It’s no wonder people who love birdwatching flock to Florida. Close to 80 percent of America’s bird species head south for the winter, and most of them land in The Sunshine State. With 512 (and counting) bird species to see, Florida truly is an birdwatching avian paradise. Picture it: 7,800 lakes, 1,200 miles of coastline, 660 miles of beach, 11,000 miles of waterways, plus wetlands and forests—who can blame the birds for making Florida their home?
The Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail leads birders of all experience levels through a veritable statewide nest. The 2,000-mile trail includes 491 sites throughout Florida, which were selected for their exemplary bird- and wildlife-watching opportunities. We’ve created a guide, starting at the north part of the state and traveling south along Bluegreen destinations, to highlight the rich birdwatching opportunities that Florida has to offer.
Places in Florida that Birdwatching lovers flock to St. Augustine
The trees in St. Augustine practically seem to be moving, they’re so chock-full of birds, including herons, egrets, wood storks and hundreds more. For fowl-friendly views along the Great Florida Birding Trial, kayak along St. John’s River, hike along the trails at Faver-Dykes State Park, where you’ll find more than 100 species of birds during the spring and fall migrations.
The Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail also finds meanders through the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park. More of a zoo than an alligator exhibit, the park boasts a two-acre native swamp exhibit for guests to learn about and view native fowl.
The 140,000-acre Merrit Island Wildlife Refuge, located about 50 miles east of Orlando, is home to 1,500 different species of plants and animals including 330 species of birds, such as purple gallinule, least bittern and wood ducks, as well as endangered species such as wood storks, Florida scrub jays, and roseate terns.
Also along the Great Florida Birding Trail is Orlando Wetlands Park, which is home to more than 150 species of birds. Over 1,650 acres of hardwood hammock, marshes and lakes are situated about 40 miles east of downtown Orlando. Hikers, cyclists and birdwatching enthusiasts can enjoy over 18 miles of berm roads with excellent views of wading birds and waterfowl. The bright Floridian skies provide uninterrupted views of numerous raptor species, including osprey, northern harriers, cooper’s hawks and red-shouldered hawks.
From North Miami-Dade to South-Miami Dade, even the residential areas in these parts are thick with birds. Visit Deering Estate at Cutler and keep your eyes peeled for more than 160 bird species, including rarities such as the mangrove cuckoo, black-whiskered vireo and limkin.
If you want to see the 300 species of birds within the Everglades, such as the anhinga (aka water turkey or snake bird), roseate spoonbill, sandpiper, osprey, egret, pelican and bald eagle, head to the Everglades National Park Main Entrance. Birdwatching is accessible by car, foot, boat or bike. After you’ve seen all the birds you can see, rest your eyes at Bluegreen’s Solara Surfside.
Florida’s southernmost state park, Bahia Honda State Park, is a hotspot for wading birds (great white herons, great blue herons, tri-colored herons and white ibis) and shore birds (short-billed dowitchers, plovers and willets). Fall visitors can catch a glimpse of the hawk migration (mid-September to mid-November) while summer visitors can often spot the endangered white-crowned pigeon. Be sure and check out the 63-acre Crane Point Museum, which is home to the Marathon Wild Bird Center, a rescue and rehabilitation center for sick and injured birds. Enjoy your tip-of-the-state accommodations at The Hammocks at Marathon.
To learn more about the Great Florida Birding Trail go to floridabirdingtrail.com.
If you would like to know more about birds, birdwatching and bird calling, we’ve got a few books for you. Set your binoculars on The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America to learn about birds in your backyard, as well as those you will see in Florida. Also helpful, and full of incredible color photography, is the Smithsonian Field Guide to the Birds of North America. This text offers a complete guide to birds, with maps, checklists and a glossary. And if birdwatching from home sounds like the way to go, check out Attracting Birds to Your Backyard: 536 Ways to Create a Haven for Your Favorite Birds.