A Guide to Birding in Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge

Yellowbilled Cuckoo

Birding is one of the most popular pastimes along the Alabama Gulf Coast, and you can see a wide variety of bird species all throughout the year. One of the best places to view local and migratory birds is the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, which is located right next to Martinique on the Gulf property.

Boasting beach, dunes, shrubs, and woodland, Bon Secour is home to more than 230 species and is great for birding from fall to early summer. There are four trails throughout the park ideal for birdwatching, all of which are short and accessible for most. 

Jeff Friend Trail, Centennial Trail, Gator Lake Trail, and Pine Beach Trail are all ideal for birding.

The Jeff Friend Trail is a 1-mile easy to moderate trail that goes through a maritime forest along the Little Lagoon. This loop trail features an observation deck and is wheelchair accessible. You can find Bufflehead, Horned Grebe, and Common Loon during the winter months, and in the spring you can find Osprey, Sandwich Tern, and Northern Rough-winged Swallow. During the summer you'll find Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Summer Tanager, and Northern Parula. Other birds can be found along this trail during the migration season as well. 

Another favorite trail is the Pine Beach Trail, which is a 2-mile moderate to strenuous hike with some sandy terrain. This trail follows along a saltwater lagoon on one side and a freshwater lake on the other amid a maritime forest, scrub, and dune habitats. This is an extremely popular spot for birdwatching, as well. You can find Red-eyed Vireo, American Redstart, Palm Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, and Magnolia Warbler during migration. During winter common bird species include Red-breasted Merganser, Peregrine Falcon, and even Bald Eagle. 

Connecting the Jeff Friend Trail and Pine Beach Trails, Centennial Trail is a moderate 2-mile trail through maritime forest, swamp, and dune swales. You'll find a variety of flora and fauna along this trail, including forest pines, Southern Magnolias, live oaks covered in Spanish Moss, Sycamores, and more. This trail is remote and quiet, perfect for an afternoon escape. 

Gator Lake Trail is a 1-mile moderate hike along a dune ridge that offers views of the maritime forest and frontal dunes. Expect sandy terrain on this hike and various types of birds and other wildlife can be viewed. Since the terrain is soft sand, it can feel extra challenging so be prepared for a workout. Keep in mind that during the summer it can also get very hot, so try this one earlier in the morning if possible. 

To help find birds in Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, use the Alabama Coastal Birding Trail Booklet. You can also download and print this handy Bird List  that details how common birds are during each season, highlighting nearly 380 bird species.  

Published on Tuesday, December 27, 2022