Best Bird Watching Destinations In Alabama (Free & Paid)

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Birding In Alabama

Do you enjoy partaking in many wonderful birding in Alabama experiences? Or are you looking to vacation or go on a bird watching excursion in this region in the near future? I spent countless hours discovering the perfect resources to help you meet all of your bird watching and Alabama birding tour needs.

In addition to birding in Alabama, we also have resources for bird watching destinations in the nearby states of Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee. And, be sure to check out our best birding scope article to arm yourself with a great birding scope to view your favorite birds up close.

And better yet? The information that I’m about to share below will tell you about the top hiking trails, pertinent address and phone number related information, hours of operation, and much more. This incredibly valuable resource will help you determine the ideal birding destination to visit the next time you travel to Alabama.

Bird Watching Destinations In Alabama: Free Destinations

Will you be traveling through Alabama soon? Or do you already live in this beautiful state? Through countless hours of research, I rooted out the perfect free birding destinations to visit the next time you and your friends decide to go bird watching in the Cotton State.

Dauphin Island Audubon Bird Sanctuary – Free Entrance

Why do I love Dauphin Island so much for bird watching? It’s considered one of the most legendary bird watching hotspots in the area. The weather is often perfect for this type of wonderful experience, and when birds cross the Gulf of Mexico to come back home, they typically tend to land on Dauphin Island as their first stop, which makes it a great place to see countless numbers of wild bird species in one happening location.

Location:

213 Bienville Blvd.
Dauphin Island, AL 36526
Phone: 251-861-3607
Fax: 251-861-5092

GPS: 30.2543° N, 88.1124° W

Hours Of Operation:

The Audubon Bird Sanctuary at Dauphin Island is open every day from 7 AM to 7 PM.

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Great Blue Heron
  • Eastern Bluebird
  • Eastern Kingbird
  • Brewer’s Blackbird
  • Red-Winged Blackbird
  • Osprey
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Snowy Egret
  • Marbled Godwit
  • Red Knot
  • Piping Plover
  • Nelson’s Sharp-Tailed Sparrow

Hiking Trails:

I’m happy to tell you that through research and personal experience, I was able to discover four exciting hiking and biking trails on Dauphin Island. These trails are perfect for those who want to get out and exercise, have a fun time while bird watching, and experience the sights and sounds of nature in this beautiful bird sanctuary.

The names of the hiking trails include:

  • Dauphin Island Bicycle Trails – even though these trails are relatively long and certainly designed for bicycles, you certainly won’t have a problem if you decide to hike along this easy trail that covers a great distance. In fact, the trail’s total length is 16.5 miles, which is quite long. If you were to walk the entire trail from beginning to end, it would take about six hours and 40 minutes to complete.
  • Island Shell Mound Park – this is the shortest trail and most likely the easiest that I am about to share with you today, which means even couch potatoes should have no trouble traversing this trail. It’s only 0.3 miles long, which should only take you about 10 minutes to finish.
  • Dauphin Island: West End – this is another really long hiking trail that is certainly bicycle friendly as well, and the trail itself is a little bit rougher because according to my research, it’s moderately difficult. Overall, the total length of the trail is 16.8 miles in distance, which is certainly a hike if you ask me. At the end of the day, it will take around six hours and 45 minutes to complete this trail on foot, and obviously it’s a lot faster to complete this trail on a bicycle.
  • Dauphin Island Audubon Bird Sanctuary – this is the main trail in the bird sanctuary that I know you’re absolutely going to love because it’s easy but it’s a little bit challenging since it’s almost 2 miles long. The total distance is 1.9 miles, which should take an average walker about 45 minutes to finish from one end to the other end.

Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge – Free Admittance

I learned visiting this refuge is a very rewarding experience because it has lots of dunes, a beach, and shrub habitats and woodlands and it’s filled with many creatures and birds that visit the Gulf Shore. It’s also a lively town filled with tourists, which makes it an excellent place to visit if you’re looking for a new bird watching vacation spot. It’s also the Snowy Plover’s nesting area, which is a beautiful sight to behold because it’s definitely difficult to come across this threatened bird species in the wild.

