Alabama winter skies filled with migrating birds

By Allison Marlow
Posted 1/17/18

Staying put for the winter? Sit outside and enjoy watching the traffic pass overhead - more than 400 different species of birds heading south for the winter, that is.

Alabama has the fifth highest …

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Alabama winter skies filled with migrating birds

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Staying put for the winter? Sit outside and enjoy watching the traffic pass overhead - more than 400 different species of birds heading south for the winter, that is.

Alabama has the fifth highest diversity of plants and animals in the U.S. living within its boundaries. During the winter months, another 423 species of birds pass through and often make their last stop before embarking on a long flight to warmer climates.

For humans who live here year-round, it means a spectacular annual show.

“Winter is a very good time to be a birder in South Alabama,” said Kathy Hicks, an educator at 5 Rivers Delta Resource Center, a birder and an award winning wildlife photographer.

“For a lot of northern birds, we are south for the winter,” she said. Robins and sparrows are two popular species that will winter in Alabama and leave when summer arrives.

A large number of wading birds take advantage of the rich food resource in the estuary. The itty bitty shore birds that dot the winter beach scene are relaxing after one of the longest commutes. They will fly to the Arctic Circle, nest and then return to South America, stopping to rest along the Gulf Coast.

Some birds will stay for just a couple of days. Others lounge around the Mobile Tensaw Delta for weeks. And, Hicks said, birds of a feather don’t necessarily flock together. She’s seen species head south in mixed groups.

Birding can be a wait and see hobby since the birds don’t stick to a strict calendar. When the ground becomes too cold or frozen to find food, they move south. When they return north in the spring, Alabama plays begins to play host to birds returning to North America from Central and South America.

“There are always birds migrating at different times of the year,” Hicks said.

If you want to watch for different species as they move through the Gulf Coast, Hicks recommends purchasing a pair of binoculars and a field guide to local birds. If you carry a camera you can snap a quick shot to help remember the markings on the birds you see.

Finally, even birding novices can help scientists through the website www.ebird.org Here you can create a free account and log the birds you see. This type of citizen science helps researchers track species’ population and movement.