Winter Birds of High Rock Lake

by | Feb 8, 2022 | High Rock Lake

We Have Pelicans on High Rock Lake!

Rowan County, specifically High Rock Lake, is a refuge for many feathered winter visitors including the American White Pelican. These flock migrant birds are believed to be from central U.S. likely Texas, find their way to our lake each year, between October and April. A perfect viewing spot is just below the High Rock Lake dam, Tuckertown reservoir off Bringle Ferry Road. The latest count from N.C. Audubon Society suggests there are approximately 96 white pelicans calling HRL home for the winter.

Why? They love our shallow lake, with protected coves that offers a smorgasbord of their favorites – minnows, shiners, and crustaceans.  Watching these huge white birds, which can be up to 70” tall, with their recognizable long flat bill and black wing tips capture fish in their large-pouched bills is a sight to see.

By the way, when Pelican’s feed, they take in both water and fish, then hold their bills vertically to drain out the water before swallowing their fresh fish.

Joining these out-of-the-ordinary birds are the Tundra Swan, “Whistling Swan” is the only native swan in the east. These large all-white birds, with a black bill, straight neck, and a small yellow spot in front of the eye is normally intermingled with the pelicans during their winter break.

Many of us that live on High Rock Lake and those that visit, are mesmerized by sightings of our national bird, the American Bald Eagle. Luckily, I live near Eagle Point Nature Preserve and have the opportunity to watch these magnificent birds fish and soar to their hearts content, and our gratitude.

Did You Know Rowan County has 174 Identified Species of Bird?

Check out this impressive listing of our neighboring feathered friends, the number of each species is included:

Ducks, Geese & Swans (21) Chickadees (2) Swallows (2)
Kinglets (2) Vultures (2) Grebes (2)
Doves (3) Cranes (2) Sandpipers (4)
Gulls & Terns (5) Pelicans (2) Herons (7)
Kites, Eagles & Hawks (8) Owls (4) Woodpeckers (7)
Flycatcher (6) Vireos (4) Wrens (3)
Jays, Crows & Ravens (4) Finch (4) Cardinals (6)
Wood Warblers (18) Orioles (6) Thrushers (5)
Sparrows (10 New World) Nuthatches (3) Mockingbirds (3)


One of each species for the following: cuckoos, goatsucker, swift, hummingbird, coot, limpkin, plover, loon, stork, darter, cormorant, new world quail, osprey, Barn owl, kingfisher, Falcon, shrikes, lark, sparrow, waxwing, treecreeper, gnatcatcher, starling, and wagtail.

I have placed a couple of bird feeders on our property at the lake, but is there more that I can do?

Birds have three main requirements in life—food, water, and cover—which should be met through proper management of our collective backyard habitats.

Native Foods

The bird species in our area and their food requirements change seasonally. In the spring, both migrant and resident birds feed on caterpillars and other invertebrates present on new plant growth. Large oaks, black cherry, and willows harbor many insects and spiders and are favored as foraging sites by orioles, tanagers, vireos, and warblers during spring migration.

During the late spring and summer, breeding birds continue to feed on invertebrates but also eat fruits as they become available. Black willow, a moisture-loving tree, harbors many insects during the summer. Insects and spiders are especially important to young songbirds born in the spring and summer because these foods fill the birds’ protein and calcium requirements for bone and tissue growth.

As migrant birds and their offspring fly south in the fall, they seek out fruits, which are high in energy and help offset the energy lost during migration. In the fall, North Carolina’s year-round resident birds are joined by short-distance migrants, which breed in the northern United States and Canada and winter in the state. Winter residents, including cardinals, chickadees, juncos, robins, and sparrows, primarily eat fruits and seeds that persist on plants or on the ground. Yellow-rumped warblers, also known as myrtle warblers, eat the fruits of the wax myrtle in the winter.

What Can We Do With Our Landscaping For Wildlife?

Choices must be made in your backyard just as they are made in managing larger properties. Do you want to focus on providing habitat for species that prefer taller trees and a shady understory or species that thrive in sunny landscapes? Preventing disturbance and wildlife mortality from dogs and cats, planning food and cover sources in close proximity, and managing against nest competitors such as the house sparrow should be considered when planning your landscape.

Landscaping your home site with native wildflowers and shrubs will make it attractive to many species of butterflies and songbirds. Hummingbirds are particularly attracted to red or orange tubular flowers such as trumpet creeper, honeysuckle, cardinal flower, columbine, bergamot, and red buckeye. Other songbirds will use fruits and seeds of shrubs such as viburnum, American beautyberry, silky dogwood, and spicebush. Butterflies are attracted to native flowers such as milkweeds, coneflowers, phlox, mints, blazing stars, and asters.

Creating zones of progressively taller wildflowers and native grasses and transitioning to shrubs and small trees between small lawns and wooded areas can be an attractive way to provide cover for wildlife. Many native fruit-producing shrubs and small trees are suitable for planting in “islands” to break up extensive areas of lawn. Other techniques such as brush piles or half cutting are more suitable for back corners and hidden nooks. Actions that replace monocultures of grass (lawn) with more diverse plants are a step in the right direction to benefit wildlife

The Carolina Bird Club Organization declares we have 363 species of bird in the Carolinas.

With all of these species, perhaps it’s time to pick up a pair of binoculars and check out some of our best bird watching locations in Rowan County such as Eagle Point Nature Preserve or the N.C. Audubon Birding Trail for walking and viewing trails and for I.B.A. {Important Bird Area}, that are habitats for a few species that are of concern, such as Brown-Headed Nuthatches. These gentle darlings need pinewoods for survival, shelter, and food.


Consider donating and learning more about the birds in our backyard by going to https://www.audubon.org/  or https://www.carolinabirdclub.org/

I would love to hear from you on what your favorite lake activity is, or someone that you would like me to feature in 2022. Please email me at highrock@YourRowan.com

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About The Author

Joyce Caron-Mercier

After three decades of working in the motorsports industry from track and team management to public relations, and overseeing sponsorship and driver contracts within NASCAR, NHRA, IndyCar and World of Outlaws competition, Joyce wanted more. She came to ACS Charlotte in February 2020 as the staff lead for the annual Taste of Hope Charlotte gala. Joyce’s role encompasses event production, sponsorship cultivation and implementation, public awareness, and interaction with the Charlotte gala Board of Ambassadors, and launched the Young Professionals CLT ABOA in 2022. Joyce and her husband Paul of 32 years discovered High Rock Lake, situated between Rowan and Davidson Counties, and quickly became full-time lake residents on North Carolina’s second largest lake with their two Great Danes, Max and Molly. Joyce writes a monthly blog for Your Rowan, a county marketing initiative to share the positive attributes of Rowan County with its residents and visitors. Joyce’s blog and social handles are called ‘Joyce on the Lake’. Being community minded is important and I serve as Secretary on the Board of Directors for the High Rock Lake Association, High Rock Lake Clean Sweep, and assist the Rowan Chamber with their annual Dragon Boat Festival.