Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park
91 Bartlett Park Road
Middlesboro, KY 40965

Situated in far southeastern Kentucky, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park offers another alternative for excellent woodland songbird study. Winter can be relatively inactive, but migratory periods are excellent, especially along the Park’s “Ridge Trail.” During the breeding season, woodland songbirds, especially warblers, are abundant. Commonly encountered species include northern parula, yellow-throated, worm-eating, black-and-white, ovenbird, and hooded. Swainson’s warblers are locally distributed in some of the moister, rhododendron-filled gorges. The park also offers some higher-elevation bird watching where the Ridge Trail attains an altitude of 3,000 feet or more. In these areas, a few rare Kentucky breeding birds can be found including veery, black-throated blue warbler, Canada warbler, rose-breasted grosbeak, and dark-eyed junco. The best areas lie between Hensley Settlement and White Rocks. Hiking the Ridge Trail is also a good place to hear or see common ravens, which occur regularly in Kentucky only in the southeastern mountains.

One unique bird watching opportunity at Cumberland Gap is the chance to view migrating raptors. The Pinnacle Overlook, prominently marked on park maps, is an excellent vantage point for scanning open skies for hawks as they migrate along the Cumberland Mountain ridge. Numbers of hawks are highest on sunny days in September and October, but some movement can be detected on many days from August into November and again from late March to mid-May. At least 10 raptor species have been observed migrating over the Park; most prominent is the broad-winged hawk migration during the latter two weeks of September, but also seen regularly are bald eagle, osprey, and peregrine falcon.

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