Discover local Birmingham critters at the 16th annual Salamander Festival on Jan. 25

Birmingham, salamanders, Salamander Festival, Shades Valley Community Church, salamander migration, Homewood
How sweet are these little salamanders? Photo via Friends of Shades Creek on Facebook

Salamanders. Newts. Fire Lizards. No matter what you call them, it’s time to celebrate these short-legged, sleek-bodied, long-tailed amphibians during the Salamander Festival on Saturday, January 25 at Shades Valley Community Church in Birmingham.

If you’re like me, you had no idea that such an interesting, perhaps even unusual, event was held in Birmingham. Well guess what! This will actually be the 16th year the event has taken place. That’s a whole lot of salamanders!

Think these creatures are just slimy lizards? Guess again! They actually make up a huge part of Alabama’s biomass. Alabama is even home to over 43 different species!

Birmingham, salamanders, Salamander Festival, Shades Valley Community Church, salamander migration, Homewood
Reticulated Siren salamander. Photo by Pierson Hill via Facebook

Check out the Reticulated Siren, named Alabama’s newest salamander in 2018. 

Here are some interesting and wacky facts about salamanders:

  • Although some are poisonous, most are harmless. 
  • The largest species in the world–the Chinese Giant Salamander–can grow up to five feet long!
  • Some have tongues up to ten times as long as their bodies.

Did the long tongue fact tickle your funny bone like it did mine? I knew it. Or rather, I “newt!”

For more fun facts, click here

Behind the Event

Birmingham, salamanders, Salamander Festival, Shades Valley Community Church, salamander migration, Homewood
Spotted in my own backyard. Photo via Patience Itson for Bham Now

Who’s behind Birmingham’s Salamander Festival? The Friends of Shades Creek—a nonprofit organization made up of local citizens who work for the protection of, and responsible development along, Alabama’s Shades Creek.

Did you know, Shades Creek stretches 56 miles long and flows through six Birmingham cities? They are: Irondale, Birmingham, Mountain Brook, Homewood, Hoover and Bessemer.

Why did the salamander cross the road?

Birmingham, salamanders, Salamander Festival, Shades Valley Community Church, salamander migration, Homewood
“Red Eft” aka Eastern Newt or Notophthalmus viridescens). Photo by Bham Now

To get to the other side, of course. And in this case, I’m totally serious.

Spotted salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum) migrate across the South Lakeshore area between Homewood High School and Samford University’s School of Art building. 

Where are they going? To drainages, small ponds and old leftover channel from the original Shades Creek.

“Migration time is usually late December to end of January, but is dependent on rainfall. They move on rainy nights. This year, we had some migration on/around January 13.”

Kristin Bakkegard, Associate Professor of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Samford University

Dance like a salamander + more at the Salamander Festival

Birmingham, salamanders, Salamander Festival, Shades Valley Community Church, salamander migration, Homewood
There’s no salamander fear in this girl. Photo via Patience Itson for Bham Now

The chance to see and touch real salamanders is just part of the fun! There will also be:

  • Arts and crafts for kids to make like clay salamander, fish prints and origami
  • Face painting
  • Microscopes
  • Fossils
  • Recycling info
  • Art by Homewood students
  • Southern trees’ display and carnivorous plants
  • Educational interactive displays
  • And more!

Here’s a rundown of the days events:

  • 3PM – Festival begins indoors with salamanders and activities; Music with Rob Angus and “Over The Hillbillies” band
  • 3:45PM – Welcome from Friends of Shades Creek and Homewood Mayor’s office; Awards and prizes
  • 4PM – Salamander story with Jay Eubanks, Herpetologist; Dancing with Alessia Lovreglio from Edgewood Dance Center. (Haven’t you always wanted to dance like a salamander?)

Arrive at 2PM before the festival begins to take part in a family hike.  

Admission is FREE. Snacks, sodas and assorted drinks will be sold for $1 per item.

Show Your Love for Salamanders

Don’t miss the 16th annual Salamander Festival on Saturday, February 25 at Shades Valley Community Church in Homewood. The fun begins at 2PM!

Be sure to share all those cool salamander photos with us @bhamnow!