Over the next few months, thousands of feathery visitors will be arriving on the beaches of Fort Morgan and surrounding Gulf Coast. The spring migration peaks in April as over 300 species of birds travel from Central and South America to their breeding grounds in North America and Canada. A majority of the birds use the Mississippi Flyway, one of the four North American migratory routes, to make their way northward along the Mississippi River. The Fort Morgan peninsula, Dauphin Island, and nearby barrier islands serve as important stopovers for them to rest and refuel from their long, treacherous journey over the Gulf of Mexico.
This biannual phenomenon is studied by scientists and research groups all over the nation through the practice of bird banding. Researchers attach small metal or plastic bands, marked with an identification code, to the bird’s leg or wing to track its movement, behavior, and life span. The banding data is sent to a central site, The Bird Banding Laboratory, where this collective information is used to analyze migrating patterns, population growth, survival rates, and serves as contributing data for numerous research projects.
Historic Site Fort Morgan serves as an important site for southeast’s banding program which is led by the Birmingham Audubon Society and partners: Mobile Bay Audubon Society, Alabama Historical Commission, Mississippi State University, Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism, and Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Fort Morgan is home to the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge which makes up the Alabama Coastal Birding Trail and is designated as one “100 Globally Important Bird Areas” by the American Bird Society.
This year's bird banding project begins Tuesday, April 17th and runs through Saturday, April 21st. The event is free to the public and all ages are welcomed. Visitors must pay the admission fee to enter Fort Morgan State Historic Site as the the banding station is located inside the park. The birds are retrieved from mist nets set up throughout the forested areas. Each bird’s species, weight, and sex are recorded; then the bird is banded and released. Common birds captured include warblers, thrushes, tanagers, buntings, ruby-throated hummingbirds, and orioles. The five-day event is a unique opportunity to chat with researchers and identify a multitude of migrating birds while viewing them up-close.
Bird Banding Dates & Times:
◦ Tuesday, April 17th, noon to 3 p.m.
◦ Wednesday, April 18th, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
◦ Thursday, April 19th, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
◦ Friday, April 20th, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
◦ Saturday, April 21st, 8 a.m. to noon