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WINGS Birding Tours – Itinerary

North Carolina

Pelagics & Pineywoods

May - June 2025
with Skye Haas as leader
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Black-capped Petrel Photo: Skye Haas

Black-capped Petrel and Swainson’s Warbler on the same tour? This surf and turf frolic along the Outer Banks of North Carolina offers a diverse selection of sought after species on both land and sea. We’ll travel down the coastal barrier islands with their extensive sand beaches hosting American Oystercatcher and colonies of Least Tern and Black Skimmer, with bordering salt marshes riddled with egrets, Clapper Rail, and Seaside Sparrow. We’ll lodge in the town of Hatteras for our back-to-back day-long seafaring excursions aboard the Stormy Petrel II, a sturdy 61 ft vessel with 360-degree rail access. What makes Hatteras special is the Gulf Stream, whose warm tropical waters just a few hours from shore routinely support species such as Black-capped Petrel, Audubon’s Shearwater, Band-rumped Storm-Petrel, and jaegers. Rarities such as Fea’s Petrel and other Pterodromas, White-tailed Tropicbird, and Masked Booby are possible. After our two days of pelagic magic, we’ll turn inland to the Pineywoods with their diverse collection of southern warblers, including Swainson’s, as we search for the North American breeding endemic Bachman’s Sparrow, Brown-headed Nuthatch and the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker.

Day 1: The trip begins at 6 p.m. with a meeting in the lobby of our Norfolk, Virginia airport-area hotel. Night in Norfolk.

Day 2: We’ll drive 2.5 hours south to North Carolina’s Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, a rich lowland cypress swamp forest full of breeding Carolina Chickadees, Great Crested Flycatchers, Red-headed Woodpeckers, and Prothonotary, Prairie, Pine and Hooded Warblers. The refuge is home to a large number of Black Bears, and they are often observed. And of course, there are American Alligators present, along with the more approachable Eastern Box Turtle. In the afternoon, we’ll bird the barrier island habitats of Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. Along the ocean side sand beaches and the bayside marshlands, we’ll see waterbirds like American Oystercatcher, Eastern Willet, Least Tern, Black Skimmer and Brown Pelican. Night in Hatteras.

Day 3-4: We’ll board the Stormy Petrel II on both days for our exploration of the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. We’ll look for specialty deep-water seabirds such as Black-capped Petrel, Audubon’s Shearwater and Band-rumped Storm-Petrel, along with the more widespread Atlantic species including  Great and Cory’s Shearwaters, Wilson’s Storm-Petrel, Long-tailed and Pomarine Jaegers, South Polar Skua, as well as Arctic and Bridled Tern. Rare species encountered multiple times on past tours include Trindade and Fea’s Petrels, White-tailed and Red-billed Tropicbirds, and Brown and Masked Boobies. There have even been on occasion special rarities such as European Storm-Petrel and Bermuda Petrel. A pelagic trip here in late May offers the best chance one has to see these species in ABA waters. Cetaceans such as Short-finned Pilot Whale, Spotted and Bottlenose Dolphins are regularly observed, as are, on occasion, Sperm Whale, False Killer Whale and both Cuvier’s and Gervais’s Beaked Whales. Other marine life often encountered includes Loggerhead and Leatherback Sea Turtles, various shark species, Ocean Sunfish and schools of flying fish. Nights in Hatteras.

Day  5: We’ll bird our way off the barrier islands via multiple ferries, each trailed by flocks of Royal, Common and Sandwich Terns augmented by hundreds of Laughing Gulls. We’ll visit several different types of salt and freshwater marshes to look for species like Black-necked Stilt, Gull-billed Tern, King and Clapper Rails, waders such as Tricolored Heron and both Glossy and White Ibis, Seaside Sparrow and Boat-tailed Grackle. We will also keep our eyes open for Wilson’s Plover and Least Bittern. Night in Morehead City.

Day 6-7: We’ll explore the longleaf pine savannas of the Croatan National Forest, managed with controlled burns to create habitat conditions ideal for the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker. Brown-headed Nuthatch, Eastern Towhee, Blue Grosbeak, Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Wild Turkey, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, and Brown Thrasher thrive here as well. Two local specialty species will be prime targets, Bachman’s Sparrow in the pineywoods and Swainson’s Warbler in nearby bottomland tangles. Other warbler species we’ll likely encounter include Worm-eating, Yellow-throated and the southeastern race of Black-throated Green Warbler known as “Wayne’s Warbler”. Birds such as Northern Bobwhite, Summer Tanager, Acadian Flycatcher, and Painted Bunting are all possible. Butterflies abound, ranging from the huge Giant Swallowtail to the tiny Little Metalmark, and many others. Herpetofauna we’ll likely observe include Eastern Rat Snake, Eastern and Striped Mud Turtle, and Eastern Narrowmouth Toad. Night in Morehead City.

Day 8:  We’ll return to Norfolk, VA, a drive of 3.5 hours, where the tour concludes.   

Updated: 20 September 2023


  • 2025 - Not Yet Determimed
  • (2024 Price was $4,190)


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Questions? Tour Manager: Sara Pike. Call 1-866-547-9868 (US or Canada) or (01) 520-320-9868 or click here to email.

* Tour invoices paid by check carry a 4% discount. Details here.

Maximum group size seven with one leader.

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