Florida is a Worldwide Destination for Birding
Bird watching is so popular in Florida that Visit Florida (the Sunshine State’s official tour and travel guide) states that it is second only to beach-related activities as an outdoor recreation for both residents and visitors. And did you know that Florida is considered one of the best places in the world for birding?
With its rich diversity of habitat and its southerly North American location, Florida is also a top spot for an influx of migratory birds. Migratory birds find our climate and vegetation to suit them very well this time of year.
For a detailed look at which birds arrive in Florida, and where, during the winter, don’t miss this fact-filled overview by Bird Watcher’s Digest. It covers not only the most likely places in the state you’ll find different feathered visitors at the shorelines and inland this winter, but also the ones who specifically don’t mind landing in your backyard for a snack. (Note to yourself: stock up the bird feeders now!)
When you’re ready to grab the heavy jacket and binoculars and explore the flurry of bird activity beyond your backyard, there’s no shortage of nature’s beauty in Florida.
COVID-19 restrictions may dictate some modifications of dates, times, and activities of outdoor events. We recommend that you call or check the website or Facebook page of each event to check on its status before you go.
Suggested Best Winter Migration Points to Visit in Florida
Everglades National Park
As one of the most unique wetland systems in the world, Everglades National Park covers more than 1.5 million acres and is home to large rookeries of herons, egrets, spoonbills, ibises, and wood storks. Its wintering populations include hundreds of American white pelicans. Florida specialties here during winter include the snail kite, mangrove cuckoo, white-crowned pigeon, greater flamingo, and short-tailed hawk. Mirant and wintering land birds are also attracted to the Everglades.
St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge
St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge is famous as likely the best site for wintering waterfowl in Florida. Covering about 100,000 acres of woodlands, marshes, and impoundments, the area draws more than 20 waterfowl species and a handful of snow geese each winter. Woodland areas attract wintering land birds, and breeding species here include Wilson’s plover, gull-billed tern, marsh wren, and seaside sparrow.
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge covers nearly 84,000 acres. The refuge is near Florida’s Space Coast in Titusville and attracts thousands of waterfowl of varied species each winter. Species include many American coot and large flocks of migrant and wintering shorebirds, gulls and terns, herons, egrets spoonbills, and American white pelicans.
Honeymoon Island State Park
Easily reached via a causeway from Dunedin, Honeymoon Island State Park is one of the best areas in Florida for migrant and wintering shorebirds. As many as 20 species can be found here regularly in fall, winter, and spring. This area sees the largest wintering population of piping plovers in the state, and thousands of terns arrive in fall. Snowy plovers, least terns, great horned owls and clapper rails breed here. The slash pine woods along the Osprey Trail harbor a breeding population of osprey pairs.
The Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail
If you want more ideas to challenge your bird watching adventures, there’s always The Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail, a network of 510 top wildlife viewing sites across the state. It covers 2,000 miles and includes more than 500 locations that guarantee spectacular sites and unique habitats.
Bird Photography Info and Tips
For those who love wildlife photography and want to find great Florida destinations to get the best shots—and some tips on how to up your skills—we found some resources (below) to inspire and encourage you!
Each of these websites offers instruction to educate wildlife lovers, and suggestions on proven venues for breathtaking shots.
- Nasim Mansurov – Florida Birding Near Orlando
- Martin Belan – Hot Spots for Bird Photography in Southwest Florida
- National Geographic – Florida by Land: Places to Photograph Wildlife
- catandturtle – Central Florida Bird Photography Locations
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