Not only is Kennesaw Mountain a fascinating historical site, but it provides some of the best viewing of migrant passerines anywhere in the south. Up to 20 species of warbler can be seen on a good spring day. Daily numbers are not as high in fall, but the season is stretched out longer to make up for it.
In late April and September, I watch for nights in which rain moves through the area. Then I head up to Kennesaw the next morning, knowing the weather will force down loads of migrants, including warblers, tanagers, thrushes, and vireos. On really good days, I have seen as many as 25 warbler species and great numbers of Scarlet Tanagers, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, several species of vireo, and other wonderful birds.
Kennesaw is also a reliable spot for Cerulean Warblers. I usually see them almost every day in the second half of April or during August. They are very early fall migrants. (You can also find Cerulean Warblers along Whiskey Hollow Road in Baldwinsville, New York.)
Kennesaw is an easy place to bird, too. I just walk up and down the mountain road, watching for movement in the large trees to my left and right. Sometimes the flocks are on the downhill side, so I get to view beautiful canopy species like Blackburnian Warblers at eye-level. — Giff Beaton
Mature mixed forest, primarily deciduous, with open scrubby areas.
Paved 1.5-mile road can be steep in places.
Mostly passerine migrants: warblers, vireos, tanagers, grosbeaks, buntings, and flycatchers. Cerulean Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, and Philadelphia Vireo are reliable in the right season. Regular rarities, about annual: Black-billed Cuckoo, Warbling Vireo, Olive-sided Flycatcher, and Connecticut Warbler. Mega-rarities: MacGillivray’s, Virginia’s, and Black-throated Gray Warblers, Bell’s Vireo, and Alder Flycatcher.
When to go
Spring migration (April to mid May, peak Apr. 15-May 5) and fall migration (late July to late Oct., peak Sept. 5-Oct. 10). Ceruleans peak in August. Best in mornings, from gate open until 10:30.
Historical exhibits, books and souvenirs, and vending machines in visitor center. Restrooms open 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Bird walks at 7:30 a.m. Saturdays and Wednesdays during second half of April and September, during prime migration. Check with the park for dates.
National park. Admission and parking free. Gate open 7:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Road leading up mountain is open 8:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m. weekdays, passenger cars only. On weekends, a bus runs to the top every 30 minutes starting at 9:30 a.m. Bus is not wheelchair-accessible, cost $2. Call or check website for latest on road access.
Bring binoculars, water, snacks. If it rains during the morning and you can be in the park when the rain stops, the birding can be spectacular.