Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve is an enormous urban park, preserving 1,040 acres of wooded mountain slopes near the center of Birmingham. Ruffner Mountain is songbird country – an upland, forested site with a fine mix of all-age woodlands, primarily hardwoods, notably mixed Oak and Hickory. You’ll find interesting sidelights, with some lovely, towering Basswood trees, and an impressive, if surprising, stand of Paw-paws (which produce North America’s largest native edible fruit) along the trail behind the visitors center. The Hackberry/Sugarberry trees near the visitors center and along the trail to The Saddle produce berries that attract many species of birds in late summer and fall.
Most of the park can be explored via an extensive system of trails. Physically-fit visitors with appropriate footwear should check out the trail system, especially in the cooler months. Interesting breeding birds along the trails include Kentucky and Hooded Warblers; Red-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireos, Summer Tanagers, Wood Thrushes, and Red-headed, Hairy, and Pileated Woodpeckers. Look for Winter Wrens, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, and Purple Finches and Pine Siskins when the weather turns cold. Follow the Quarry Trail (several miles) to its terminus and you’ll arrive at a bluff that overlooks Birmingham to the southwest. This promontory affords an excellent view for hawk watching, especially from late September through the end of November.
You don’t have to be a hiker to see great birds at Ruffner Mountain. The area surrounding the Nature Center’s main parking lot is almost always full of birds. This is one of the southern-most breeding locations for House Wrens. During spring and fall migration, this area is patrolled by the area’s foremost birders, who find early morning birding almost always exciting. When late fall rolls around, look for Palm, Orange-crowned, and Yellow-rumped Warblers; Red-breasted Nuthatches; and Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets. Ruffner Mountain is widely considered an outstanding birding resource. Be sure to visit the nearby Ruffner Wetlands.
The facilities at Ruffner Mountain Nature Center include a small interpretive museum, a pavilion, and restrooms.
GPS: 33.559635 -86.699038
Ruffner Mountain Nature Center
1214 81st St S
Birmingham, AL 35206
The Nature Center is fully ADA accessible. Most of the trails are natural dirt trails with steep grades and are not accessible. There are good locations to watch birds from outside the Nature Center and from the nearby pavilion. Summer Tanagers, Eastern Phoebes and others are often within easy sight of these accessible locations.
From I-59 in Birmingham (Jefferson County) take Exit 132 (First Avenue North). From the end of the exit ramp, bear to the right onto 1st Avenue. Continue to the first traffic light at 83rd Street and turn right (south). Follow 81st Street to Rugby Avenue, and turn left onto Rugby. At 81st Street South, turn right and follow 81st into the parking lot for the nature center.
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