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Shelby Bottoms Greenway and Nature Park,
Shelby Park

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Spring and Fall Neotropicals

Nest Box Study

Shelby Bottoms/Shelby Park

Directions/Bird Finding

Area Bird Checklist

Neotropical Fall CountsNeotropical Spring Counts
Wetland pond at Shelby Bottoms.

Photo by Deborah Beazley

View of the wetland pond with the observation tower in the background.

Location: Three miles northeast of downtown Nashville, in a section of the city referred to as East Nashville, along the west side of the Cumberland River, Davidson County, Tennessee.
Physiographic Province:  PIF 14 (Interior Low Plateaus [Central Basin]); BCR 27 (Southeastern Coastal Plain)

Tennessee IBA Site Map - Shelby Bottoms
Geographical Coordinates: 
    Shelby Park--Lat. 361019W  Long. 864347W
Elevation:  384’ to 505’
    423' Shelby Park
Size: 1,110 acres

Description:  Shelby Bottoms Greenway and Nature Park is an 810-acre linear park approximately three miles long and one-half mile wide. Shelby Park marks the southern boundary, a residential area the western edge, the Cumberland River the east side, and Cooper Creek and another residential area define the northern boundary. The landscape is mostly flat alluvial floodplain with small upland areas and is drained by several deep ravines. Approximately 75% of the area is mowed or irregularly mowed fields that had been in agricultural use before the area became a park in 1994. The wooded area includes some upland forest with Shumard, Red, White and Bur oaks as well as hickories, hackberry, and elm. The bottomland habitat includes a variety of oaks and hickories with beech, ash, elm, and Sweetgum. Several large stands of native cane line the ravines. The aquatic features include an old beaver pond/wetland, a small pond/wetland with recent beaver activity (2005) on the north end, a small frog pond, two restored ponds, some natural wetland areas, and the Cumberland River. The Bottoms, which has a north and south entrance with parking areas and orientation signage, includes approximately eight miles of paved multiuse greenway trail and five miles of mulched trails, an observation platform, and river overlooks.
    Shelby Park is one of the oldest parks in Nashville. Originally operated as a private amusement park until it went bankrupt in 1903, the Park Board purchased the land in 1909 and opened it to the public on July 4, 1912. This 290-acre park is bound by Shelby Bottoms Greenway and Nature Park, railroad tracks, residential areas, and the Cumberland River. Habitats include a narrow mature deciduous tree-lined river bank, patches of old evergreens, deciduous hills, nature trails, open recreational areas consisting of softball fields, golf course, picnic areas, dog park and parking areas, and Sevier Lake.

IBA Criteria: 3, 4f, 5

Yellow-breasted Chat

Photo by Deborah Beazley

The Yellow-breasted Chat is a common nester in the secondary growth in the Bottoms.

Ornithological Importance:   Lying along the Cumberland River within a major metropolitan city, Nashville, these sites establish a 4.5-mile continuous tract of woodlands along the Cumberland River. It was recognized for its birding attraction, especially during migration, long before it was acquired by the city in 1994. Some 217 species have been recorded. Wetlands and grasslands are two important habitats. Northern Harrier, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and Vesper Sparrow, all Tennessee In Need of Management species, occur annually (1994-2005) (Hickory-Priest CBC; Phillip Casteel, et al.).
        Northern Bobwhite: A declining species in the area, is found mainly in the fields in Phase 3 and around the airport and occasionally in Phase 1 (Phillip Casteel).
       American Woodcock regularly use the Bottoms for courtship flights. In the period 1997-2005, the species has been censused in Phase 1 in two locations--on the Greenway Trail near the observation platform and between the boardwalk and the Cumberland River. Tallies were--1997 (6+ birds), 1998 (5+ birds), 1999 (5-7 birds), 2002 (7-8 birds), 2004 (5 birds), 2005 (4 birds), and 2006 (12 birds).
       Cedar Waxwings are seen in large flocks feeding especially along the tree shoreline of the Cumberland River during the fall and spring migration periods and have numbered to a thousand. High numbers include: May 13, 2001 (475) and May 10, 2003 (125). Nest: Shelby Park, July 25, 2003 (2 young) Phillip Casteel, Gary Casey.
    Note 1. Bottomland habitat attracts a number of wetland species.
        American Bittern:
  Recorded: March 30, 1999 (1), April 11, 1999 (2), April 24, 1999 (1), March 26, 2000 (1), and April 8, 2001 (1).
  Is found occasionally mainly in the fall. Fall records include: September 20, 1997 (1), October 4, 1997 (1), September 18, 1999 (1), October 2, 1999 (3), September 21, 2002 (1), and October 9, 2005 (1). Winter records: January 1, 2004 (1) and February 22, 2004 (1), different areas.
        Virginia Rail:
  Recorded: September 22, 2002 (1).
        Short-eared Owl:
  The species wintered January 1-February 28, 2004 (1).
        Willow Flycatcher:  At least one pair has been present during the breeding season in Phase 3 in 2004 and 2005.
        Sedge Wren:
  Seen regularly, generally 1-4 individuals, the only months not recorded are March, June, and July. It can be found wintering in Phase 1 around the shorebird pond and in Phase 3 near the airport. Nest: In the fall of 1999 a nest was found, but never contained eggs. This is only the second known nest of this species for Tennessee. Several other times apparent family groups have been observed. High numbers include: October 11, 2005 (8) and October 9, 2005 (7). Winter records include: December 25, 1997 (2), January 1, 2002 (1); January 1, 2003 (6), January 1, 2004 (2), and January 1, 2005 (1).
        Marsh Wren:  Occurs regularly, 1-2 individuals, mainly in May and October. Winter record: January 1, 2003 (1).
        Le Conte's Sparrow:
  The species wintered in the Bottoms in October-January (1999-2000), in 2001, and in 2003. Hickory-Priest CBC records: January 1, 2001 (2) and January 1, 2003 (2).
    Note 2. Significant species and numbers of neotropicals are detected in the migration periods. Spring counts in the period 2000-2005, averaged 41 neotropical species with all six counts exceeding 30 species. There were 2,498 neotropical individuals counted for an average of 416 individuals per count. Warblers totaled 475 birds (19% of the neotropicals) for an average of 79 warblers per count. Fall counts in the period 2000-2005, averaged 28 neotropical species with three counts exceeding 30 species. There were 1,349 neotropical individuals counted for an average of 225 individuals per count. Warblers totaled 423 birds (16.7% of the neotropicals) for an average of 71 birds per count. See Neotropical Fall Counts and Neotropical Spring Counts for summaries by year and by date.
    Neotropicals species in the spring period (2001-2002, 2005), exceeded 30 species in one survey in 2001, four surveys in 2002, and all four surveys in 2005, two of which totaled 50 species or more. Warblers equaled 20 or more species in one survey in 2002 and three surveys in 2005. Warblers exceeded 100 individuals twice in 2002. Neotropical species in the fall period (2001-2002), exceeded 30 species in one survey in 2001and one survey in 2002. See Spring and Fall Neotropicals for summaries by year and by date.
    Note 3.
This half-mile wide and 4.5 mile long strip of protected open and wooded bottomland between the Cumberland River and residential developments provides habitat for "bluebird" and "martin" nest box species. In the period 2000-2005, there were on average annually 20 "bluebird" nesting boxes and 1 "martin" box available. Purple Martin, Tree Swallow, Carolina Chickadee, and Eastern Bluebird used the boxes each year. See Nest Box Study for detailed summary of results.

