With its tropical climate and abundance of rivers, lakes and marshes, it is not surprising that many species of birds make Florida their home. In fact, Florida is considered to be one of the best places in the world for birding and is home to the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail, a 2000-mile trail that connects 515 different birding and wildlife viewing sites throughout the state. Read on for some of the Best Parks in Florida for Birding.
The Dry Tortugas & Fort Jefferson National Park
One of the world’s most spectacular eco-treasures, the Dry Tortugas is known for its magnificent natural beauty and wide variety of bird species that come to nest throughout the year. Of particular interest to bird watching enthusiasts, the sooty tern makes Bush Key its regular nesting site and its only one in the US. But there are more than 300 different species that flock to this tiny cluster of islands, making it a favorite for bird watchers. Keep your eyes to the skies and you may see the rare Antillean nighthawk, brown boobies, black noddies, red-footed boobies, white-tailed tropicbirds, raptors and more, depending on the time of year you’re here. To get here, hop on the Yankee Freedom, the official ferry, and enjoy a leisurely 70-mile ride from Key West. Once there you can also enjoy snorkeling, touring Ft. Jefferson or relaxing on an unspoiled beach.
Everglades National Park
One of the top 10 birding locations in the world, Everglades National Park offers you an up close view of an array of birds including the black-crowned and yellow-crowned night herons, ruddy turnstones, white-crowned pigeons, black skimmers, white ibis, snowy egret, red-winged blackbirds and many more. The park is home to more than 350 different species and any one or all of them could be seen in one day as you tour the park. Take a boat tour to see as many of these beautiful creatures as possible, more than half of the park is covered in water. You can either rent a canoe or book a tour, if you’re just getting started as a bird watcher, you may want to book a tour so you can learn all about the different species you’re seeing from the onboard naturalist.
St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge
More than 300 bird species have been recorded in this 68,000-acre wildlife refuge offering bird watchers days and days of exceptional activity. There are trails throughout the park, each home to a diverse group of birds. White-throated sparrows, pileated woodpeckers, belted kingfishers, shovelers, coots, snow geese, American black ducks, yellow-billed cuckoos, indigo buntings, brown headed nuthatches and tons more can be seen in various spots throughout the park. Stop in at the visitor center before beginning your birding adventure and get a map. You’ll make the most of your visit that way and have a heads up on the sightings for that day. Depending on the season, you’ll be in for a treat, so bring your camera and log.
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
Located in Titusville, Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge is one of Florida’s top birding sites with more than 330 recorded species. Its 7-mile Black Point Wildlife Drive, which is an auto tour loop, is known around the world for the many opportunities to spot wading and shoreline bird species. Whatever season you choose to visit, you’ll be delighted with the birds to observe, including Bald Eagles, American coots, green-winged teal, snow geese, roseate spoonbill, various ducks, cinnamon teal, egrets and many others. Check in at the visitor center and they’ll share the most recent bird sightings and give you tips on which trails offer the best bird watching.
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
An Audubon Society keystone site, this sanctuary offers bird enthusiasts an incredible opportunity to observe more than 200 different species. The largest remaining stand of old-growth bald cypress is one of the reasons so many birds flock to this site and their 2.25-mile boardwalk makes it easy to view the many birds here. From barred owls and red-shouldered hawks to white ibis, egrets, herons, wood storks, limpkins, warblers, vireos and painted buntings, you’ll be in awe of the many birds right before your eyes. Inside the Blair Audubon Center you can meet some of the park’s naturalists, checkout a pair of binoculars and get the inside scoop on the most recent bird sightings.