The Gulf Shores region is a unique area when it comes to birds. This warm inlet on the southern coast of the United States is a perfect stopping place for migratory birds on their way to Mexico or South America for the winter, and its warm, tropical climate makes it a favorable home for a number of shorebirds, water birds and many others. 

Although the entire Gulf Coast is a great place for birding, Dauphin Island, just a short ferry ride away from Fort Morgan, Ala., is a perfect day trip destination for birders staying in Fort Morgan beach house rentals. You'll likely see gulls and herons as you cross Mobile Bay on the ferry, but the best of this island's ornithological wonders await you in the Dauphin Island bird sanctuaries. These protected spaces make the secluded island even more attractive to the hundreds of birds that pass by each year. 

What are the bird sanctuaries?

Although the entire island could technically be considered a sanctuary for birds, there are seven specifically designated spots across the island -
Shell Mound Park, Goat Tree Reserve, Sea Point
Saw Grass Marsh, Audubon Bird Sanctuary, Tupelo Gum Swamp, Gorgas Swamp and Steiner Property. 

Although each of these sanctuaries boasts other unique properties like distinct ecosystems, plant species and other fascinating wildlife, they all have
one thing in common - they are protected forever thanks to a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Shell Marine Habitat Program. These organizations, as well as the Important Bird Areas Program and the Dauphin Island Bird Sanctuaries organization, have an informal collaboration to preserve habitats on the island that are critical to these birds. The groups have raised more than $1.3 million to promote birding and other ecotourism on the island, and to protect these lands from development that could harm the birds and their homes. 

Why are these spaces so attractive to birds?

Dauphin Island is a natural destination of choice for birds. Not only does it have a warm, tropical climate, it boasts a wide range of ecosystems, such as maritime forests, marches, dunes, swamps, beaches, pine forests and hardwood clearings. This variety means the island is hospitable to many birds and their needs, from woodpeckers to herons. In fact, 347 species have been spotted on the island. 

Protection from these agencies ensures that the favorable habitats remain intact as the years go by, and that the birds can live in a peaceful environment that will bring them back year after year. 

What types of birds might I see?

The types of birds you will see while vacationing on Dauphin Island depends on when you go. During spring migration, neotropical birds land for the first time during their journey across the Gulf of Mexico from the Yucatan Peninsula, where they spend the winter months. In inclement weather, the island has been known to receive large flocks of exhausted birds all at once, where they land together in what is known as a "fall-out," a truly incredible bird watching experience. 

The fall migrations begin in July, with shorebirds preparing for a long flight south across the Gulf. Many other species pass through throughout the autumn season, making their way south as the weather in their native homes cools. 

Migration seasons can be spectacular times to see birds, but winter brings out a wide variety of water fowl, seabirds and shorebirds that are native to the island.

Although you may see some stunning bird species right out the back door of your Fort Morgan beach condo, taking a day trip to Dauphin Island is sure to be a birding experience you won't soon forget.