Site Criteria



Avg. No Season

Max. No. Season

Years of Data



Habitat: Bottomland (See Note 1 above.)







Landbirds: Migratory (See Note 2 above.)SM, FM  


6, 7a, 7b


Monitoring: Nest Box Study (See Note 3 above.)






Season1   B = Breeding, W = Wintering, SM = Spring Migration, FM = Fall Migration
2   1-Atlas Breeding Birds of Tennessee  2-Breeding Bird Surveys
3-Christmas Bird Counts (
Hickory-Priest--Chris Sloan, compiler) 4-Point Counts  5-Refuge Counts
6-Personal observations (Sandy Bivens) 7-Other (a-Phillip Casteel, b-Nashville Chapter TOS, c-Vera Vollbrecht)

Ownership: Metro Nashville Parks and Recreation, Metropolitan Government of Nashville, Tennessee.
   Contact:  Bob Parrish, Superintendent, 50 Vaughn Road, Nashville, TN 37221, 615-370-8051 (Warner Park), 615-862-8418 (Centennial Park office), bob.parrish@nashville.gov

Conservation Concerns:  Serious concerns are vandalism of nest boxes and  introduced plants/animals. Potential concerns are water pollution, air pollution, predation, dogs off leach, and development of surrounding area.

Management Program:  Park Planning Documents--1) Warner Park Nature Center Master Plan, William Johnson, A.S.L.A., Tara Armistead, A.S.L.A., Hodgson and Douglas, November 1993; 2) Nashville and Davidson County, Metro Parks and Greenways Master Plan 2002, Wallace Roberts and Todd, LLC, Hawkins Partners, Inc.; 3) Shelby Bottoms Master Plan, Barge, Waggoner, Sumner and Cannon, Inc., 1994; 4) Site Assessment of Shelby Bottoms, Nashville, Tennessee, May 1994, Brian Bowen, Division of Natural Heritage, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation; and 5) Proposal for the Preservation of Shelby Bottoms, February 1994, Joseph McLaughlin, Cumberland-Harpeth Audubon Society, Nashville Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society, Tennessee Bird Club.
    Three separate wetland mitigation projects have been constructed in Shelby Bottoms to return habitat back into high-quality wetlands.
    The severe erosion along the banks of the Cumberland River is being controlled with natural materials and reintroduced native plants.
    Some of the old farm fields in Shelby Bottoms is being allowed to return to natural forest.

Submitted by: Sandy Bivens, Director, Warner Park Nature Center, 7311 Highway 100, Nashville, TN 37221, 615-352-6299, sandy.bivens@nashville.gov

Additional Contributors:  Vera Vollbrecht, vera.vollbrecht@nashville.gov. Deborah Beasley, Deborah.Beazley@nashville.gov

Approved as an IBA site:  December 2005--Yes 6  No 1

This page was last updated on 02/19/06.