Location:

12295 State Hwy. 180
Gulf Shores, AL 36542
Phone: 251-540-7720
Fax: 251-540-7301

GPS: 30.2409° N, 87.8245° W

Hours Of Operation:

The refuge trails are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year. At the moment, the visitor center of the wildlife refuge is currently closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Call them to find out when they will reopen.

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Snowy Plover
  • Pine Warbler
  • Common Ground-Dove
  • Brown Pelican
  • Osprey
  • Brown-Headed Nuthatch
  • Northern Gannet
  • Palm Warbler
  • American Redstart
  • Red-Eyed Vireo
  • Western Grebe
  • Sooty Shearwater

Hiking Trails:

After performing thorough research, I can tell you that I found 5 hiking trails for you to walk, bike, or hike along in Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, and although they vary in distance, all of these trails are relatively easy to traverse and navigate.

The names and other pertinent information about these hiking trails include:

  • Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge – all in all, this is a very easy trail to walk along because the area is clear, there aren’t too many hills in your path, and the ground is flat and easy to travel upon. The total length of the trail is 2 miles in full distance, which is only going to take you about 45 minutes to an hour to complete.
  • Centennial Trail – also a really easy trail to walk along, this beautiful hiking destination provides scenic views of the beautiful birds in the area, the water, and all of the gorgeous wildlife. The trail is 5 miles long, but since it’s easy to navigate, it will only take about two hours and five minutes to complete.
  • Gator Lake Trail – the common theme is that all of these trails are very easy to navigate because the people that care for the national wildlife refuge make sure that they’re clearly defined, free of debris and other potential hazards, and straightforward from a navigational perspective. This particular trail is 1.6 miles long, which can take the average walker about 40 minutes to complete from beginning to end.
  • Jeff Friend Loop Trail – I also like this trail because it’s very easy to walk along because it’s well cared for and simple to navigate. But even more important, this is a relatively short trail at 0.9 miles in total distance. That means a regular couch potato or a person that doesn’t walk or hike too often can still complete the trail in about 20 minutes to a half an hour, depending on how fast you can walk.
  • Pine Beach Trail – I also think this is a really great trail although it’s definitely longer than the one mentioned previously. The total distance of this trail is 3.5 miles long, which the average Joe or Jane can complete in about an hour and 25 minutes walking from one end to the other.

Gulf State Park – Free Admittance, Paid Beach Parking

I don’t know about you, but I always love visiting popular bird watching destinations that also happen to be next to a beach, or on the beach for that matter. In this case, Gulf State Park is a great place to go in the summer for spring breakers, families, and everyone in between. You’ll particularly enjoy this destination if you like birding with other tourists because there are many amazing birds to discover in this gorgeous location.

Location:

20115 State Park Rd.
Gulf Shores, AL 36542
Phone: 251-948-7275
Fax: 251-948-7726

GPS: 30.2684° N, 87.6342° W

Hours Of Operation:

The visitor center and office are open from 8 AM to 4 PM each day. The trails and picnic areas are open from sunrise to sunset.

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Black Scoter
  • Common Loon
  • Bonaparte’s Gull
  • Eastern Phoebe
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Black Skimmer
  • Osprey
  • Gray Catbird
  • Loggerhead Shrike
  • Snowy Plover
  • Eastern Bluebird
  • Yellow Rail

Hiking Trails:

I recently found out that one of the best things about visiting Gulf State Park Is the amazing hiking trails. They vary in distance and some are definitely easier to navigate than others, and some are harder than others because they are longer and they present more difficult terrain. But no matter what, you’ll definitely enjoy the beautiful bird watching expeditions along these exciting hiking trails.

