Porter’s Gap is a trailhead on the Pinhoti Trail, a 100+ mile trail that traverses the ridges and valleys of the southern Appalachians of Alabama and Georgia. Birding here in the higher elevations of the Talladega National Forest may be approached as a brief stop or as the beginning of a long walk. If you’re interested in looking for spring or fall migrants or for some of the specialized breeding birds that can be found here, the best plan is to arrive early morning. This is a songbird destination, and activity wanes in the mid-day hours. A good variety of migrants may be spotted here on any given day in spring or fall.
Many visitors to this site will be most interested in seeing some of the uncommon breeding birds; many of which approach the extreme southern end of their breeding range here because of the relatively high elevation. Scarlet Tanagers, Black-throated Green Warblers, and Ovenbirds are regular breeding birds here, while others, such as Cedar Waxwings, Blue-headed Vireos, and Sharp-shinned Hawks may nest here on an irregular basis.
For those interested in a longer walk, this entry point for the well-maintained Pinhoti Trail offers vistas as well as outstanding birding opportunities. Follow the Pinhoti Trail over hill and dale for approximately a mile, and the habitat changes from mature pine-oak woods to a riparian habitat as you encounter a small creek. Here, Northern Parulas and Yellow-throated Warblers, Louisiana Waterthrushes, and Acadian Flycatchers are local breeding species.
From the parking lot and roadside, scan the skies for soaring birds of prey. Both Black and Turkey Vultures are permanent residents, as are Red-tailed, Red-shouldered, and Cooper’s Hawks. Broad-winged Hawks are common in the warmer months, and Sharp-shinned Hawks are most prevalent in winter. Great Horned and Barred owls breed nearby, and Eastern Screech-Owls can be found along AL 77. Listen for Whip-poor-wills and Chuck-will’s-widows just before dawn and just after dusk in clearings along the Pinhoti, and sometimes from the highway edge and parking area.
The roadside edge along AL 77 is a good spot for Indigo Buntings, American Goldfinches, Eastern Bluebirds, and White-eyed Vireos. Look for Great Crested Flycatchers, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Eastern Kingbirds, Orchard Orioles,Summer Tanagers, and Eastern Wood Pewees in the taller trees along the highway.
Directions: From Talladega (Talladega County) (food, fuel, lodging available), take AL Highway 77 south for 6.2 miles. There is a US Forest Service sign on the left (east) side of the road marking the Porter’s Gap trailhead. Take the short gravel road to the substantial parking area. There are no restrooms or other comforts at this site.
GPS: 33.3336483 -86.0268484
U.S. Forest Service1001 North Street
(Highway 21 North)
Talladega, AL 35160