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For the Birds! Birdwatching in Middle Florida Keys

March 11, 2014 Travel & Tourism

Top Birding Spots in Middle and Lower Florida Keys

The Florida Keys have a lot to offer, from stunning sunsets, to beautiful blue waters and delicious food. It is also one of the top birding spots in the world and we think you’ll find it  well worth the visit if you are an avid bird watcher. The middle Florida Keys in particular have a lot to offer ornithologists, with an impressive array of birds making their way through this area.

What makes this location such an ideal place for birds is the mild climate and diverse habitats on offer. It is also located in an area that has two important migratory corridors which are used by various different bird species. The area has really opened itself up to tourists, with plenty of tours and information to hand to help guide you through this stunning location.

When to Visit:

There are always plenty of wading birds and pelicans to watch, but to take full advantage of your trip, you might plan to visit during the spring and fall migration. This will offer you the best chances to see some of the more unique bird species. As temperatures start to rise from April onwards, many birds will start travelling up north through the Keys. Visiting during the late spring and early summer period is the best time for viewing nesting birds of many different kinds, such as the reddish egret and the mangrove cuckoo.

Where to Go:

Marathon and Key Colony Beach

The middle Florida Keys – popular as a tourist destination for great fishing and diving – also makes a great central localtion for exploring bird habitats in the Keys. Many bird watchers travel to this location as it offers a great opportunity to see migrating birds. Some of the specialty birds to be seen include the Gray Kingbird, Great White Heron, Roseate Spoonbill, Antillean Nighthawk and, of course, the Bald Eagle.

bald eagle
American Bald Eagle by Realtor Judy Cinque

On any of our beaches you are likely spot Brown Pelicans. They are especially fascinating to watch in the early morning and late afternoon as they dive for their breakfast or dinner in the shallow waters. These ungainly birds with their pouchy gullets are excellent fishers – and quite beautiful up close.

Brown Pelican closeup
Photo by M.-J. Taylor.

Pigeon Key

On this island you will find the Pigeon Key Foundation, which aims to preserve the island’s natural and cultural history. It offers some interesting information on the island’s history and the wildlife to be seen. Why not cycle or take a walk through the area and see which birds you can spot?

Towards the end of summer and the beginning of fall, you might see some Ospreys, Turkey Vultures and Mississippi Kites. In the shallow waters you can often find Great Blue Herons, Reddish Egrets and Great White Herons stepping slowly through the shallows as they hunt their prey.

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron by Cuatrok77.

Tavernier

Here you can visit the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center , is a local non profit focussed on the rescue and rehabilitation of Florida Keys wild birds. They offer tours and the opportunity to gain more knowledge about the wild birds found here. You might even get the chance to spot a Yellow Warbler, Magnificent Frigatebird and Black-whiskered Vireo.

Bahia Honda                                                     

There are some great birds to be found at Bahia Honda thanks to the habitats to be found, including mangrove swamp, beach, salt marsh and mixed forest.  Visit the Bahia Honda State Park for your chance to see migrant songbird and Caribbean vagrants.

Watch warblers feeding on the fruits, brown pelicans at feeding time or try and spot a crowned night heron. There is plenty to see in this beautiful location.  More on Bahia Honda and its birds and beaches.

Juvenile Night Heron
Juvenile Crowned Night Heron by M.-J. Taylor.

One of the most prized sightings for birders in the Keys is the endangered White Crowned Pigeon.. They nest only on offshore islands where there are no mammals, and fly long distances every day to forage for food. They may fly as far as 50 or 75 miles round trip in a day – spreading the hardwood seeds throughout the islands. The White Crowned pigeon  breeds during the summer months but  can be spotted year round in the lower Keys.

White Crowned Pigeon in poinciana
White Crowned Pigeon in Poinciana by Dfaulder.

The Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges provides a great checklist for the bird species you might sight in the Florida Keys. Download your checklist here. Our guide to the best beaches in the Florida Keys for birdwatching, swimming and relaxing in the sun and surf.