With 28 sites in a 9 county region in West Alabama, you’ll find lakes, deep forests and free-flowing rivers, all filled with a wide variety of birds.

From the campus of the University of Alabama, to the Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge, the ruins of two Civil War era ironworks and a wide swath of National Forest, prepare for the unexpected.

Any season can turn up great birds. But this part of Alabama holds some particularly interesting finds during the summer months, when birding can be quiet in other parts of the state. Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, Swallow-tailed Kites and Wood Storks are commonly seen during the hottest part of the year.

Arcola Boat Ramp

West Alabama | Hale | Best Seasons: Fall, Spring, Summer, Winter
Hale Co Bottoms - 6

The Arcola Boat Ramp is essentially the only public-access area in the region known collectively as the Hale County Bottoms. Look for wetland songbirds, other bottomland and wet-woods birds in the timber, and scour the marsh for American Bitterns (fall-spring) and Least Bitterns (spring through fall) as well as King Rails and Moorhens. Ospreys and eagles nest nearby, and watch for kites over the open areas in late summer. The hammock here would be a fine place to look for Painted Buntings.

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Backbone Boat Ramp

West Alabama | Greene | Best Seasons: Fall, Spring, Summer, Winter
Backbone Boat Ramp - f

Backbone Boat Launch sits the banks of a creek which flows into Lake Demopolis and across from a flooded cypress slough. This small site may be easily birded in less than an hour. Prothonotary Warblers, Redstarts, Northern Parulas, and Yellow-throated Warblers are conspicuous; watch for Anhingas, Purple Gallinules, and Common Moorhens. You may see Painted Buntings here, and expect Wood Ducks, with other waders and waterfowl present in season. In late summer, Wood Storks and Swallow-tailed Kites are possibilities.

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Barnett Lawley Forever Wild Field Trial Area

West Alabama | Hale | Best Seasons: Fall, Spring, Summer, Winter
St Cattle Ranch - 21

Exceptional grassland birding awaits at the State Cattle Ranch. Standout birds include Dickcissels, Loggerhead Shrikes, American Kestrels, Grasshopper and Lark sparrows, Northern Bobwhites, and Barn Owls as breeding birds. Summer waders include Wood Storks, and look for Least Bittern on the pond edges. Winter sparrows, including White-crowned, winter waterfowl, and birds of prey make this unique spot well worth a special trip.

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Bibb County Glades Preserve

West Alabama | Bibb | Best Seasons: Fall, Spring
Bibb Glades - 1

Though known for the rare and unusual wildflowers found on the 480-acre preserve, the Bibb Glades are also good for woodland songbirds. The open, rocky glades and scrub combined with light woods makes this a good spot to find towhees, Field Sparrows, wrens, Bluebirds, and thrushes. Situated as they are on bluffs above the Little Cahaba River, the glades are a reasonably good spot for spring and fall migrants. The entrance road is bounded by open, mature pine woods. Look for Brown-headed Nuthatches, Pine Warblers, and possibly a few Bachman’s Sparrows.

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Brierfield Ironworks Historical State Park

West Alabama | Bibb | Best Seasons: Fall, Spring, Winter
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Brierfield is an attractive, open, well-maintained park with restrooms, staff, a country store, picnic pavilions, rental cabins, and RV spaces. It features open, mature hardwood forest with good access points and sightlines. The park is an excellent spot for migratory songbirds in season, and for breeding and wintering birds. The wet-weather stream and the Furnace Trail are hotspots for birds, as is the edge habitat bordering the road at the far end of the park.

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Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge

West Alabama | Bibb | Best Seasons: Fall, Spring
Cahaba NWR - 22

Famed for the free-flowing Cahaba River and for the rare wildflowers found here, the Cahaba River NWR is an extraordinarily good birding destination. Expect abundant riparian songbirds – Louisiana Waterthrushes, Acadian Flycatchers, Northern Parulas, Prothonotary and Yellow-throated warblers, and American Redstarts – from early spring through fall. Other woodland songbirds can be found in large numbers in the woods along the road through the refuge.

