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Bird Watching in Florida

 

In addition to beautiful lakes and breathtaking islands, subtropical specialties, and rare birds makes Florida the fifth most species-rich US state. Indeed, bird watching in Florida offers birders a multitude of experiences. Look for the bonus section below, too— Eagle Cameras in Florida are popular with people around the world!

As a nature lover, you might have already visited or planning to visit Florida. The southern peninsula, featuring subtropical habitats, is home to numerous species that you cannot spot anywhere else in the United States.

When touring the sunshine state, you will undoubtedly want to explore Everglades, which is among the most significant wilderness areas you can visit in North America. However, that’s not it. The state has much more to offer than its national park.

 

Frigate bird. Colorful species in the Florida Keys stock photo

 

Florida Values its Native Environment

 

With over 34 million acres, Florida is also the second-largest US state east of the Mississippi River. The government spent a massive amount annually on environmentally sensitive lands. Because of climate, plenty of beaches, and theme parks, the state experienced massive immigration for years.

As a result, the sunshine state is expected to become the third most populous US state soon, surpassing New York. The state naturally has three regions: Peninsula, the Panhandle, and the Keys. If you are a birder and looking for Florida specialties, you don’t have to travel to the north of the central peninsula.

The northern peninsula and panhandle feature unique birding spots. However, you may have to travel in much east of North America. Those who want to see rare birds, such as Snail Kites, Roseate Spoonbills, Florida Scrub-Jays, Mangrove Cuckoos, and Black-whiskered Vireos should explore south of the Orland area.

A nature tour of seven to ten days in southern Florida in early April and mid-May will allow birders to see all the Florida specialties.

 

 

bird watching in florida

 

 

Top Bird Watching Spots in Florida

 

1.      Everglades National Park

Best Birding Season: December to March

The #1 place for bird watching in Florida is the Everglades national park. Apart from alligators dominating the animals’ popularity, Everglades is home to various forms of fascinating wildlife, especially birds. As a symbol of the Everglades, birds have been captured in paintings by various famous artists, including John James Audubon.

According to stats, in the 1800s, the Everglade was home to numerous wading and migratory birds that darkened the skies with their whopping numbers.  However, in the twentieth century, due to the loss of habitats and hunters, the birds’ population is significantly declined in Florida Everglades.

Despite this, the park is still home to more than 350 bird species to attract birders from all across the country. The majority of these bird species are year-round, while others are migratory, and you can sight them in winter. Everglades is one of the best spots for quickly sighting high concentrations of diverse species.

Most Significant Wading Birds in Everglades

Everglades is home to about sixteen different wading birds. With their attractive long legs, these birds wade into the water to find their food.

  • Roseate Spoonbills:
  • Great White Herons
  • Green-Baked Herons.
  • Wood Storks.
  • Great Blue Herons.
  • White and Glossy Ibises.
  • Snowy Egrets.
  • Tricolored Herons.
  • Great Egrets.

 

 

bird watching in florida

 

2.      The Florida Keys and Dry Tortugas National Park

Best Birding Season: Spring

Although the list contains over 299 species, the Dry Tortugas national park is a long-term habitat for some species. You can sight more than 40 bird species in winter, and about seven species nest there. The majority of these bird species include transient or strays that briefly stay there during spring and fall.

Northbound migrants start arriving in mid-February, while spring migration begins from March to mid-May. Since more than 200 species pass during migration, the largest concentrations are generally sight when high winds, cold temperatures, and rain ground these birds.

During summer, it is easy to sight black noddies, brown noddies, fascinating frigatebirds, and sooty terns nesting along the Bush Key beaches from January to mid-July. However, you should know that the area is closed seasonally for birders. So, it is best to have binocular or spotting scopes to enjoy nesting activities from Fort Jefferson.

Unlike a temporary spring migration, fall migration is more prolonged and not much influenced by the weather. You can easily sight massive flights of raptors in September and October.

Most Significant Rare Species in Dry Tortugas
  • Masked and Brown Boobies.
  • Roseate and Bridled Terns.
  • Red Footed Boobies.
  • Red-Necked Phalarope.
  • Brown Pelicans.
  • Double-Crested Cormorants.
  • Frigate Birds.
  • White-tailed Tropicbird.
  • The Caribbean Short-Eared Owl.
  • Golden Warbler.
  • Shiny Cowbird.

 

 

 

3.      Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

Best Birding Season: November through April

Corkscrew Swamp is one of the best places for bird watching in Florida. The place is a haven for people who love the wilderness. It is also known as the Muir Woods of the East Coast. The spot includes a boardwalk spanning over 2.25 miles that will bring you among the trees with a height of over 100 feet to make exploring more pleasant.

The place is known for its massive colony of wood storks. However, you will also sight plenty of egrets and herons, pileated woodpeckers, barred owls, limpkins, swallow-tailed kites, and various migrant species.

Since humans and the National Audubon Society haven’t touched the sanctuary, it strives to maintain its pristine condition. It means you may not see people offering trained animal shows or feeding captive animals. However, if you are thrilled by the chatter of birds, a wild alligator, and tropical flowers, then the place is perfect for you.

