This IBA is a 185,000 contiguous acre wetland ecosystem dominated by deeply flooded swamp forest and seasonally flooded bottomland hardwoods. It covers the delta formed by the confluence of the Alabama and Tombigbee rivers in the north, extending southward for approximately 35 miles to the head of Mobile Bay. The IBA is characterized by a large number of distributary rivers, streams, bayous, and creeks which form a network of wetlands and waterways, some directly interconnected, while others are not.
It is estimated that 90% of the resident birds in Eastern North America use bottomlands at one time or another (breeding, migratory stopover, winter residency, etc.)during their life history. Over 300 species of birds have been recorded form the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta. Of these, at least 110 species are known to nest.
This site contains one of the few geographical quadrant blocks surveyed during the Alabama Breeding Bird Atlas Project where Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris) was confirmed breeding.
The area includes the Blakely Island mud flats where shorebirds amass during migration.
This area is a breeding stronghold of both the Swallow Tailed Kite (Ealnoides forficatus) and the Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippienses) in Alabama.
Other Alabama resident species for which the Mobile Tensaw delta serves as one of the few breeding localities in the state include the Mottled Duck (Anas fulvigula) and Purple Gallinule (Porphyrula martinica). Results of the Alabama Breeding Bird Atlas Project revealed that the majority of confirmed breeding localities for Least Bittern, Tri-colored Heron, Prothonotary Warbler(Protonotaria citrea), and Northern Parula (Parula americana) were from the Mobile Tensaw delta region.
The forested wetlands and delta are one of the most productive wildlife habitats in the Untied States. These important forested wetlands also provide major wintering grounds for managed species of waterfowl, and the contiguous forest blocks along the linear geographic feature of the river drainages provides a valuable stopover habitat for migratory forest birds. The area is also likely to accommodate significant roosts of Rusty Blackbirds during winter months.
Heavy industry is spreading north along the Mobile River, commercial timber harvest operations occur at various locations, and Oil/gas extraction/exploration are the major commercial uses of the area.
The Alabama Department of Natural Resources State Lands Division has acquired upwards of nearly 50,000 acres within this drainage area for conservation as a natural area. Approximately 0.3% of the lands within the IBA were acquired via the AL Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Coastal Impact Assistance Program, and 1.4% of the lands were acquired via the AL Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Forestry Legacy Program. Remaining lands are in private ownership.
The major habitat types found within this IBA are Mesic flood plains and bottomland forests/swamps dominated by an Oak/gum/cypress associations, tidally influenced brackish water marshes, and submersed grassbeds.
An aproximate distribution of habitat proportions are as follows: 20,323 acres of open waters, 10,430 acres of fresh/mixed marsh, 69,348 acres of swamp, 84,839 acres of mixed bottomlands forests.
State conservation lands provide extensive hunting, fishing, boating, kayaking, canoeing, and bird watching opportunities exist within the IBA. http://www.sarpc.org/gems/TensawGEM2.htm
The degree and frequency to which these activities are conducted across the entire IBA are unknown. The magnitude of ecotourism increases as one moves closer to the Mobile urban center, as sites along the periphery of this IBA are included on the Alabama Cosatal Birding Trail. Private companies offer airboat tours of the extensive network of waterways within the IBA.