Birdwatching in Florida

Roseate Spoonbill at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.
Roseate Spoonbill at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. ©jcleveland

Florida is home to so many birds waiting for you to come check them out. The diverse habitats include beaches, wetlands, forests and grasslands that attract a variety of species.

Here are some popular birdwatching locations and the types of birds you can expect to see in Florida:

Everglades National Park:

You’ll find many species of birds calling the Everglades home. Those species include wading birds, including herons, egrets, and ibises. You may also spot the Roseate Spoonbill, Anhinga, and the endangered Florida Snail Kite. I’ve seen the Roseate Spoonbill along the road eating from the culverts in the Indian River County area, as well as at the next stop on our tour.

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge:

This refuge, located near Cape Canaveral, provides a habitat for over 300 bird species. During the winter months, you may encounter migratory birds such as American White Pelicans, Northern Pintails, and a variety of shorebirds. This is also one of the few locations where you can see the Florida Scrub-Jay. I wanted to explore the painted bunting nesting area, but no matter how far I hiked or where I went, they were not to be found. As it turned out, they showed up in my front yard the following month, so you never know what birds are around.

I have seen a lot of Scrub-Jays around my home, so they are also out in some of the Brevard County uninhabited areas. Those areas are quickly being developed, so it won’t be long before they are gone from here.

This is the feeder I use in my yard, but I have it on a pole with a baffle on it to keep the squirrels out. This makes it really easy to see the birds. The only problem is that the mourning doves are ground feeders, so they plant themselves in it and refuse to move. They are pigs.

Dry Tortugas National Park:

Accessible by boat or seaplane, this park is a group of seven islands located about 70 miles west of Key West. You can spot seabirds such as Sooty Terns, Brown Noddies, and Magnificent Frigatebirds. It’s also an important location for migratory birds during spring and fall.

J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge:

Located on Sanibel Island, this refuge is home to many wading birds, such as the Reddish Egret and Roseate Spoonbill. The White Pelican can be seen here on their migratory path.

Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary:

Situated near Naples, this sanctuary is known for its boardwalk, which takes you through a variety of habitats, including cypress forests, wet prairies, and marshes. You may spot Wood Storks, Limpkins, and Barred Owls, among other species.

Fort De Soto Park:

This park, located near St. Petersburg, is a popular spot for shorebirds such as Piping Plovers, Red Knots, and Black-bellied Plovers. You may also find warblers and other migratory songbirds during spring and fall migrations.

Wakodahatchee Wetlands:

Located in Delray Beach, you’ll find many wading birds Great Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, and Green Herons. You can also spot Purple Gallinules, Least Bitterns, and Black-necked Stilts here.

In addition to wading and shore birds, don’t overlook the raptors that inhabit the state and some migratory hawks. We see red-shouldered hawks, falcons, red-tail hawks, owls and so many other raptors that like to eat the squirrels and fish around my home.

Be Prepared to Hike

Buy a good pair of binoculars and a zoom lens for your camera, so you can take longshots without getting off the trails. You can use a field guide on your cellphone (or the Merlin app from Cornell University, which is an amazing app that I use all the time), but you may find cellphone coverage spotty depending on where you’re hiking. It doesn’t hurt to have a small bird guide for your pocket.

These are good guides. I like that the Birds of Florida Field Guide has a painted bunting on the front.

Make sure that you dress for the weather and don’t wear open-toed shoes. Hiking boots with ankle coverage might be best. We do have rattlesnakes and other bitey kinda snakes.

Mosquitoes will try to make you their lunch no matter what time of the year you go birdwatching. They never go away. Ever.  So, wear whatever protection you need to keep from getting eaten alive, as well as sunscreen for sunny days.

Seriously, don’t be a hero.

Additionally, follow birdwatching ethics, such as not disturbing nesting birds and staying on designated trails.

If you’re lucky and live in Florida, then look out your front window and see if you can find a good place to put in a bird feeder that will bring birds to you. I enjoy my annual visit from the painted buntings.

The History of Florida

It’s impossible to cover the fascinating history of Florida in a 500 word article, so I am going to hit the highlights and promise to come back and fill in rest in future posts. Like all of our United States, it belonged to someone else before the settlers took it by force and built colonies and cities.


According to Florida Facts on the official Florida website, Florida’s first inhabitants were here over 12,000 years ago. The Spanish followed suit in 1513 when Juan Ponce de Leon set foot on shore. The Spanish continued to rule Florida until the 1700s, and it was a popular territory for the Southern plantation owners.

It is said that Christopher Columbus brought the first oranges to Florida, but Ponce de Leon is credited for planting the first orange trees, which has been a cash crop for Florida ever since.

The name Florida is from an Easter Spanish Festival, Pascua Florida, which means Feast of Flowers that historians believe is another Ponce de Leon contribution to the state.

St. Augustine is the oldest continuously populated city in the United States, and it dates back to 1565. If you get a chance when you’re in Florida, stop by this city and spend some time wandering around the Fort.

Not Spanish

Spain had to give up Florida during the Seven Year War, when Cuba and the Philippines were captured by the British. If they wanted those colonies back, they had to give Florida to the Brits. The First Treaty of Paris was the paperwork that gave it away.