Significant Bird Species
  • Wood Storks.
  • Bald Eagle.
  • Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher.
  • Black-bellied Whistling-Duck.

 

 

 

 

4.      Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge

Best Birding Season: December through March

Spanning over 21,574 acres and featuring both wetlands and woods, Lake Woodruff is amazing for indecisive birders with more than 200 species of birds. The place is located about 25 miles from Daytona Beach, lying on the sprawling Ocala National Forest’s eastern edge. It primarily consists of the waterways and marshes. However, the place also has hardwood swamps and pinewoods.

With raised trails tracing the edges of water impoundments, you will get an elevated view above sawgrass marshes that thrives with ibises, wading herons, ducks, cranes, and limpkins. Watching birds standing out against the grays and greens of the swamp during winter is my favorite season.

Moreover, red-shouldered hawks hunt from perches in the palms, while Osprey, Bald Eagles, and Turkey Vultures circle overhead. You will find the stretches of pinewood and palmettos an excellent place to enjoy woodpeckers. In addition to birds, you may also spot raccoons, armadillos, alligators, and bobcats.

Significant Bird Species
  • Sandhill Crane.
  • American Bittern.
  • Great Blue.
  • Eastern Whip-poor-will.
  • Barred Owl.
  • American Coot.
  • Red-Winged Blackbird.
  • Common Yellowthroat.
  • Red-Bellied Woodpeckers.
  • Bobolink
  • Solitary Western.

 

 

 

5.      Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park

Best Birding Season: November through February

Another excellent bird-watching place in Florida is Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. It features eight different trails, which offer 30 miles of hiking. However, the most popular trails for birding are La Chua and Bolen Bluff trails. As one of Florida’s premier birding places, a renowned naturalist explored the area in the late 1770s, dubbing it the “great Alachua Savanna.”

Today, the state park encompasses almost all of the 16,000 acres of wet prairie and basin marsh. Additionally, it also includes Flatwoods, hardwood hammocks, swamps, lakes, and streams. You can enter from Savannah Blvd., which has a visiting center.

From there, you can pick up a map to check for recent sightings. The famous LaChua Trail features sinter sparrow habitat, winter waterfowl, hawks, and access to prairie wetland. While the Bolen Bluff is about 2.6 miles long and travels through hardwood forest and shady mesic hammocks.

The area supports more than 270 species of birds and giant alligators. Moreover, butterfly viewing is also incredible at this park. However, you cannot take your pets with you while exploring LaChua, Bolen Bluff, or Crone’s Dike Trails.

Significant Birds
  • Limpkins
  • Wood Stork.
  • Sandhill Cranes.
  • Whooping Cranes.
  • Yellow Rail.
  • Tundra Swan.
  • Golden Eagle.
  • White-Face Ibises.
  • Groove-Billed Ani.
  • Bald Eagle.
  • Vermilion Flycatcher.
  • Harris’s Sparrow.
  • Black-Bellied Whistling Duck.

 

 

 

6.      Blackwater River State Park

Best Birding Season: November through February

Blackwater River State Park is among America’s most prosperous biological places. It is located within the state forest of Florida and supports more than 300 bird species all year round. In addition, this region hosts more than 2,500 species of plants and a rare sand bottom river flowing from Alabama into Blackwater Bay. It is also among the purest sand-bottom rivers in the world.

Blackwater State Parks encompasses about 590 acres and is surrounded by the Blackwater River State Forest. You will spot about 4.5 miles of trails within the park that traverse through several habitats, including swamps and floodplain forests, pine Flatwoods, lakeside waters, and freshwater marshes.

You will spot plenty of yellow-bellied cuckoos, hairy woodpeckers, Red-shouldered hawks, Wood Thrushes, and Prothonotary Warblers. Moreover, in the uplands, you may see Brown-headed Nuthatches with delightful acrobats.

Most Significant Birds
  • Mississippi Kite.
  • Wild Turkey.
  • Red-Cockaded Woodpeckers.
  • Henslow’s Sparrow.
  • Bachman’s Sparrow.
  • Hairy Winged and Red-Tailed Hawks.
  • American kestrel.
  • Wood Thrush.
  • Chuck will’s Widow.
  • Green Herons.
  • Brown-Headed Nuthatch.
  • Pied Billed Grebe.

 

 

 

 

7.      Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge

Best Birding Season: January through March

Since J.N Ding Darling is one of America’s top ten birding spots, you will find this preserve as the best bird-watching spot in Florida. Here, best birding is also the easiest and accessible, making the refuge excellent for naturalists.

Featuring a four miles long wildlife drive, you will spot dozens of species and hundreds of birds from your vehicle. The refuge is famous for wading birds, which gather there in massive numbers during low tide. It supports more than 245 species of birds, including some specialties of southwest Florida.

At any given time, you will spot little blue herons, great blue herons, snowy egrets, great egrets, white ibises, tri-colored herons, roseate spoonbills, and more. Birders from across the country add to their life lists there, seeing fliers like American White Pelican, Yellow-Crowned Night Herons, Mangrove Cuckoo, and many more.

