Birding on Dauphin Island

A welcome rest stop for feathered travelers, this barrier island on Alabama’s coast provides perfect opportunities for bird-lovers to spot rare species each spring and fall. 

Photo By: Bob Farley/f8FPhoto; Bob Farley

Photo By: Bob Farley/f8FPhoto; Bob Farley

Photo By: Patsy Russo

Photo By: Patsy Russo

Photo By: Patsy Russo

Photo By: Patsy Russo

Photo By: Patsy Russo

Photo By: Patsy Russo

Photo By: Patsy Russo

Photo By: Bob Farley

Photo By: Patsy Russo

Photo By: Patsy Russo

Pelican Island

When the small Pelican Island merged with Dauphin Island, small pools were formed and vegetation took hold. These pools are good fishing grounds for wading birds. The great egret is beautiful and graceful as it stalks fish, frogs and other small creatures to eat.

Isle Dauphine

Isle Dauphine Club is a wonderful example of midcentury modern architecture, and it is an iconic feature of the island. Nestled into the pines and dune scrub and located on a calm inlet bordered by grasses, it is a good access point to the beach for a birdy walk and wade-about.

Swallow-Tailed Kite

It is thrilling to see a swallow-tailed kite, a gorgeous black and white bird of prey with a wingspan of four-feet, soaring over the Mobile-Tensaw Delta. Pictured here, a swallow-tailed kite and the smaller Mississippi kite fly side by side.

Summer Tanager

The male summer tanager is a solid bright red while the female is greenish yellow. Usually heard before seen, these birds are easy to spot eye level and above in the maritime forests of the island. 

Male Indigo Bunting

The startling blue of the male indigo bunting sets it apart from bluebirds and blue grosbeaks. Residents of Dauphin Island will spread millet seed out in their driveways for mixed gatherings of buntings and grosbeaks. 

Hooded Warbler

Hooded warblers are commonly seen during spring migration. Bright yellow with a distinct black hood, these little birds move about dense shrubs in the forest undergrowth foraging for insects.

Cape May Warbler

During migration, the Cape May warbler will spend time perched in the bottlebrush trees on the island, going from one to the next, picking insects and sipping nectar.

Yellow-Billed Cuckoo

The yellow-billed cuckoo is a strikingly beautiful bird with a long tail, and even though cuckoos are large birds, they are hard to spot unless they move or call. The “kuk-kuk-kuks, kow-kow-kows, and the koo-koo-koos” will prompt a stop-and-search for this elusive bird. Big grasshoppers, beetles, cicadas, and caterpillars, even the hairy ones, are on the menu.

Marbled Godwit

The photographer’s favorite bird, the marbled godwit breeds up north in prairies and scattered wetlands but spends the winter on coastlines, and Patsy loves when they show up on the east end of Dauphin Island. A large sandpiper, the marbled godwit has a long upturned bill made for probing deep into the sand and mud for marine worms and crustaceans.

American Oyster Catcher

American oyster catchers are fun to watch as they walk around the beach, jabbing, hammering and cutting bivalves out of the shells with their orange beaks. Handsome birds, these four each seem to be dancing to a different drummer.

Ash-Throated Flycatcher

Considered a western species, an ash-throated flycatcher will occasionally show up on the island, in the dune scrub between the forest and the beach or in the dunes on the west end of the island. Flycatchers will perch on the dune fences, woody shrubs, or stout grasses, fly out to grab a treat from nearby foliage, then go right back to its perch.

Nelson's Sparrow

Around the airport, birders can observe Nelson’s sparrows popping up out of the salt marsh as they change locations while foraging in the mudflats. These secretive little birds will sometimes perch on the cordgrass just long enough for a quick snap of the camera.