Treetop Trail – New Digs for Old Friends

Barred Owl Cage
- Photo Credit: Francesca Gross
Birds eye view
- Photo Credit: Francesca Gross
New stairs from trailhead
- Photo Credit: Francesca Gross
Trail to Wildlife Center
- Photo Credit: Francesca Gross
Resting place on new boardwalk
- Photo Credit: Francesca Gross
New boardwalk
- Photo Credit: Francesca Gross
Quiet gathering place
- Photo Credit: Francesca Gross
Entrance on Terrace Drive
- Photo Credit: Francesca Gross

Built around the time the Alabama Wildlife Center opened in Oak Mountain State Park, in 1985–1986, and renovated in 2014, the Treetop Nature Trail invites all ages to see some of the sharp-beaked, taloned birds of prey that live in Alabama. The elevated boardwalk leads to six large raptor cages built under tall oak and hickory trees. Small windows on the sides of cages allow you to peek inside without scaring the birds. Although most of the longtime avian residents see people every day, they remain wild animals with healthy instincts to keep away from loud noise and quick motion. The birds that live on the Treetop Nature Trail were brought to the AWC with life-threatening injuries. The caregivers nursed them back to health with special diet and rehabilitation, but permanent injuries prevent them from surviving in the wild.

Benches and gathering places along this enchanting elevated boardwalk invite you to enjoy the quiet setting and tree canopy of oak, hickory, and maple. Information on each bird of prey includes the habitat where they live in the wild, nesting habits, bird call, and a map of the range where they live and travel. Here are a few of the birds you may be able to visit on the Treetop Nature Trail:

Black Vulture: The more southern of our two common vulture species, the Black Vulture flaps its wings rather frequently when it soars. It is more social than the Turkey Vulture, traveling in large flocks.

Albino Turkey Vulture: Although it has an ugly, bare-skinned face, the Turkey Vulture is beautiful on the wing. Seldom does this graceful and talented bird flap its wings as it soars over large areas searching for carrion. This rare white bird is a beauty.

Barred Owl: A large owl of extensive woodlands, the Barred Owl is familiar for its distinctive call, “who-cooks-for-you?” At home in low wet woods and swampy forests.

Screech-Owl: The Eastern Screech-Owl is found in nearly every habitat throughout the eastern U.S. and Canada. It is common in urban as well as rural areas and readily nests in nest boxes.

Great Horned Owl: Found everywhere from the arctic tundra and the tropical rainforest to the dessert and suburban back yards, the Great Horned Owl is one of the most widespread and common owls in North America.

Red-Tailed Hawk: This is probably the most widespread hawk in North America. If you’ve got sharp eyes, you’ll see several individuals on almost any long car ride, anywhere. Red-Tailed Hawks soar above the open fields, slowly turning circles on uplifting warm air thermals.

It’s a short but steep walk from the Treetop Nature Trail to the AWC building, which is perched on a ridge at the head of the valley. The connecting Eagle Trail is a third of a mile and takes about 10 minutes. Visitors can also drive to the AWC on upper Terrace Drive, where you’ll find the AWC bird nursery and the Oak Mountain Interpretive Nature Center.

An easy-access parking area for those in wheelchairs or with limited mobility connects directly to the Treetop boardwalk. The access road is between the Treetop Trail entrance and the Peavine Falls Trail off of Terrace Drive near the two tennis courts.

-Francesca Gross