Gone are the days when “bird-watchers” conjured up the image of a collection of eccentric old ladies wearing tennis shoes and poking about in the shrubbery. Today, feeding and watching birds is the nation’s second most popular recreational activity – second only to gardening. Coastal Georgia is a great place to watch birds. To start with, we have a marvelous assortment of birds that find this a hospitable place to live all year long. A backyard feeder in almost any neighborhood will attract an assortment of seed-eating birds, including cardinals, chickadees, titmice, woodpeckers, finches, blue jays, and nuthatches. In addition to these residents, there are the tourists – birds that visit Georgia for a season. Neo-tropical migrants like hummingbirds and painted buntings come up for the summer nesting season. Ducks, sparrows, goldfinches, and waxwings come for our temperate winter climate and more abundant food. We also have the magic word for “beaucoups de birds” – habitat. We have sandy beaches, tidal creeks and mud flats, maritime forest, woodlands, fresh water wetlands, bottomland hardwood forest, and even urban and suburban parks. Variety of habitat means lots of different kinds of birds -wading birds, songbirds, gulls and terns, shorebirds, waterfowl, raptors, and even seabirds. Here are some of our favorite spots:
The Savannah National Wildlife Refuge
15 minutes from downtown Savannah on SC 170. Laurel Hill Wildlife Drive is a four mile loop trail that takes you through tidal fresh water wetlands that were formerly rice plantations. Here you will find something to see year round, including alligators!
Winter – ducks, raptors, sparrows
Spring – migrating songbirds, shorebirds, wading birds, nesting anhingas
Summer – least bitterns, purple gallinules, Mississippi & swallow-tailed kites
Fall – migrating songbirds
North Beach, Tybee Island
Access from Polk Street or Fort Screven. Sandy beach as well as dunes and wax myrtle.
All seasons – herons, egrets, pelicans, gulls
Winter – shorebirds, ducks, raptors, gannets, loons, piping plovers, purple sandpipers, kingfishers
Spring – migrating songbirds, including painted buntings
Summer – gulls, terns, black skimmers, wood storks
Fall – tree swallows, kingfishers
Fort Pulaski National Monument
Cockspur Island off Highway 80. Open fields, pine woodlands, salt marsh, tidal creeks.
Fall & Winter – marsh sparrows, clapper rails, wading birds, raptors
Spring – robins, waxwings, migratory songbirds
Summer – nesting bluebirds
Forsyth Park/Downtown Savannah
Urban park with variety of trees and grassy lawn.
Spring & Fall – Migratory Songbirds
Summer – Resident nesters – woodpeckers, brown thrashers, mockingbirds, chimney swifts
Intersection of Montgomery Crossroad and Sallie Mood Drive Suburban park and lake. Although Lake Mayer has a resident population of domestic ducks and geese, there are a variety of other birds that visit here.
Winter – ducks, including ruddy ducks, shovelers, ring-necked, shrikes, coots
All year – ospreys, gulls, anhingas, herons & egrets, bluebirds
Savannah-Ogeechee Canal Museum & Nature Center
2.2. miles west of I-95 on GA 204. Boardwalks and trails through bottomland hardwood forest with cypress and tupelo trees.
Spring – Migratory songbirds
Summer – Nesting birds including prothonary, Swainson’s and hooded warblers, acadian flycatchers, yellow-billed cuckoo
Skidaway Island State Park & Priest Landing
Southside Savannah off Diamond Causeway. Maritime forest, salt marsh, fresh water pond, and tidal creeks.
All year – herons and egrets, bald eagles, ospreys
Winter – ducks, loons, grebes, marsh sparrows
Spring – migrating songbirds, wood storks, nesting herons & egrets
Summer – nesting birds, including painted bunting, bluebird, summer tanager, orchard oriole
Fall – migrating songbirds, sparrows<
Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge
One hour from Savannah. Exit 67 off I-95. 7 miles from US 17 on Harris Neck Road: Salt marsh, tidal creek, woodland, fresh water ponds. Things to see all year but main attraction in the Spring is one of the largest wading bird nesting site or “rookery” in the area on Woody Pond.
Winter – sparrows, wading birds, ducks, raptors
Spring – migrating song birds, wading bird rookery
Summer – nesting birds, including painted buntings, summer tanagers, yellow-throated warblers.
Fall – migrating song birds
Recommended Supplies for Birding
Here is a list of supplies to help you get started.
- Binoculars: 8 x 40 is standard these days. The first number denotes magnification and the second the diameter in millimeters of the objective lens.
- Field Guide: Sibley, Peterson, Stokes, National Geographic, Golden, or Kaufmann are all good choices.
- Spotting Scope: Particularly helpful for ducks and shorebirds.
- Recordings: The “Identiflyer” is a handy gadget. Other electronics such as iPods/iPads, MP3players, and smartphones work well also for taking recordings into the field.
Don’t forget that the Ogeechee Audubon offers 2-3 field trips a month which are open to the public. Just check our calendar for dates.
Wilderness Southeast sponsors a number of bird-watching programs as well.