The names of the hiking trails and other important information are as follows:

  • Armadillo Trail – easy difficulty, 1.4 miles, 35 minutes to complete
  • Sawgrass Trail – easy difficulty, 0.9 miles, 25 minutes to complete
  • Rattlesnake Ridge to Rosemary Dunes to Shelby Lake Loop – moderate difficulty, 12.9 miles, five hours and 15 minutes to complete
  • Cross Park Trail – easy difficulty, 1.6 miles, 40 minutes to complete
  • Gulf Oak Ridge, Cross Park, and Bobcat Branch Loop – moderate difficulty, 8.1 miles, three hours and 20 minutes to complete
  • Bear Creek Trail via Gopher Tortoise Trail – easy difficulty, 1.7 miles, 45 minutes to complete
  • Catman Trail – easy difficulty, 4.2 miles, one hour and 45 minutes to complete
  • Rattlesnake Ridge Trail – easy difficulty, 3.2 miles, one hour and 20 minutes to complete
  • Beach Mouse Bypass – easy difficulty, 1.9 miles, 45 minutes to complete
  • Rosemary Dunes Trail – easy difficulty, 4.2 miles, one hour and 45 minutes to complete
  • Cotton Bayou, Rosemary Dunes, and Catman Loop – easy difficulty, 5.5 miles, two hours and 15 minutes to complete
  • Gulf Oak Ridge Trail – easy difficulty, 5.5 miles, two hours and 15 minutes to complete
  • Gopher Tortoise Trail – easy difficulty, 2.2 miles, 55 minutes to complete
  • Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail – easy difficulty, 12.2 miles, five hours to complete

Parking Fees:

  • $3 – 2 hours for personal vehicles 
  • $5 – 4 hours for personal vehicles 
  • $10 – all day for personal vehicles 
  • $15 – all day for passenger vans 
  • $30 – all day for buses or large RVs 
  • $100 – Annual Pass Parking Decal (valid for one calendar year with expiration of December 31st annually) 
  • Free Annual Pass for Veterans (valid for one calendar year with expiration of December 31st annually)

Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge – Free Entrance

I really think you’re going to like this wildlife refuge located at the border of Georgia and Alabama. In fact, there is one unit on the Georgia side, but the bulk of the wildlife refuge remains in Alabama. It has a gorgeous reservoir, open fields, shrubbery, wetlands, woodlands, and other beautiful habitats.

Location:

367 Highway 165
Eufaula, AL 36027 
Phone: 334-687-4065 
Fax: 334-687-5906

GPS: 31.997012°N 85.08894°W

Hours Of Operation:

The administration office is open from Monday through Friday between 8 AM and 4:30 PM. The refuge itself is open from sunrise to sunset, every day of the week.

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Brown-Headed Nuthatch
  • Bald Eagle
  • Sandhill Crane
  • Northern Harrier
  • Osprey
  • Wild Turkey
  • Northern Bobwhite
  • White-Eyed Vireo
  • Orchard Oriole
  • White-Throated Sparrow
  • Brown Creeper
  • American Goldfinches

Hiking Trails:

If you like hiking, then you’ll be happy to learn that I found out that there are four easy hiking trails to walk along in Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge.

The names of these hiking trails are as follows:

  • Nature Trail – easy difficulty, 0.5 miles, 30 minutes to complete
  • Molnar Road – easy difficulty, 0.8 miles, 40 minutes to complete
  • Molnar Road Trail #2 – easy difficulty, 1.1 miles, 45 minutes to complete
  • Sneads Pond Trail – easy difficulty, 1.2 miles, 45 minutes to complete

Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge – Free Bird Watching

After spending time in Huntsville, Alabama this year, I discovered Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge and I am happy to say that this really is a great place to go birding. It’s close to Decatur and Huntsville, and there are more than 260 species of birds in this wildlife habitat throughout the year. Refuge visitors can explore woods, hardwood swamps, open lakes, and other areas throughout the natural wildlife habitat.

Location:

3121 Visitor Center Rd.
Decatur, AL 35 603
Phone: 256-353-7243

GPS: 34°33′28″N 86°57′06″W

Hours Of Operation:

Refuge center hours are as follows:

  • November through February – 9 AM to 5 PM seven days per week
  • March through October – 9 AM to 4 PM Tuesday through Saturday and closed on Sunday and Monday

The visitor center is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and July 4.

