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.
The Bevill Visitors Center grounds feature short-grass lawns with scattered small shade trees. The property is home to numerous bluebirds and various blackbird species. There are numerous songbirds in the trees in and near the parking areas. Look for gulls, eagles, and deep-water ducks in the adjacent Aliceville Lake in winter. The heavily wooded entrance road leading to the visitors center offers outstanding songbirding opportunities throughout the year.
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.
The Oakmulgee Division of the Talladega National Forest contains the state’s largest population of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers. The birds nest and forage exclusively in stands of open, mature pines, where they are easiest to find early and late in the day. The best season is spring, when adult birds are near their nests much of the day. Bachman’s Sparrows are found in the same or similar habitat, and numerous songbirds are found here, both in the pine forest and in nearby tracts of hardwoods. This is an extremely productive area – well worth a special trip.
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.
Runaway Branch Park has two segments – called RP I and RP II – that bound the same body of water from the east and west. Expect the water to draw spring and fall migrants and riparian-type breeding birds. Look for both kites and Wood Storks in summer, and waterfowl in winter.
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.
This is an extensive recreation area that stretches from a picnic area and small boardwalk to a campground complex 2.5 miles down the road. Visitors can follow the road a few more miles to reach the west side of the Bevill Lock and Dam. You’ll find many different habitat types here: early second-growth, open park-like pine-oak woodlands, riverbanks, and the lock and dam. The numerous habitats attract a great variety of birds, and some very interesting ones, too, such as Anhingas and Wood Thrushes.
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.
There are two sections to this recreation area. To the south is a more park-like development with a camping area and a few picnic tables. The northern section is a parking lot overlooking the river and a boat ramp. A general mix of woodland songbirds are found here, most notably many Prothonotary Warblers, Northern Parulas (both sections), and Louisiana Waterthrushes (southern portion). Consider combining this stop with the nearby Eutaw Airport for field and pinewoods birds.
The park’s many large Mississipian-era American Indian mounds dot a large open field with multiple marshes. Red-winged Blackbirds, a few herons, and the occasional shorebird may be seen here. The west side of the park abuts the Black Warrior River. In the parking and picnic areas are scattered mature trees, and the north side of the park is bordered by a dense stand of hardwoods. A good mix of songbirds, woodpeckers, and raptors may be found at the park, making this a fruitful site for three seasons.
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.
A pleasant way to spend a few hours, the lake is moderate in size, with open, tall pines along its borders. There is considerable dense second-growth bordering the entrance road and all around the margins of the property. This is a good place to find swallows and pine-woods birds, and there is also good dense second-growth for under- and mid-story dwelling birds. Kingfishers, swallows (including Tree), Parulas, and Pine and Yellow-throated warblers are common here. You will see Indigo Buntings; Wood Thrushes; Hooded, Kentucky, and Black-and-white warblers; Summer Tanagers; cuckoos; and several flycatchers and woodpeckers. The lake is closed in December and January.
Vastly similar to other such parks along the Black Warrior River, Lock 8 offers deep river, mixed woods along the banks, a picnic shed, and a boat ramp. Good for Northern Parulas and Prothonotary and Yellow-throated warblers. You will find woodland migrants in the thicker woods, and look for Swainson’s Warblers in swamps near the entrance. Vultures and sometimes eagles roost in pines on the riverbank.
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.
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.
This site overlooks the Cahaba River and incorporates a small lake. The area is 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A delightful birding experience awaits at Walker County Lake. Tree Swallows are abundant here – many nesting pairs are present, along with numerous Purple Martins. Breeding Yellow Warblers have been identified here, and many additional songbird species are present from April through October. The park should prove to be a productive site for spring and fall migrants, as well as for long-legged waders in late spring and summer.
The single best location in Tuscaloosa for songbirds, the arboretum is a “must-see” for birders. Best in spring and fall migration, it is also a valuable resource for wintering birds. Easily accessed and compact enough to cover in less than half a day, this is the spot to find warblers, vireos, tanagers, orioles, woodpeckers, and sparrows on all but the hottest days of summer.
There are several waterfront parks in the vicinity of Tuscaloosa. Rocky Branch is the northernmost in a cluster of parks on Holt Lake. Comprised of steep forested slopes leading to the deep waters, it is best birded for songbirds in spring and fall migration, and for wintering birds in the colder months.
Payne Lake is a productive site for woodland and riparian birds in all but the dead of summer. Open, mature trees near the lake are excellent for riparian songbirds. The pinewoods slopes along the road to the north have Bobwhites and turkeys. Look for Bald Eagles around the lake, and Swainson’s Warblers, Acadian Flycatchers, Louisiana Waterthrushes, and cuckoos along the nature trail to the extreme north.
Easily surveyed in a couple of hours, Coke Ovens Park is a worthwhile stop near the Cahaba National Wildlife Reserve, the Bibb Glades, and Living River. In addition to customary woodland canopy birds and open county species such as Eastern Kingbirds and Bluebirds, the major attraction is the small stream that parallels the park’s primary N-S road; which provides opportunities to see Swainson’s Warblers and Acadian Flycatchers up close.