Merritt Island NWR is one of Florida’s premier birding sites with more than 330 recorded species. Stop by the visitor center first to enjoy Painted Buntings (winter), to get a map and to check the log for recent bird sightings. Most birders head straight to the world-renowned 7-mile Black Point Wildlife Drive (an auto tour loop). Birding and wildlife viewing is excellent on Black Point during fall and winter; drive the auto loop slowly, scanning the impoundments for Sora, Northern Pintail, American Avocet, and “Dancing” Reddish Egrets. Rarities like Eurasian Wigeon and Cinnamon Teal have been found. After Blackpoint, head to Peacocks Pocket Rd., Catfish Loop, and Gator Creek Rd for more car-based birding. For wading birds and shorebirds, Bio Lab Rd. along the lagoon can be fantastic in spring and fall. The refuge has good hiking trails (some with observation platforms); the hammock and scrub trails are popular, and rarities like Kirtland’s Warbler have been found. Look for Florida Scrub-Jay on the Scrub Ridge Trail year-round, and also on telephone wires and posts on SR 3/Kennedy Parkway. The manatee observation deck at Haulover Canal provides views of dozens of manatees in spring, and butterfly viewing throughout the refuge is excellent. Guided birding trips occur weekly, November through March, and in January the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival offers field trips to refuge hotspots. Seasonal hunting occurs in the area, please click here for dates, regulations and more information.