South Florida’s tropical savanna climate not only attracts sun-seeking beach bums and retirees, but also a wide variety of colorful Aves, making it a great destination for bird-watching. Humid flatlands with ample greenery draw migratory birds all year round, from swallows and ducks to rarer herons and egrets.
If you are new to bird-watching, here are the 3 essentials you must carry –
- Bird Identifier – A portable electronic Bird Identifier with a comprehensive database of bird images and calls helps you identify the bird you are seeing.
- Binoculars, and Camera with telephoto lenses and tripod – Spot birds at a distance without scaring them away, and setup your camera with the optimal lenses to get the best shots.
- Bird-watching Journal – Preserve and share memories of your sightings of beautiful winged creatures, with locations, timings, and conditions in a journal.
Once you are set up with the above, you are good to go! The top 4 bird-watching parks in Florida are –
- T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park – Located on the St. Joseph Peninsula near Port St. Joe, it offers miles of white sandy coastline and azure warm waters, making it the most productive shorebird nesting beach in the panhandle of Florida. Various species of wading birds, shorebirds, and migratory birds can be spotted here. September and October are peak seasons, during which hawks and falcons migrating from the northern areas to the Gulf of Mexico for the winter season stop by here. See different types of hawks including sharp-shinned hawks, broad wing hawks, copper hawks, red-shoulder hawks and red-tail hawks. If you get lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the elusive, endangered Peregrine Falcon.
- Bahia Honda State Park – Glorious sunsets are Bahia Honda’s biggest draw, but what makes it even better are the bird-watching trails. Shorebirds such as Ruddy Turnstones, Short-billed Dowitchers, Plovers, Sanderlings and Willets abound. Wading birds such as Great White Herons, Great Blue Herons, Tri-colored Herons, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets and White Ibis are also easily found. While hawk migration season in fall draws kettles, you have to be really lucky to spot an endangered White crowned Pigeon in summer.
- Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park – This 54,000 acre park preserves Flordia’s dry prairies, which are home to endangered species such as the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow, Crested Caracara and Burrowing Owl. You can also easily spot the White-Tail Kite here.
Credits: Mary Peterson, USFWS
- Big Shoals State Park – Big Shoals State Park lies inland in the northern part of Florida, with the largest whitewater rapids in the state on the Suwannee River. It offers good trails for spotting egrets, hawks, owls, ducks, warblers, wrens, wild turkeys and swallows, as well as bald eagles, northern mockingbirds, scarlet tanagers and indigo buntings if you are lucky.
Florida’s parks offers a wealth of natural beauty, so make sure to explore the areas away from the bird trails as well.