Hamilton, TN 14 Jan (LG) and one at Maryville, Blount, TN 28–29 Jan (ph. DA).

An Ovenbird at Knoxville, TN 6 Jan (ph. JMa) had apparently been present for a few weeks; this represents only the sixth winter record for the state. Again this winter, there was a remarkable number of reports of Orange-crowned Warblers in the region, with no fewer than 14 individuals detected in Kentucky, most in the western portion of the state, and at least 24 individuals found in Tennessee. Singles along Dry Branch Road, s. Fayette 17 Dec (DR, †MTr, CF) and at the Rockcastle River W. M. A., Pulaski 16 Jan (†RD) were the farthest east to be reported in Kentucky. Five Common Yellowthroats were reported: singles at Kingsport, Sullivan, TN 14 Dec (RLK); in Lake, TN 17 Dec (MG, RS, VS); south of Smiths Grove, Warren, KY 24 Dec (†AH); near the Paradise Power Plant, Muhlenberg, KY 2 Jan (ph. SG, TG); and north of Sauerheber 28 Jan (†JMe). A Yellow Warbler at Austin Peay State University, Clarksville, Montgomery, TN 6 Jan (ph. SWo) furnished only the third winter record for the state. A male Cape May Warbler was present at Horse Cave, Hart, KY 22 Dec–25 Jan (ph. JR).

An impressive flock of 35 Palm Warblers east of Flaherty, Meade, KY 30 Dec (ph. EHu, DSt, BPa) still contained as many as 31 into early Jan (ph. BPa); an individual of the Eastern race (S. p. hypochrysea) was in the company of this large group 30 Dec–4 Jan (ph. BPa). Palm Warblers were present in above-average numbers from Tennessee, with over 50 individuals reported from across the state. A Yellow-throated Warbler at the Western Kentucky University Farm, Warren, KY 20/21 Dec (†TD/AH) represented a first for the state during Dec.

An out-of-season Rose-breasted Grosbeak was in Rutherford, TN 21 Jan (LH). Similarly, four out-of-season Dickcissels were reported from feeders in Tennessee: one in Maryville, Blount, 27 Dec–3 Jan (ph. WB); one in Hendersonville, Sumner 2 Jan (ph. KO); and one in Loudon 23 Feb (JMc). There were two reports of Indigo Bunting in Kentucky: singles southeast of Mt. Zion, Allen on an unspecified date during Dec (MB) and southeast of Science Hill, Pulaski 31 Dec (†RBo).

Report processed by Amy Davis, 30 Oct 2020.

Photos–Tennessee & Kentucky: Winter 2016–2017
Hover or click on each image to read the caption.