Return to map

Reelfoot area west

Birding Seasons:
Spring A
Summer C
Fall A-
Winter A+

View Larger Map


Submit a sighting via or

Site Description and Habitats

The "pits" are low areas excavated to build the adjacent Mississippi River Levee. They are shallow depressions alongside Levee Road and are surrounded by cultivated farmland. The "pits" may be planted in crops if water levels permit. When flooded, they are used by a variety of birds. Surrounding farm fields often hold water in wet conditions and can be very birdy.

Bird species of interest

Spring and Fall Migration: Shorebirds and waterbirds can be abundant and diverse. Waterfowl may occur on any flooded areas. Least and Black Terns may be found foraging over fields or resting on the roads, esp. if the Mississippi river is high. Birding along the levee in May is great for Baltimore and Orchard Oriole, Warbling Vireo, while Bobolinks are in the tall grass along the levee.

Mississippi Kite, Horned Lark

Winter: Waterfowl are common to abundant, Bald Eagles, Horned Lark, Savannah Sparrow, Northern Harrier, Lapland Longspur, Short-eared Owl (roosting in ditches).

Year-Round: Horned Lark, Barred Owl, American Kestrel, Loggerhead Shrike

Rarities Seen at this Site: Glossy Ibis, White faced Ibis, White Ibis, Trumpeter Swan

Species list via eBird Hotspot Explorer - Ibis Hole and Earl Trim Rd.

Species list via eBird Hotspot Explorer - Phillippy Pits

Species LIst via eBird Hotspot Explorer - Levee Rd, Phillippy Rd

Submit your data to eBird here

Detailed directions for birding Phillippy Unit:
From the light on Hwy 78 in Tiptonville, take Hwy 78 northeast 8.9 miles to the town of Phillipy (look for sign) and turn left on Levee Phillipy Rd (name in Google Maps, but can be labeled as Cates Landing Rd.). Follow this road to the first intersection (Earl Trim Rd) and bird the farm fields to the Mississippi Levee Road. Back track to Earl Trim Rd and make a right, going south (you can’t go north). The “ibis hole” is one of the low areas on the right side of Earl Trim Rd, which has had all 3 species of ibis.

Drive Earl Trim Road and along the road on top of the levee. All the rural roads here are worth checking out. If you go north on the levee road, you cross into Kentucky and there's no signage, but there is a lake on your right called Lake #9, which is in Kentucky, and can be excellent for waterfowl in winter. By driving the levee south a little, you can get views of the Mississippi River floodplain.

All the low areas may have shorebirds or waterfowl in season and should be checked. The farm fields can be covered in Savannah Sparrows, Horned Larks, and American Pipets, and occasionally flocks of Lapland Longspurs are found in winter. Short-eared Owls are regular here in winter, often seen in the last couple hours of daylight as well, sometimes roosting in dry ditches or in the fallow ag fields, while Northern Harriers are regular during the day on the levees and fields. These fields can also be covered with tens of thousands of Snow Geese, with mixed in flocks of Greater White-fronted Greese and Ross's Geese. Check blackbird flocks for Rusty Blackbirds. Western Meadowlark occurs regularly here in wintrer as well.

In early to mid-May, birding along the levee is excellent for Baltimore and Orchard Oriole, Warbling Vireo, while Bobolinks are often flushed from the tall grasses along the levee.

Lat-Long (GPS) coordinates
Mississippi River levee at the Pits: 36.4837, -89.4058
Ibis Hole on Earl Trim Rd: 36.477171, -89.395287

Other excellent sites in the area include:
Black Bayou Refuge - Phillippy Unit

Fees and Hours
No fees are required to access these areas. The areas are accessible during daylight hours year round.

Watch for truck traffic on levees. For tips for safely watching wildlife during hunting seasons and year round please refer to TWRA Hunting Guide about hunting seasons and public access dates.

There are no restroom facilities.

Info for other sites
Tennessee’s Watchable Wildlife web site