During the Revolutionary War, Florida did not fight for the colonies. They remained loyal to England, and the first chance they got, the Spanish took it back. From 1783 until 1821, the Spanish again ruled Florida. It didn’t stop Andrew Jackson from trying to wrest control over Florida though, and he started the First Seminole War. By 1817, everyone was fighting everyone, and Jackson burned it all to the ground.

Not Spanish

An 1819 Treaty saw the state in the hands of the United States as a territory with Andrew Jackson as its first governor. Funny how that turned out. The first Florida newspapers were St. Augustine’s Florida Gazette and Pensacola’s Floridian.

Tallahassee was chosen as the capital and it became a state in 1845. First thing the state tried to do was secede during the Civil War. Brilliant, I say.

Then Maybe Not a State

During the Civil War, the Ordinance of Secession was drawn up in 1861. Florida was taking its flowers and going home. The Union army didn’t really care and took over Fernandina, St. Augustine and Jacksonville. They had Black troops with them, which sent the Confederates over the edge. The Confederates managed to hang onto Tallahassee and the governor killed himself. The Federal government took it over and ended slavery.

There was an impeachment, a fight against Reconstruction, another election kerfuffle – if there is an election kerfuffle, look to Florida first to have mucked it up, and the end of Reconstruction thanks to Florida’s strong arming another election with disputed electoral votes. If anything goes wrong in an election, it’s because of Florida.

Then Maybe a State

They became a state again, or at least acknowledged they were a state. Then they wrote a new state constitution that seemed to work until 1968. They even granted Confederate pensions to veterans.

Nobody drank, then everybody drank, then nobody drank again with the 18th Amendment to the Florida Constitution outlawing alcohol.


1920 land boom. Then a hurricane. Then another hurricane. Boom over.

Amelia Earhart waved good-bye from Miami and was never seen again.

So much more to cover, but this is going to be it for the moment. We are up to World War II for those of you playing along at home.

Think that Florida sounds like someplace you want to live? Keep reading my blog posts while I cover some of the more interesting aspects of Florida. Like more booms and more busts, and a lot more hurricanes.

If you buy any of the products or use the links to go to Amazon and buy something else within a day, I get a little bit of money. I thank you for the support.

Photo of the Month of March 2023

You’re going to have to look closely, but this guy is an inchworm. He thinks he’s a stick, and the best I can figure is that he is a moth in waiting. I didn’t move him or dissuade him from hanging on the front porch, and I don’t know where he wandered off to, but he left. At first I thought he was a larva stage walking stick, but finally found him in the geometer moth family. They like to eat plants and leaves, so hopefully, he will stay on his side of the house and out of my garden. I already had two beautiful red tomatoes with little squirrel bites out of them.

Photo of the Month of February 2023

New monarch butterfly ready to come out of his chrysalis and flit about my milkweed. This is what they look like about 24 hours before they emerge. He is hanging on the side of my milkweed box since I didn’t try to capture any more caterpillars and put them in my cat box. It seemed late in the season, and I was trying to discourage them from laying eggs. They ignored me and 20 or so more butterflies took off in February.

Photo of the Month of January 2023

I fancy myself a gardener now. These are my baby beans just sprouting up from the ground. I have done a lot of things wrong with my first serious gardening attempt, but having enthusiasm isn’t one of them.

I planted beans, peas, carrots, radishes, lettuce, onions, potatoes, spinach, peppers, tomatoes, basil, parsley and dill. I am either going to have a great harvest, or I am going to find out I am a terrible gardener.

Photo of the Month of December 2022

My Christmas cactus is in full bloom this year. Last year was my first year with it, and it bloomed around February instead of December, so I guess we’re all on the same month now. It hangs on my front porch in a macramé hanger. I haven’t had one of those since the 1970s!

According to the Farmer’s Almanac, this is not a dry desert cactus, but a rainforest cactus. So, it’s a succulent that likes its humidity and grows in trees. Maybe I should move it? It seems to be happy where it is, and with me, the less I fuss with something, the less likely it is to die.

Photo of the Month of November 2022

Back in the woods after a mile or so hike, if you don’t count the extra couple miles getting lost, you will find this Tri-State marker that lets you set foot in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island all by dancing around this pole. It was one of the last few states that I had not set foot in. Now, to complete my lower 48 journey, I must touch Texas and New Mexico. 

Photo of the Month of October 2022

A view from the cliffs surrounding the Atlantic Ocean at Acadia Park in Maine. This rugged coastline is so much different than the usual sandy beaches that I see here at home in Florida. Same ocean, same rocks, just a lot smaller. It was the first few days after Hurricane Ian had gone through the area, so everyone was enjoying the sun for a change. 

Photo of the Month of September 2022

In St. Francisville, IL, you will find the other end of this one lane wooden bridge. You’ll also find a toll keeper who wants a dollar or so to let you off the bridge.

​It is said that this bridge is haunted, and it is the first of two sections. It passes over the Wabash River and appropriately named the Wabash Cannonball Bridge even though no such train ever went over it. It can be reached from Vincennes, IN, but you have to look for it. 

Photo of the Month of August 2022

After living in Florida for decades, I finally took a day and went to the local zoo where I found this furry face. To say that the giraffes are spoiled is an understatement. They stand along the edge of a platform and wait for you to buy leaves to feed them.

​I am not sure that they even bother to get their own leaves any more. It was a hot day, but lots of fun. The Brevard Zoo is a great place to visit and they help to conserve the Florida native plants and animals.