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Prothonotary Warbler
  • Barred Owl
  • Pileated Woodpecker
  • Whooping Crane
  • Sandhill Crane
  • Cerulean Warbler
  • Great Crested Flycatcher
  • Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher
  • Yellow-Throated Vireo
  • Whip-Poor-Will
  • Acadian Flycatcher
  • Louisiana Waterthrush
  • American Woodcock

Hiking Trails:

Even though I really like this beautiful place, it isn’t the best place to visit if you’re looking to experience a plethora of hiking trails. Although they have two relatively short hiking trails that are less than 2 miles each, they are easy to navigate, easy to traverse, and they span beautiful areas in nature.

The name of these hiking trails are as follows:

  • Flint Creek Trail – this easy trail isn’t too tough to navigate and it’s relatively short at 1.6 miles long. It would take the average person around 40 minutes to complete the trail from beginning to end.
  • Beaverdam Swamp Boardwalk – this hiking trail is even easier to navigate because it’s really short at 1.1 miles long. The average person can complete this friendly trail in about a half an hour, which is great if you aren’t an avid hiker but want to get some exercise while watching birds.

Bird Watching Destinations In Alabama: Paid Destinations

Cheaha State Park – Paid Admission

I really think you’re going to enjoy Cheaha State Park in Talladega National Forest because it’s the highest point in Alabama located high up in the Cheaha Mountain Range. Birders love this point because they know it’s a great place to see their favorite birds out in the wild. This region is special because it’s a low country wetland area and home to many nesting species of birds.

Location:

19644 Hwy 281
Delta, AL 36258
General Info: 256-488-5111
Lodging: 1-800-610-5801
Campground: 256-488-0030

GPS: 33.4701° N, 85.8133° W

Hours Of Operation:

The office is open from 7 AM CDT to 9 PM CDT every day. The trails are open from sunrise to sunset every day.

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Pileated Woodpecker
  • Prairie Warbler
  • Ovenbird
  • Wild Turkey
  • Wood Thrush
  • Blue Grosbeak
  • Brown-Headed Nuthatch
  • Hooded Warbler
  • Worm-Eating Warbler
  • Eastern Wood Pewees
  • Hermit Thrush
  • Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

Hiking Trails:

In Alabama, I discovered another incredible location with a wide array of easy, moderate, and hard hiking trails to traverse as you travel along the wilderness trails and view the amazing birds while hiking with family and friends. These trails are going to be right up your alley if you like spending time in nature watching wildlife in its natural habitat.

The names and other important information about these trails are as follows:

  • Cheaha Mallon (Alabama High Point) – easy difficulty, 1 mile, 25 minutes to complete
  • Cave Creek Trail Cheaha Mountain – moderate difficulty, 12 miles, six hours and 25 minutes to complete
  • Upper Spring Loop Trail – easy difficulty, 1.7 miles, 50 minutes to complete
  • Cheaha Wilderness 30 Mile Loop – hard difficulty, 28.9 miles, it takes multiple days to complete
  • Blue Mountain via Pinhoti Trail – moderate difficulty, 6.2 miles, three hours and 20 minutes to complete
  • Cheaha Mountain via Lake Trail – moderate difficulty, 3.3 miles, two hours and five minutes to complete
  • Rock Garden Trail – moderate difficulty, 1.4 miles, one hour and five minutes to complete
  • Cheaha Cave Creek Trail – moderate difficulty, 6.2 miles, three hours and five minutes to complete
  • (Doug Ghee) Bald Rock Boardwalk – easy difficulty, 0.6 miles, 15 minutes to complete
  • Pulpit Rock Trail – easy difficulty, 0.6 miles, 15 minutes to complete
  • Cheaha Mountain – Alabama Highpoint – moderate difficulty, 7.5 miles, three hours and 55 minutes to complete
  • Hernandez Peak and McDill Point – moderate difficulty, 4.7 miles, two hours and 35 minutes to complete
  • Cave Creek Trail from Cheaha Trailhead – moderate difficulty, 6.9 miles, two hours and 45 minutes to complete

Entrance Fees:

  • Veterans and active military – free but must show ID
  • 12 and older – $5
  • Age 4 through 11 – $2
  • Age 0-3 – free

Alabama Birdwatching Clubs

The Alabama coast is also another excellent place to see all kinds of gorgeous birds out in the wild. If you are a birder, you may want to experience these special moments and bird watching excursions with other like-minded people. Joining a birdwatching club in Alabama will make this experience even more enjoyable for you and your loved ones.

