9 Must-Visit Birdwatching Destinations in the South
My mother let me watch the horror film The Birds when I was younger, and I grew up frightened by these feathered creatures. But I grew up in South Florida where seagulls line the beach and egrets peck away in the neighbor’s yard. I’ve grown out of my fear of birds and recently took a liking to these creatures that can be spotted almost everywhere. There is an extra chipper bird that has become my trusty alarm clock at around 6:20 every morning and I’m fortunate enough to have the best window view of that speckled brown bird from the comfort of my bedroom. Even when I take a walk around my neighborhood, I see hummingbirds and robins fluttering from tree to tree. Sometimes I fall short when noticing my surroundings and the creatures that inhabit them. Anywhere and everywhere is a bird-watchers sanctuary if you look hard enough. All you need to do is step outside for the ideal bird’s eye view. If you have developed a fascination with these elegant creatures and want to visit their spectacular habitats, we came up with the best bird-watching destinations in the South.
J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge
This refuge is located on Sanibel Island right off the Florida Gulf Coast. Darling is best known for it’s swampy mangrove forests and freshwater pockets. It draws over 300 bird species that include a variety of wading birds including Reddish Egrets, Wood Storks, and white Ibises. It’s categorized as an easy bird watching destination due to the accessible pull offs that line this five-mile road.
Everglades National Park
The Everglades is a hidden marvel that’s nestled in the southern tip of Florida. It’s the ultimate bird watchers’ sanctuary. This national park holds over 400 species of birds. The best time to visit is during the months of December through April. The early bird does in fact get the worm and a grand sight of the many species that inhabit the Everglades.
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
Lining the west coast of Florida, just south of Fort Myer Beach is the “country’s largest remaining stand of virgin bald cypress”, as stated by Bird Watching Daily. This swamp is lined with a two-mile boardwalk that includes the best vantage point of the rare wood storks that attract visitors from all over. Even though you can visit year-round and still get a bird’s eye view, March and April are the most popular months to visit due to nesting season.
Alabama Coast Trail
When the weather gets cold, the birds migrate to the South and inhabit the gulf shores of Alabama; specifically, the Orange Beach Loop that lines the coast. Thousands of birds including songbirds, tanagers, and orioles flock to this southern haven to rest before their next big migration. When the migration has passed you can still spot sandpipers, ibises, and egrets covering the flatlands.
Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge
This refuge dots the coast of North Carolina and is home to a coveted endangered species, the Red-cockaded Woodpecker. Although these peckers can be difficult to spot, you’re sure to see the Prothonotary Warbler, Tundra Swan, and Brown-headed Nuthatch. If you’re really curious about other larger critters that call this refuge their home, you may be able to spot the endangered red wolf and the black bear.
Croatan National Forest
Head to the west in the vast state of North Carolina and you’ll land on a pinewood covered forest. This wooded retreat has some popular residents such as the brown-headed Nuthatch and the Bachman’s Sparrow. If you’re lucky you’ll be able to spot the wild turkey, red-shouldered hawk, and the yellow-billed cuckoo.
Blue Ridge Parkway
Why not take a scenic drive across the most picturesque southern states while also witnessing the nesting areas to many popular birds? It’s easy to pull over along this route as soon as you spot a bird’s nest. Some must-see areas along the way include Mount Mitchell, Craggy Gardens, and Linville Falls. These sites sure are a treat because you can spot the Northern Saw whet-Owl, Peregrine Falcon, and Red Cross Bill along the way. Bird-watchers flock to Blue Ridge in particular for the delightful Warblers.
Seven Islands State Birding Park
Seven Islands is just east of Knoxville, Tennessee and stretches along the French Broad River. A park truly created for bird enthusiasts. This wildlife refuge is home to songbirds, hawks, waterfowls, and owls. Keep your eyes peeled because you might just spy a bald eagle.
Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge
Harris Neck consists of salt marshes, freshwater ponds, wetlands, and forests inhabited by over 350 bird species. This bird nesting base is located just south of Savannah, Georgia. The wood stork and painted bunting are two exceptional bird species that call this place home.