Spend some time at the center to figure out where these beautiful birds have been hanging out in the refuge. The place also offers excellent opportunities for those who love fishing, kayaking, biking, and hiking.

Commonly Seen Birds
  • Green Herons.
  • Song Birds.
  • American kestrel.
  • Shorebirds
  • Seabirds
  • Marsh Birds.
  • Waterfowl
  • White Ibis.
  • Roseate Spoonbills.
  • Red-Breasted Merganser.
  • Anhinga

 

bird watching in florida

 

 

 

8.      Ocala National Forest

Best Birding Season: Late Spring or Early Summer

The Ocala National Forest covers about 400,000 acres of sand pine forest and longleaf pines, making it perfect for birding habitat. It features a 2 miles loop trail leading through scrubby Flatwoods to a hardwood forest. Explore the Salt Spring Recreation area to access water or park.

Since the Salt Spring trail is scrubby, you can almost be sure to see songbirds, such as Yellow-throated Vireo and Ovenbird. At the edge of the water, you will spot plenty of Limpkins and Green Heron. A 4 miles blue-blazed trail connects with the orange-blazed Florida National Scenic Trail.

At any given time, when you’re driving in the forest, you will spot Scrub-Jays, perching on the wires, Red-Cockaded Woodpeckers, and more. Since Salt Spring is famous for swimming and gets quite busy, birding is perfect on the weekends and in the morning.

In addition, butterfly viewing is terrific in the spring, while seasonal hunting also occurs in the area.

Rare Breeding Bird Species
  • Re-Cockaded Woodpeckers.
  • Red-Headed Woodpeckers.
  • Chuck-Will’s Widow.
  • Brown-Headed Nuthatch.
  • Bachman’s Sparrow.
  • Bobwhite Quail.
  • Swallow-Tailed Kite.
  • Yellow-Throated Vireo.
  • Summer Tanager.
  • Pine Warbler.

 

 

9.      Honeymoon Island State Recreation Area

Best Birding Season: April to May

Honeymoon Island State Recreation Area is one of the best bird-watching spots in Florida and a perfect place for migrant and wintering shorebirds. The area is like a paradise for bird watchers. I spent a day there at the peninsula and was surprised to spot many different bird species.

It hosts about 22 species of birds in fall, winter, and spring. The surrounding barrier islands accommodate a large wintering population of piping plovers. Additionally, over a thousand terns congregate in fall, including six other bird species.

Breeding birds include Snowy Plovers, Wilson’s, Great Horned Owl, Clapper Rails, and Least Terns. Moreover, along with the Osprey Trail, slash pine woods wharf a breeding population of 20 pairs of Osprey. You will also spot Prairie Warblers and Gray Kingbirds in spring and summer. Black-Whiskered Vireos also nest there in May.

Commonly Seen Birds
  • Snowy Plover.
  • Wilson’s Plover.
  • Bar-Tailed Godwit.
  • Northern Wheatear.
  • Varied Thrush.
  • Long-billed Murrelet.
  • Elegant Tern.
  • Mourning Warbler.
  • Townsend’s solitaire.
  • Green-Tailed Towhee.

 

 

10.  Big Cypress National Preserve

Best Birding Season: November through Mid-April

Last but not least, Big Cypress National Preserve is another excellent bird-watching area in Florida. Because of its five habitats, it offers a variety of outstanding birding locations. It includes hardwood hammocks, open prairies, cypress swamps, pinelands, and estuaries.

The expansive area is a perfect place to spend time exploring what Everglades eco-system and Big Cypress Swamp has for you. You can stop at Big Cypress Swamp Welcome Center or Oasis Visitor Center to get a map and information. About 24.5 miles long, Loop Road drives offer a scenic drive with roadside, where you will see wading birds, Barred Owls, and a few Swallow-Tailed Kite Flyover.

The National Scenic Trail runs from Loop Road down to the deep into the swamp. H.P. Williams Roadside Park, Kirby Storter Roadside Park, Visitor Center, and Welcome Center provide views of waders, woodpeckers, warblers, bluebirds, and flycatchers.

As you drive from place to place, make sure to keep an eye skyward for spotting White Ibises, Wood Storks, and Roseate Spoonbills.

Commonly Seen Birds, bird watching in Florida
  • Woodpeckers
  • Flycatchers
  • White Ibises.
  • Roseate Spoonbills.
  • Wood Storks.

 

Bonus: Eagle Cameras in Florida

Our Eagles are a protected species and should never be approached. However, with the help of eagle cameras in Florida, everyone can enjoy these beautiful birds and their young in their nests. For information on the Eagle Cameras in Florida, visit the American Eagle Foundation site.

 

Wrapping Up,  Prepare for Birdwatching In Florida. It’s an adventure!

The incredibly rich avian life of Florida is fantastic for birding enthusiasts. The above are my top 10 bird-watching places in Florida that you can visit. Generally, all year is excellent for birding in Florida, but November through May is perfect because of a wide variety of bird species to observe.

 

Read More

 

7 Therapeutic Benefits of Birdwatching(careuk.com)

 

 

Grey Partridge & x28;Perdix perdix& x29;. On the Filed in Autumn stock images

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