My 14 Best Bird Watching Spots in Georgia You Should Try


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More than 340 bird species have been recorded in Georgia. The state is known for its beautiful landscapes and abundant wildlife. There are swamps, saltwater marshes, beaches, southern Appalachian mountains, fields, and forests. This variety of habitats results in a rich birdlife.

The best bird watching spots in Georgia include the barrier islands, Jekyll and Tybee islands; the Piedmont and Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuges are both excellent for various habitats and birds; another good spot is the wastewater treatment plant at E. L. Huie Land Application Facility.

A table giving the most exciting birds you can see at each of my top 14 birding spots in Georgia:

PARKINTERESTING BIRDS YOU CAN SEE
Piedmont National Wildlife RefugeRed-cockaded Woodpecker and Bachman’s Sparrow
Jekyll IslandAmerican Oystercatcher and American Avocet
Tybee IslandBlack Skimmer and Brown Pelican
Altamaha Wildlife Management AreaGlossy Ibis and King Rail
Harris Neck National Wildlife RefugePainted Bunting and Clapper Rail
Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield ParkCerulean Warbler and Blackburnian Warbler
Okefenokee National Wildlife RefugeNorthern Parula and Swallow-tailed Kite
Newman Wetlands CenterGolden-crowned Kinglet and Hairy Woodpecker
E. L. Huie Land Application FacilityGadwall and Pectoral Sandpiper
Brasstown BaldRuffed Grouse and Common Raven
Sweetwater Creek State ParkCommon Goldeneye and Greater Scaup.
Dawson Forest Wildlife Management AreaRuddy Duck and Hermit Thrush
Clyde Shepherd Nature PreserveBlack-billed Cuckoo and Hooded Merganser
Phinizy Swamp Nature ParkOsprey and Northern Shoveler
Best Bird Watching Spots in Georgia

Read on to learn more about my choices for the best bird watching spots in Georgia.

Best Bird Watching Spots in Georgia
Best Bird Watching Spots in Georgia

TIP: If you are interested in checking out the best pair of binoculars for bird watching, we recommend a pair of waterproof and fog-proof 8 x 42 binoculars like the Celestron – Outland X 8×42 Binoculars (Amazon link).

Best Places to Bird Watch in Georgia

There are a diversity of habitats in Georgia that support many birds. Several birding trails in Georgia provide access and bird watching opportunities for the public.

  1. Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge

I find this an excellent bird-watching spot. It is 35,000 acres and includes wetlands, loblolly pine forests, and hardwood forests. 

You can find the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker here. Other birds of note include the Bachman’s Sparrow, Blue Grosbeak, and several warblers like the Prairie Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, and Hooded Warbler.

Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge is an excellent place to watch for migrating songbirds in spring and fall.

  1. Jekyll Island

This is a barrier island that has a high species number of 300. It should be on your list of top birding spots in Georgia. The main habitats to bird watch include beaches, salt marshes, and mud flats. 

The causeway you take to get to the island is excellent for looking for birds in the salt marshes. It would be best if you watched for Wood Storks and Roseate Spoonbills in the marshes. 

The southernmost part of the island is excellent for Atlantic Ocean birds like gulls, terns, gannets, and the rare Common Eider (seen in winter).

The Great Shearwater was also seen from this southern area. Shorebirds commonly seen are the American Oystercatcher and American Avocet. There are some wooded areas on the island where you can find Gray Kingbirds from April to September.

  1.  Tybee Island

This is a barrier island located east of Savannah. Over 210 species of birds have been seen and recorded at Tybee island. This is an excellent spot to see sea birds like scoters and gulls and terns. You can walk along the beach or look in the marshy areas for birds.

Birds commonly seen here include the American Oystercatcher, Black Skimmer, Brown Pelican, Willet, Bufflehead, and Merganser (these last two are seen in winter).

  1. Altamaha Wildlife Management Area

This area is located on an old rice plantation. Altamaha Wildlife Management Area is one of the best hotspots for water birds in the state of Georgia.

Several species of birds are found in this wildlife area besides water birds. There are also shorebirds, birds typically found in marshy areas, and passerines and raptors. 

