Brown-headed Nuthatch is seen frequently from fall through spring, and Pine Warbler turns up in late winter. Spring showcases a blaze of floral colors, accentuated by the colorful breeding plumage of northbound migrants. I can vividly recall watching a male Cerulean Warbler bathing in the creek in the Fern Glade and a male Blackburnian Warbler searching for insects in the mint-green leaves of a tulip poplar in the Wildflower Garden.
Fall migration begins in early August, when Ruby-throated Hummingbirds buzz around jewelweed in the Bog Garden and nearby Butterfly Garden. September’s highlights include Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, American Redstart, Ovenbird, and Magnolia and Worm-eating Warblers. In early October, thrushes and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks arrive to devour brilliant dogwood and pokeweed berries. — Greg Harber
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Native and introduced plants in formal garden and natural settings, including woodlands, riparian areas, and a bog.
Several miles of paved and crushed-gravel paths; many are wheelchair-accessible.
Year-round: Cooper’s and Red-shouldered Hawks, Barred Owl, Red-bellied and Downy Woodpeckers, Blue Jay, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Brown-headed and White-breasted Nuthatches, Northern Mockingbird, Northern Cardinal, Eastern Towhee. Winter: Winter Wren, Pine Warbler, Ruby- and Golden-crowned Kinglets, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Spring and fall: Magnolia, Tennessee, and Hooded Warblers, American Redstart, Common Yellowthroat, Wood, Swainson’s, and Gray-cheeked Thrushes, Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Wood-Pewee. Uncommon: Cerulean, Blackburnian, and Worm-eating Warblers, Lincoln’s Sparrow.
When to go
Year-round. Mornings are best.
Walking trails, benches, and a boardwalk. Restrooms and vending machines. Restaurant open 11-2, Tuesday through Saturday. Field trips for children and adults. Birmingham Audubon often leads bird walks.
Public/private botanical gardens. Open every day, from dawn to dusk. No fees.
The best birding spots are often along two back service roads, where vegetation is in its most natural state. One road starts at the Wildflower Garden and runs behind Fern Glade, and the other is above the quarry and the Bog Garden.
For more info
Birmingham Botanical Gardens
Birmingham Audubon Society
Alabama Ornithological Society
Ruffner Mountain Nature Center
10 miles from the BBG on 81st St. South. Great site for warblers and other migrants, especially around the parking lot and along the road leading to the top of the mountain.
Mile-long trail on Red Mountain; access is from Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. Best in fall, when seasonal plants offer an abundance of natural foods for sparrows and buntings.