Turn Vacation Places into Birding Hotspots

Gulf Shores, Alabama is not just a beach vacation destination, it's full of birding hotspots, too! Learn how to incorporate birding into your vacation.

What comes to mind when you think of Gulf Shores, Alabama? Ocean breezes, sandy beaches, the gleaming sun? If so, you’re right, but what you might not think of is BIRDS! I visited the area in early April and was able to see some great birding hotspots.

One afternoon was spent at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. It’s a 7,000-acre habitat consisting of maritime forest, coastal marsh, beach and open water. This diverse habitat is along the flyway for millions of spring and fall migrants. More than 370 species of birds have been identified during migration seasons.

We made our way down the 2-mile Pine Beach Trail, said hello to the nesting great-horned owl on our right, and headed to the beach. Our park ranger guide, Denise, told us that there were snowy plovers nesting on the beach. Sure enough! We spotted them.

The next afternoon was spent on a dolphin and nature watch cruise. Sure, the dolphins are the main attraction. But when you’re participating in any nature-related tour, ask your guide about the other wildlife around. We got fantastic looks at an osprey flying over us with a fish in its grip, brown pelicans in the water and more!

What I’d most like you to take away from this post is that you can literally go bird-watching anywhere. So if you think your summer vacation spot isn’t a mecca for birds, dig deep, do research and I’d be willing to bet something bird-watching related will turn up. Oh, and look up!

Have you ever planned a vacation around bird-watching? Or have you been surprised by a bird you’ve seen while on vacation? If so, where? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Kirsten Schrader
Kirsten has more than 15 years of experience writing and editing birding and gardening content. As content director of Birds & Blooms, she leads the team of editors and freelance writers sharing tried-and-true advice for nature enthusiasts who love to garden and feed birds in their backyards. Since joining Birds & Blooms 17 years ago, Kirsten has held roles in digital and print, editing direct-to-consumer books, running as many as five magazines as a time and managing special interest publications. Kirsten has traveled to see amazing North American birds, and attended various festivals, including Sedona Hummingbird Festival, Rio Grande Bird Festival, The Biggest Week in American Birding Festival and Cape May Spring Festival. She has also witnessed the epic sandhill crane migration while on a photography workshop trip to Colorado. Kirsten has participated in several GardenComm and Outdoor Writers Association of America annual conferences and is a member of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology. When she's not researching, writing and editing all things birding and gardening, Kirsten is enjoying the outdoors with her nature-loving family. She and her husband are slowly chipping away at making their small acreage the backyard of their dreams.