The Secret Coast is expansive, with 62 miles of shoreline, bays, bayous, marshes, and barrier islands perfect for bird watching more than 400 native and migratory species.
The sandy beaches and barrier islands of Gulf Islands National Seashore allow observations of shorebirds and seabirds, including the Magnificant Frigatebird and Northern Gannet. The Mississippi Coastal Birding Trail helps guide visitors to destinations in six southern counties.
One of the great birding experiences of the Gulf Coast is a spring “fallout,” when northbound birds swarm a patch of woods after crossing the Gulf of Mexico. Several sites along the coast, including Ansley Preserve, can host this spectacle, though such events are always weather-dependent and can’t be predicted very far in advance.
Mel White, audubon.org
Where should you start your adventure?
Visit Mississippi Coast Birding Trail to begin mapping out your visit. Some of the most popular sites include the Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge, the Pascagoula River Audubon Center and the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Book a nature tour through a variety of excursion offerings in Coastal Mississippi or charter a trip to one of the State's barrier islands. Ship Island Excursions (from Biloxi or Gulfport) and Shore Thing Fishing Charters are great options for bird watchers. The Mississippi Ornithological Society also offers extensive information about Mississippi's native birds.
If you are interested in participating in a field trip, visit the Mississippi Coast Audubon Society for schedules and additional details. Field trips are open to the public; just bring your own binoculars!
Which species can you expect to see?
An annotated list is available here.
Great Blue Heron
Great Crested Flycatcher
Red-Winged Black bird.
American White Pelican
Black-Crowned Night Heron
Why is The Secret Coast perfect for bird watchers?
The most exciting aspect of birdwatching in Coastal Mississippi is the diversity. We've had almost 400 different species of birds documented in Coastal Mississippi. As they migrate through in the spring and fall, or come here to breed in the summer, or come to the Coast to overwinter, we've always got something neat showing up. We've got a diversity of habitats to support all the birds that specialize in certain types of habitats. If I want to go out and see one particular bird or kind of bird, I can target that, or if I want to see a lot of different kinds of birds, I can swing through a variety of habitats and see a lot of bird species in a short time. We've got bottomland hardwoods, marshes, beaches, and frequently-burned piney woods (plus other habitats), and each has it's own avifauna. You can look for "special" birds, different habitats, and more on the Mississippi Coast Birding Trail. Of course, you can link up with a local birder to serve as a guide as well.
Robert Smith, Coastal Programs Coordinator and Wildlife Mississippi and Photobiologist
So pack your binoculars and field guides for a unique birding experience along The Secret Coast!