King Rail, Wood Stork, and Glossy and White Ibis are specialties of this area. Elusive species like rails and bitterns can be found skulking in the reeds. Several waterbirds can be seen on the waters, including Mottled Duck, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Northern Shoveler, and Pintail. 

  1. Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge 

This is a 2,800-acre refuge situated on an old airfield on the Georgia coast. There is a 4-mile loop you can drive and use to bird watch from. There are marshes (both freshwater and saltwater), maritime forests, and grassy fields.

Keep an eye out for Clapper Rail and Least Bittern in the marshes. Several herons, like Little Blue Heron, Black-Crowned Night-Heron, and Tricolored Heron, are seen regularly in the refuge. There are also trails you can walk along.

If you visit in summer, you will likely see the Painted Bunting, which breeds in the refuge in summer; you are also likely to see Orchard Orioles and Red-headed Woodpeckers in the trees.

  1. Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park

This park is 2,965 acres and is a top spot for people wanting to find warblers during spring migration. There is a paved road that is good to walk along while searching for birds. 

Bird species typically seen in the park include thrushes, tanagers, warblers, and vireos. The topography makes spotting tree-top warblers easier. 

The Cerulean Warbler and Blackburnian Warbler are often present in treetops and are found at this park, especially during migration.

The Blackburnian Warbler is one of the most beautiful warblers, often sought after by bird watchers. You can pick up a list of bird species in the park by visiting the visitor center.

  1. Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge

An extensive area of 620 square miles, this refuge has a range of habitats, including Cypress swamps, prairie, and forests of pine trees. The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge includes a lot of swamp land and is, therefore, designated as a Wetland of International Importance.

The refuge provides habitat for 230 species of birds, including the Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Wood Storks, Prothonotary Warbler, Northern Parula, Sandhill Crane, and Swallow-tailed Kite. A complete checklist is available and can be used for your trip here.

It would be best to walk along the Chesser Island boardwalk in Folkston. The boardwalk ends at an observation tower over the swamp, giving good views of the area for bird watchers.

The Suwannee Canal Recreation Area on the eastern side of the refuge is the place to see the Red-cockaded Woodpecker since they are known to nest in this area.

  1. Newman Wetlands Center

This is located in Clayton County, Georgia. It is a conservation area with trails and boardwalks passing through swamps and forested areas. At least 217 species of birds have been recorded in this area, making it an excellent spot to bird watch. 

You can find both Downy Woodpeckers and Hairy Woodpeckers here. Also, keep an eye out for Brown Creeper, Golden-crowned Kinglet, and Ruby-crowned Kinglet. In summer, you can expect warblers, including the American Redstart, and water thrushes like the Louisiana Waterthrush. 

  1. E. L. Huie Land Application Facility

This area consists of water treatment ponds. Most bird watchers know the value of water treatment ponds for birds, and E. L. Huie is no exception. At least 210 bird species have been observed in this area. The place is perfect for finding waterfowl and shorebirds. 

Water birds like ducks, teals, and geese can be seen at the highest numbers in winter. A Surf Scoter was also seen once in the ponds here once.  

Shorebirds include Pectoral Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, and Spotted Sandpiper; these are at maximum numbers in summer. 

  1. Brasstown Bald 

This is the highest mountain in Georgia, standing at 4,784 feet above sea level. This is the spot for birds in the north of the state. It is an excellent place to go in either late spring or summer because temperatures are lower at the higher elevation.

The mountain is within the Chattahoochee National Forest. Birds to look out for here include the Ruffed Grouse, Canada Warbler, Common Raven, Broad-winged Hawk, and many more.

The best bird-watching places are around the visitor center and along trails. It would be best to use the pull-off spots along Highway 180 as you drive to the summit.

  1. Sweetwater Creek State Park

This park is a good choice if you are in the Atlanta area because it is close to the city. There is a lake here, streams, and woods. You can walk along the trails or look for birds at the lake. 

The lake is suitable for winter ducks like Common Goldeneye and Greater Scaup. Mergansers may also be present as other water birds, including Ruddy Ducks. The woods have birds such as Red-bellied and Downy Woodpeckers, Blue Jays, and Carolina Chickadees. 

  1. Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area

Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area is a 25,000-acre region comprised of forests, fields, marshes, and wetlands. At least 198 species are included on the list of birds seen here.

