Birding in Florida

Florida is a birder's and wildlife watcher’s paradise, thanks to its diversity of habitats, its location on migration routes, the extent of its remaining wild lands and its geographic span of both temperate and subtropical climates. From pinewoods and maritime hammocks, to swamps, salt marshes and beaches, Florida’s public and private lands support vital breeding, overwintering, resting and refueling sites for more than 500 bird species and other wildlife, many of which occur nowhere else in the United States. It’s no wonder that Florida is the number one wildlife viewing destination in North America.

Countless wading birds, shorebirds and waterfowl depend on Florida’s 7,800 lakes, 1,200 miles of coastline, 825 miles of beaches and 11,000 miles of waterways, not to mention the vast wetlands of the Everglades and riparian systems like the St. Johns, Suwannee and Blackwater Rivers. Florida’s forests, including oak and sabal palm hammocks, longleaf and slash pine flatwoods and the Keys’ tropical hardwoods shelter a myriad of migratory and resident songbirds, woodpeckers and raptors. Fire-dependent oak and pine scrub supports Florida’s only truly endemic bird species, the Florida Scrub-Jay. Wet and dry prairies are home to grassland specialties such as Florida Sandhill Crane, Crested Caracara, Florida Burrowing Owl and the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow. In addition, Florida’s proximity to the Caribbean ensures that tropical strays like Loggerhead Kingbird and Thick-billed Vireo make their way onto birders’ life lists. Each winter, Florida also regularly hosts numerous vagrants from the western U.S. and Canada such as Rufous Hummingbird, Groove-billed Ani and Green-tailed Towhee. No matter which part of the state you visit to go birding, you are sure to find a treasure trove of avian wonders!

The Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail makes it easy for all birders– both casual and expert, local and tourist– to find new and productive birding sites throughout our state. Trail guide booklets describe what species to expect at each site and what kind of experience each offers: a quick stop versus an all day hike, or a driving loop versus a foot-access only property.

SO WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR!? Birding in Florida will take you places you could never imagine still exist in our ever-developing state. Get out there and enjoy a gorgeous day watching birds!

Getting Started
  • If you're a beginner or just want a refresher course, the publication Bird Watching Basics is available online (in English and Spanish versions). Information on binoculars, bird identification, field guides and more will get you started out on the right foot.
  • Check out the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Wings Over Florida program. Birding certificates are awarded at five achievement levels based on the number of Florida species identified. A current checklist of Florida’s birds is available for you to print off and submit.
  • Are you a county lister? Or do you just need to learn your Florida counties? Here's a map with all the counties labeled.
  • Need optics? GFBWT-approved binoculars are available through the Wildlife Foundation of Florida, and loaner optics can be checked out for a day at gateways and selected GFBWT locations.
Further Reading