From waterbirds like the heron and white ibis to plovers, gulls and seabirds, there are many ornithological wonders in the Gulf Shores area that are sure to please bird-watching enthusiasts who book Gulf Shores vacation home rentals.
Although you can see this fascinating wildlife all across the region on beaches, in bayous and on canals, one great place to spot birds is Gulf State Park. Nature enthusiasts can explore the park's Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trails to find a peaceful atmosphere that's perfect for bird watching.
As you walk or hike through the park, challenge yourself to keep an eye out for these three birds:
You'll instantly recognize the sound of these birds when you set out on the Bobcat Branch Trail. This trail is a haven for woodpeckers, as it is filled with trees perfect for this species. Look and listen as you follow the trail, and your senses might lead you to a woodpecker pecking away to get at the insects inside. The pileated woodpecker will be easy to spot - about the size of a crow, it's the biggest woodpecker found in
Strolling along the Tallow Trail, you may see the green heron fishing in the creek for dinner. Unlike other herons, this bird is small, measuring just 25 to 48 inches. Its glossy green cap and back along with its reddish, chestnut brown neck make it one of the most recognizable wetland birds in America. Although these birds can be relatively inconspicuous, you may hear one squawking loudly if you approach quietly.
If you fish from shore during your vacation, you may just encounter one of the Gulf Coast's most beautiful residents, the great blue heron. A large wading bird common near the shores of open water and in wetlands, Great Blue Herons are always up for dining on a fish you catch.
The Great Blue Heron is a large bird with a slate-gray body, chestnut and black accents, and very long legs and neck. It has a six-foot wingspan and looks very large when in flight. Adults have a shaggy ruff at the base of their necks. A black eyebrow extends back to black plumes emerging from the head.
This migratory waterbird is elusive, but you might spot one floating along as you traverse the Holly Trail. With its buffy yellow plumage that is mottled with black and brown, the yellow rail blends in well with marshes and dune grass. It prefers weaving through the grasses to flying, so keep your eyes low to spot this species.
A sight to be seen along the Gulf Coast is the osprey, also known as the sea hawk, river hawk and fish hawk. There are several nests situated high atop posts in the area, where you'll see the birds nesting in preparation for their hatchings. Each year, as the birds nest, they become quite the celebrities as locals enjoy watching their preparations and waiting for their young to hatch.
Called "the lone ranger of raptors," the osprey has a black band that spans from its eyes and around its head resembling the mask worn by the iconic "masked man."
Ospreys have been recorded migrating up to 2,700 miles over a 13-day period and live in the wild typically for 15 to 20 years.
Their vision is sharp, allowing them to see fish under water from as high as 130 feet. When an osprey spots a fish, it will hover in a spiral downward and dive feet first to lock the fish in its curved talons and fly away.
You'll find numerous varieties of feathered neighbors along the coastal area. In fact, the eight miles of paved paths in the Backcountry Trails are part of the two-county Alabama Coastal Birding Trail. Make birding a priority during your next visit to the Alabama and Florida Gulf Coast, and you'll become fascinated by the different perspective of the natural beauty here.