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Forkland Campground

West Alabama | Greene | Best Seasons: Fall, Spring
Forkland - 6

This Corps of Engineers-maintained site is similar to most others along the Black Warrior system: boat ramp, picnic area, deep water, well maintained facilities. Expect the usual complement of riparian woodland songbirds, a few waders, and a few waterfowl in winter. Spend some time birding the pine woods and scrub along the entrance road for Chats, Prairie Warblers, White-eyed Vireos, Bobwhites, Field Sparrows, even a few Bachman’s Sparrows.

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Jennings Ferry

West Alabama | Hale | Best Seasons: Fall, Spring, Summer, Winter
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Jennings Ferry is a pleasant island of hospitality on the banks of the Black Warrior River. Mature trees ringing the parking areas are good for songbirds from fall through spring, and there is a well-maintained nature trail loop through the southern end of the reservation. Look for swallows over the river in the warmer months, and waders around the impounded lake to the south.

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Lake Harris

West Alabama | Tuscaloosa | Best Seasons: Fall, Spring
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Lake Harris sits at the end of a long, winding dirt road. The early second-growth habitat along Lake Harris Road is far more productive for birds than is the lake itself. Expect to see bluebirds, Bobwhites, turkeys, towhees, goldfinches, Chats, Prairie Warblers, Yellowthroats, Field and Chipping sparrows, and more. The lake could produce long-legged waders, some shorebirds and swallows, and a few wintering waterfowl.

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Lake Lurleen State Park

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A large, well-visited park with staff, Lake Lurleen features a huge deep-water lake, extensive parking areas, and picnic areas under massive pines. Look for migrants in the forested areas in spring and fall, hundreds of swallows – mostly Cliff – and easy-to-find songbirds such as Eastern Bluebirds, Brown-headed Nuthatches, and (from spring through fall) Northern Parulas, Pine and Yellow-throated warblers, kingbirds, and Orchard Orioles. Look for gulls and waterfowl in winter, and a few waders throughout the year.

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Lake Nicol

West Alabama | Tuscaloosa | Best Seasons: Fall, Spring
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Lake Nicol is an attractive, easily accessible, well-maintained, and popular wooded park on a substantial lake. It draws many local visitors, so the best birding is achieved on weekdays, early or late in the day, and days when traffic should be less than peak. Look for pine-woods birds all year, a few waders and shorebirds, migrant songbirds in spring and fall, and a few ducks and geese in winter.

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Lamar County Fishing Lake

West Alabama | Lamar | Best Seasons: Fall, Spring, Winter
Lamar Co Lake - 24

A 68-acre lake surrounded by open pine woods, Lamar County Fishing Lake offers birding opportunities around the year. Both woodland species and long-legged waders can usually be found, as well as breeding Barn and Rough-winged swallows and other summer breeders. Spring and fall may offer good opportunities for unusual migrants, and some migratory waterfowl may visit in the winter.

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Living River

West Alabama | Bibb | Best Seasons: Fall, Spring
Living River - 4

This still-under-construction site overlooks the Cahaba River and incorporates a small lake. The area should prove to be an excellent location for migrant songbirds, and an great selection of local breeding species. The property boasts an unusually high density of Louisiana Waterthrushes, Acadian Flycatchers, and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.

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Lock 5 Park

West Alabama | Hale | Best Seasons: Fall, Spring
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One of several similar recreation areas along the Black Warrior, Lock 5 is a small park with ample parking, restrooms, a picnic area, boat ramp, and mixed-age hardwood and pine woodlands. The site is good for spring and fall migrants, breeding songbirds – many Prothonotary Warblers and Parulas. The broad walking trail that parallels the river affords very good sight lines.

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Marion County Indian Mounds

West Alabama | Marion | Best Seasons: Fall, Spring
Hamilton Indian Mounds - 10

A level .4 mile stroll from a small parking lot, the mounds are at the end of a path bounded by open-row crop fields to the east and south, and wooded streams to the east and north. Birds at the mound site are decidedly suburban (cardinals, mockingbirds, Blue Jays, Carolina Wrens) and those found during migration (Summer Tanagers, cuckoos, Catbirds, White-eyed Vireos, Indigo Buntings) are more interesting. This park makes for a pleasant walk and a good partner site to a visit to the public lake 5 minutes away. Look for soaring hawks over the fields, and sparrows, pipits, and perhaps Horned Larks in the fields in winter.

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