Alabama Audubon

The Audubon Society in Alabama has been in existence for 75 years and counting. This exciting organization is for people who are interested in learning about birds, their habitats, and promoting conservation in this state and around the globe. Join this wonderful organization today and connect with others interested in preserving and protecting the environment and nature’s bounty.

Past and Future Events

  • Online Course – Chimney Swifts on June 22 from 5:30 PM to 6:30 PM. You must register first to join the Zoom event. In the course, you will learn about chimney swifts, their ecology, the threats that they face, and more.
  • Virtual Birding Trip – on June 24 at 9 AM, visit this Facebook page to go on a virtual birding tour. You do not need to register as long as you show up at the Facebook page at the appointed time at 9 AM.
  • Nesting Bird Behaviors – this is an online course being held on July 7 between 5:30 PM and 6:30 PM. You have to pay for this course and it costs $20. Please visit here to register and pay for the event. You’ll learn all about nesting bird behaviors during this brilliant online course.

Membership Fees

The Alabama Audubon Society does not have specific membership fees in place. You have to pay $20 at a minimum to join the club. But you could pay $25, $50, $100, $250, $500, $1000 or you can donate an unspecified amount.

Please visit this page to learn more about becoming a member of the Alabama Audubon Society.

North Alabama Birdwatcher’s Society

This birdwatching group better known as NABS, for short, and first came into existence in 1976. It’s the only birding group in Northern Alabama and most recently, they stopped collecting dues so it’s free to become a member of this organization. Join this group if you’re looking to connect with other like-minded birders in the North Alabama region.

Past and Future Events

  • Swan Creek Wildlife Management – this is a regular trip that this group takes to the WMA. It’s a great location to visit to see a wide variety of waterfowl, songbirds, cranes, raptors, and more. On this trip you’ll see white pelicans, diving ducks, Canada geese, bald eagles, horned larks, and country songbirds all in one great location.
  • Wheeler NWR – this is also a great place to go to see a wide range of wildlife and birds. They have their Christmas Bird Count here every year and this group often participates. Overall, there are anywhere from 115-120 bird species in this precise location and you’re bound to see a lot of them so remember to bring binoculars.
  • Leighton Area Shorebird Trip – this trip was held at Wheeler Dam and it’s always a wonderful place to go if you’re looking to see lots of shorebirds. Some popular shorebirds include Piping Plovers, Willits, Avocets, Oystercatchers, and more are often ready and available to view during this birdwatching adventure.

Membership Fees

As I mentioned, the group no longer collects membership fees. Just join them on a few trips and they will automatically consider you a member of the Birdwatcher’s Society.

Alabama Ornithological Society

The AOS is a great organization that likes to get involved in a wide array of worthwhile activities. Due to the coronavirus, they are no longer hosting in-person events, but that will change soon enough. Becoming a member of this prestigious group is an honor and you’ll be happy to connect with other like-minded birders in your community.

Past and Future Events

The organization regularly holds fall, winter, spring, and summer meetings, although they mostly take place online at this time. Please check their events calendar here and stay on top of it to find out when they will be hosting in-person events again in the future.

Membership Fees

  • Student Membership – $10
  • Individual Membership – $25
  • Family Membership – $40
  • Sustaining Membership – $50
  • Individual Lifetime Membership – $350
  • Family Lifetime Membership – $550

To become a member of this organization, please visit this page on their website to join the group and become a new member or renew your current membership.

Or if you prefer, you can download and print their mailing form here. Fill it out, write a check in the appropriate amount made out to the Alabama Ornithological Society and mail both to the following address:

Joan Dixon
1059 Palmetto St.
Mobile, AL 36604

Final Thoughts About Alabama Birding Resources & Locations

There are many wonderful places to birdwatch in Alabama and this article is just a starting point. Go out and explore these places and when you come across more, please let us know as we’ll add them to this post!

Enjoy these great locations and watching Alabama birds in their natural habitat, please share this resource with friends, loved ones, and coworkers. If you love birding, then you’re definitely going to love these gorgeous locations scattered throughout the Yellowhammer State, Alabama!