Important Bird Areas

Black and Great Craggy Mountains

North Carolina

The Black and Great Craggy Mountains
Important Bird Area is located northeast of Asheville. This site includes primarily high-elevation forests above 1,373 m
(4,505 feet). The key feature in this Important Bird Area is Mt. Mitchell, which, at 2,039 m (6,690 feet), is the highest
point in the eastern United States. Six peaks within the Black Mountains have elevations over 1,830 m (6,004 feet). The
highest point in the Craggies is Craggy Dome at 1,856 m (6,089 feet). The site is one of the most significant examples of high-elevation forest and natural communities in the southern Appalachians.

Ornithological Summary

This site includes a great diversity of birds. Ninety-one species of nesting birds have been recorded. Breeding birds include: Black-throated Blue warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Canada Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Winter Wren, Pine Siskin, Dark-eyed Junco and others can be found at appropriate locations throughout the IBA. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, N. Saw Whet Owl and Alder Flycatcher are significant species in the site. The Bull Creek area is one of North Carolina's most significant area for Cerulean Warblers, but this is being addressed in a separate IBA (see Bull Creek). This is one of the few places where Hermit Thrushes occur during the breeding season. Black-capped Chickadees occurred in the area, but it is widely agreed they are no longer present. The high elevation forests and balds are significant and represent a classic high elevation assemblage of birds (Criteria 3).

Conservation Issues

Air pollution, introduced disease and pests, deforestation and tree cutting, residential and commercial
development on private lands.

Acid rain threatens many of the highelevation spruce-fir forests (Abies fraseri and Picea rubens),
weakening the trees and making them susceptible to disease and pests such as the balsam wooly adelgid (Adelges piceae). Air quality is also likely impacting calcium uptake as in other high-elevation areas. Changes in the forest caused by acid rain and insect infestation has resulted in the disappearance of species (Black-throated Green, e.g.) from some areas, and possibly increases in others (Hermit Thrush).

Ownership

Portions of the Important Bird Area are within the Pisgah National Forest, Pisgah Game Lands, Mt. Mitchell State Park, National Park Service (Blue Ridge Parkway), and private ownership. The state and federal lands are afforded at least some degree of protection.

Habitat

Northern hardwood forest, mountain bald, rich cove forest, hemlock forest, montane oak-hickory forest, mountain cliff, spruce-fir forest. The spruce-fir forests occur on the higher slopes of the Black Mountains and are generally absent from the Great Craggy Mountains. The high slopes of the Great Craggies are dominated by heath bald with rhododendron and blueberry, and northern hardwood forest with beech, buckeye, mountain ash and red oak. Logging has occurred in many areas throughout the region, but virgin stands of spruce, fir and yellow birch are present.

Land Use

Conservation, water supply, recreation and tourism, hunting, fishing.

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