Birding Old Cahawba Archaeological Park, Dallas County, Alabama

Located in Dallas County | What you’ll find: Birding | Outdoor Recreation

Off The Porch with Judy and Don Self


Northern Parula, photo by Joe Watts

Old Cahawba Archaeological Park near Orville was chosen as the site for the Black Belt Birding Trail Advisory Group’s May meeting and, as a bonus, we conducted a 2-hour bird walk prior to the meeting. Although the Clear Creek Nature Trail is located just west of the Visitor’s Center, we chose to bird the Capitol Reserve. This section of the park is located immediately around the site of the capitol on the southeast side of the park adjacent to the Alabama River. It is level and provides easy access to a nice variety of habitats including mixed bottomland forest with a dense understory, cypress slough, and lawn dotted with mature hardwoods, many festooned with Spanish moss. And it is an area that accommodates a large group.

Birding the hardwoods around the picnic area at the site of Alabama’s first state capitol. Photo by Joe Watts.

Birding the hardwoods around the picnic area at the site of Alabama’s first state capitol. Photo by Joe Watts.

We parked on Walnut Street and began our walk. Before we were out of the parking area, we’d recorded Northern Cardinals, Northern Parula, Tufted Titmouse, Summer Tanager, and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Turning on to Capitol Street, we were treated to a fly-over by a Mississippi Kite. Then Mourning Doves, a Blue Jay and a female Orchard Oriole were found along Vine Street. When we reached the boat landing in the cypress slough at the south end of Vine Street, the Prothonotary Warbler that I’d promised stubbornly refused to put in an appearance.

We walked into the Capitol Reserve proper and enjoyed excellent views of a Yellow-billed Cuckoo as it devoured a tent caterpillar. Then a Yellow-throated Warbler demonstrated its fly-catching ability from a water oak and a Red-bellied Woodpecker excavated a nest cavity in a nearby snag. From our somewhat elevated position, we were able to look down into the cypress slough as a Little Blue Heron flew into the cypress slough, but he saw us and quickly retreated back into the dark headwaters of the slough. And at that point, the Prothonotary Warbler began calling from the mouth of the slough. But try as we might, we were not able to get a look at this brilliant yellow denizen of southern swamps. Our walk ended with 23 species tallied on our checklists.

The birds we identified with the name that a resident of 1820 Cahawba might have known them by are:


Little Blue Heron
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Mississippi Kite
Mourning Dove
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Chimney Swift
Red-bellied Woodpecker
White-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
Crow (species undetermined)
Barn Swallow
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Prothonotary Warbler
Northern Parula
Yellow-throated Warbler
Summer Tanager
Northern Cardinal
Indigo Bunting
Brown-headed Cowbird
Orchard Oriole

1820 Common name

Blue egret
Carrion crow
Turkey buzzard
Mosquito hawk
Turtle dove
Rain crow
Chimney sweep
White-eyed greenlet
Corn crow or Fish crow
Fork tail swallow
Black-capped titmouse
Small blue-gray flycatcher
Golden swamp warbler
Blue yellow-backed warbler
Sycamore warbler
Summer redbird
Indigo bird
Cow bunting
Brown oriole

We’re already planning our next visit to Old Cahawba. The Clear Creak Nature Trail should be good and we’re looking at birding Oak Street from the old burial ground in the northeast to the New Cemetery in the southwest. Add to that the Forever Wild Land Trust Old Cahawba Prairie that adjoins the park on the west and the birding opportunities are many and varied.

For more information on the history of Old Cahawba, go to or call them at (334) 872-8058.


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