Decatur’s Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge is a winter haven for numerous waterfowl species, thousands of Sandhill Cranes, and a small, but increasingly reliable, population of overwintering Whooping Cranes—still one of the world’s most endangered bird species. (There are around 600 individuals alive today, up from an almost-unbelievable low of just 23 in 1941.) As such, it holds a special place in the hearts of Alabama nature lovers, and a priority spot on every southern birder’s bucket list.
The details: Meetup is at 7 a.m. at the Fultondale Chick-fil-A (215 Howell Street), located off I-65 (Exit 267) on Walker Chapel Road. Together, we’ll caravan and carpool up the interstate toward Decatur and the Priceville exit (Exit 334) to reconvene around 8:15 a.m. at a Hardee’s located at 3241 Point Mallard Parkway SE. After a short break, we’ll head from there to the refuge entrance, just a mile or two up the road.
A birding trip to Wheeler can turn into a long day, so remember to bring plenty of water and snacks, a full tank of gas, insect repellent, rain gear, sunblock, and seasonally appropriate—i.e., warmly layered—attire.
Accessibility: We anticipate most of the areas on this trip will be accessible by car. Lunch at Arrowhead Landing is wheelchair accessible, and there are handicap accessible facilities at the Visitor Center. There is little walking involved on this trip—mostly stopping and birding by car.
(Questions about accessibility? Email us for more information about how we can meet your needs.)
The birds: You’ll find the official bird list for Wheeler on the Fish & Wildlife Service’s website. For real-time updates, visit eBird’s hotspot page here. Click here for the Alabama Birding Trails site for this location.
Trip leader: Greg Harber and Dwight Cooley lead this trip; Greg’s cell is 205-807-8055 (day of field trip only). For more information, email the Outreach & Communications Director.