Located in northern Alabama, Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge is comprised of a diverse set of habitats which collectively provide a winter home for thousands of waterfowl and cranes every year. The refuge, consisting of 37,000 acres, is a mosaic of wetlands, pine uplands, riparian woodlands, agricultural fields, and back water embayments, which supports Alabama’s largest wintering duck population. As if the hordes of geese, ducks and Sandhill Cranes were not enough of a spectacle, varying numbers of the federally-endangered Whooping Crane have been seen in the refuge every winter since 2006.
This pleasant and easy long-weekend Venture will thoroughly explore all that Wheeler NWR has to offer during the time of year when duck, geese, and crane numbers are at their peak. We will also be sure to scope out other local hotspots (such as Guntersville Lake) for gulls, loons, and anything else we may have missed. Of course, we will listen out for any reports of rarities in the area, such as Eurasian Wigeon or Pacific Loon, both of which have been seen at least once in the last few winters. The relaxed, slower pace of this tour makes it a great option for beginner birders and will allow for prolonged study and enjoyment of waterfowl subjects, thus serving as an excellent introduction (or refresher) to the world of waterfowl identification.
Some of the Birds We Hope to See
Greater White-fronted, Snow & Ross’s Geese; Ducks (Gadwall, American Wigeon, American Black, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal, Canvasback, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Greater & Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Hooded & Red-breasted Mergansers, and Ruddy); Common Loon; Pied-billed & Horned Grebes; Double-crested Cormorant; Whooping & Sandhill Cranes; American White Pelican; Bald Eagle; Northern Harrier; Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks; Herring, Ring-billed, Lesser Black-backed and Bonaparte’s Gulls; Forster’s Tern; American Kestrel; White-throated, White-crowned, Field, Chipping, Swamp, Savannah, and Song Sparrows; Rusty Blackbird, and much more.