The Highlands Plateau has long been known as a unique place for birds. The southern terminus of the higher elevation parts of the Appalachians, the Highlands Plateau hosts a wide variety of high elevation and northern species that reach their southern limit of distribution here. In the cool hemlock and white pine stands of the plateau, birds normally found up in the spruce fir forest find their homes here. Brown Creeper, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and Red Crossbill all call the Plateau home. Mixed with them are a variety of wood warblers like Blackburnian, Black-throated Blue, and Canada Warblers. Veery, Wood Thrush, Scarlet Tanager, and Rose-breasted Grosbeak help round out the list of 90 or so breeding species on the Highlands Plateau.
Another interesting characteristic of the Plateau is that it is also been a tourist and second home destination for more than a century. The small towns of Highlands and Cashiers are embedded in this IBA, making it one of the few IBAs with whole towns within its boundary. While visiting Highlands it is easy to see and hear Red Crossbills and Pine Siskins flying over Main Street, or to see Rose-breasted Grosbeaks in the church parking lot downtown, or to have Black-Throated Blue Warblers in the parking lot of the Bascom, the fine art museum in Highlands.