In the forests, you can find four species of vireos here, including the Yellow-throated and Blue-throated Vireo. In winter, you can see Golden-crowned Kinglets and Hermit Thrushes.

You will likely see Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Ruddy Duck, and American Wigeon on the lake. You can also spot Canada Geese and Snow Geese in the fields in winter. 

  1. Clyde Shepherd Nature Preserve

This 28-acre preserve in Decatur has many habitats, including upland forests, a beaver pond, and pine trees. There are trails and an observation tower where you can get good pond views. It is a great place to see birds like the Marsh Wren and Sedge Wren.

In summer, this is worth a visit to see Indigo Buntings and Orchard Orioles. Many other birds are found in the wetlands, including Hooded Merganser and Wood Ducks. A unique bird seen here is the less common Black-billed Cuckoo. The Yellow-billed Cuckoo is also present in summer. 

  1. Phinizy Swamp Nature Park

The Phinizy Swamp Nature Park has a boardwalk through the floodplain of Beaver Creek. There are various trails. One of these trails takes you through the wooded areas.

Close to the water, you can find Northern Parula and Sedge Wrens. You can also see Wood Ducks and Northern Shoveler here on the pond.

There is a wind shear tower in the park where the Osprey nest each year; this is reason enough to visit the park. This park is well-organized, with a map online and clear directions on where you can go. 

Best Time to Bird Watch in Georgia

You can look for birds all year round in Georgia, but certain species are more common at certain times of the year.

TYPES OF BIRDSSEASON
Kingbirds and WarblersApril to September
Eider Duck and other ducks and geeseDecember to February
Best Time to Bird Watch in Georgia

The Georgia State Bird

The Brown Thrasher: The State Bird of Georgia
The Brown Thrasher: The State Bird of Georgia

The Brown Thrasher, Toxostoma rufum, is the state bird of Georgia. The bird is large, brown on the top of the body, with some white on the wings; it has white underparts striped with brown.

The beak is curved, and the tail is long. Generally, Brown Thrashers are easy to recognize. These birds are bold and aggressive if you go near their nests or chicks.

Bird Watching Laws in Georgia

In Georgia, every bird species is protected except for House Sparrows, Pigeons, and European Starlings. Birds may not be illegally hunted; their nests and eggs are protected. You may not possess eggs, nests, or any part of indigenous wild birds.

My Favourite Equipment for Bird Watching

Bird watching is one of the least expensive hobbies out there, but you still need some equipment to get the most out of it. 

The essential equipment to start bird watching is a pair of binoculars. My preference is 8 X 42 binoculars. The number 8 is how much the magnification is, while 42 is the field of view in millimeters of the lenses.

A pair of waterproof and fog-proof 8 x 42 binoculars like the Celestron – Outland X 8×42 Binoculars on Amazon is an excellent choice for both beginners and experts. 

In time, you can choose more expensive models and also opt to buy a spotting scope like the Celestron Ultima 80 on Amazon.

These are a lot more expensive compared with binoculars though, so if you are only a beginner, start with binoculars first. A spotting scope is only helpful for birds far away, such as out on a pond or seashore.

Bird Watching Ethics

There are a few rules or guidelines you should abide by as an ethical birder. These are listed below.

  • Do not enter private lands without prior permission from landowners.
  • Follow all the rules in refuges and reserves, including cleaning up any garbage from your campsite.
  • Do not disturb birds on nests.
  • Do not use apps and play songs to call up birds when they are hungry, tired, and breeding during spring and summer.

Conclusion

Georgia has an interesting mix of habitats, from the coastal area of the Atlantic to forests and inland water bodies. There are also mountainous areas that attract some unique birds.

The range of habitats and many top bird watching spots in Georgia make this a state you should visit as part of a bird watching trip in the United States.

TIP: If you are interested in checking out the best pair of binoculars for bird watching, we recommend a pair of waterproof and fog-proof 8 x 42 binoculars like the Celestron – Outland X 8×42 Binoculars (Amazon link).

Rae Osborn

Rae Osborn is an avid bird watcher and holds a doctorate in Biology. Her interests in birds began as a child growing up in South Africa. She has continued to study birds and has bird watched in the United States and South Africa.

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