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Located in the heart of Alabama’s Tennessee River Valley, the Central portion of the North Alabama Birding Trail provides incredible birding for longtime residents or short-term visitors. With the presence of Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge running between Decatur and Huntsville, birds and other wildlife are guaranteed on any visit. The habitat diversity on Wheeler and this region should provide the visitor with an astounding diversity of bird species as well.

Wheeler NWR is well-known for its impressive concentrations and diversity of waterfowl each winter. The refuge has raised waterfowl-watching to an art form with its impressive interpretive facilities and improved wetlands. Add to this, flocks of wintering Sandhill Cranes, Tupelo Swamps ringing with the songs of Prothonotary Warblers, and Ospreys fishing right next to the road. You’ll soon extend your stay.

Spring is, perhaps, the best time to visit, for wintering birds are about to leave and the summer residents have just arrived. This is the time to carefully check sites like Dancy Bottoms and Monte Sano State Park for concentrations of wood warblers, tanagers, grosbeaks, and orioles as they head north to nest and raise their young. It is not unusual to record over 100 species of birds in a single morning at this time of year, including some of the state’s most uncommon species.

A break from the water and the woods is available at the 3M Wildlife Area and the Winfred Thomas Agriculture Research Station where grassland and open country species including Dickcissel, Grasshopper Sparrow, and Northern Bobwhite dominate the landscape. With a little luck, visitors might even spy a few Scissor-tailed Flycatchers.

BP-Amoco Environmental Trail

The BP-Amoco Environmental Trail  (Site #18, Central Loop) is situated  the middle of the extensive agricultural fields that lie just west of Decatur. BP-Amoco has preserved this corner of prime woodland and marsh habitat for waterfowl and possibly rai …

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Decatur Hospitality Nature Park

The Decatur Hospitality Nature Park (Site 17, Central Loop),  nearby US Highway 31 Causeway, and the Decatur Boat Harbor provide a great opportunity to scan the waters of the Tennessee River for winter waterfowl and shorebirds. This area is one of the …

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Hays Nature Preserve

The Hays Nature Preserve  (Site #30, Central Loop) hosts several miles of paved trails that follow the Flint River and its associated oxbow lakes through low riparian habitat, old fields, and a golf course.  There are a total of 10 miles of trails that …

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Hurricane Creek Park

Hurricane Creek Park (Site #32, Central Loop) is known for its scenic deep canyon, which is heavily wooded with mature hardwoods. The park offers a number of trails, leading birders through a landscape crisscrossed by streams and waterfalls. As you wal …

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Madison County Public Lake

Madison County Public Lake (Site # 28, Central Loop) is best known for its fishing, but it also serves as an excellent introduction to northern Alabama’s birdlife. Scan the lake for wintering waterfowl or perhaps a family of resident Canada Geese and t …

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Monte Sano State Park

Monte Sano State Park  (Site #29, Northeast Loop) sits atop a remnant ridge of the Cumberland Plateau, giving a fantastic view of the surrounding valleys and plateaus that cover northeastern Alabama. These islands in the sky are covered in thick hardwo …

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Round Island Recreation Area

Round Island Recreation Area  (Site #22, Central Loop) provides access to the north side of the Tennessee River and an excellent vantage point for viewing winter waterfowl as well as cormorants, loons, and grebes. The pine woodland that surrounds the c …

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Swan Creek Wildlife Management Area

Swan Creek Wildlife Management Area (Site # 21, Central Loop) on the Tennessee River is managed for waterfowl and small game, although it supports many more species. Mudflats can be covered with shorebirds, serving as a key attraction to this area in t …

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Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center

Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge’s (NWR’s) showpiece Visitor Center (Site #16, Central Loop) serves as the gateway to the North Alabama Birding Trail. The Visitor Center hosts a series of interpretive exhibits that explain the refuge’s numerous residen …

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Wheeler NWR – Arrowhead Landing

Arrowhead Landing  (Site # 23, Central Loop) is located on Limestone Bay, another corner of the fertile Wheeler Reservoir and the Tennessee River. There is an outstanding view of the bay and the wooded areas on Beaverdam Peninsula. Watch the open water …

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Wheeler NWR – Beaverdam Peninsula Tower

A visit to the Beaverdam Peninsula Tower  (Site #24, Northeast Loop) in the summer may make visitors wonder why the tower is even mentioned. This broad observation platform sits in wheat and corn fields dotted with a few Red-winged Blackbirds. While a …

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Wheeler NWR – Beaverdam Swamp Boardwalk

The Beaverdam Swamp Boardwalk  (Site #25, Central Loop) leads the visitor into the heart of the largest Tupelo Swamp in Alabama. While exploring the boardwalk, watch the canopy for active flocks of Tufted Titmice, Red-eyed Vireos, and warblers. The swa …

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Wheeler NWR – Blackwell Swamp

Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge’s Blackwell Swamp’s flooded woodland and marsh (Site # 26, Central Loop)  can be explored by car, on foot, or by canoe. This extensive area hosts a variety of wetland species including Great Blue and Green herons and Gr …

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Wheeler NWR – Cave Springs

The Cave Springs Cave (Site # 31, Central Loop)  has been popular for thousands of years. The combination of shelter, fresh water, and abundant food has attracted humans and other wildlife to its safety. The cave’s current residents include several tho …

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Wheeler NWR – Dancy Bottoms Nature Trail

Dancy Bottoms ( Site #33, Central Loop) is an excellent area  in the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge to visit during spring migration when dozens of warblers, vireos, tanagers, thrushes, orioles, and grosbeaks fill the trees. The area is also good for …

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