5 Wonderful Birdwatching Hikes in Florida

5 Wonderful Birdwatching Hikes in Florida

If you’re big into birdwatching, there’s no better place to roost with your binoculars than in Florida. The Sunshine State’s abundance of state parks, islands, coastlines, and varied ecosystems make it an attractive spot for birds, which means you’ll find plenty of viewing spots to glimpse some of your favorite species. Florida is home to hundreds of native birds, along with plenty of migratory birds. You’ll have to be quick, though—the hunt is part of the fun, and you only get a few short seconds to spot and identify before they’re in flight once more. If you love birdwatching, you’ll love these five best birdwatching spots in Florida—make sure you bring your camera!

1. Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Originally created to protect migratory birds, this refuge plays home to much more than feathered friends. Hosting a diverse population of more than 350 bird species, visitors can expect to spot birds of prey, shore and wading birds, waterfowl, and migratory birds. Bald eagles have been known to make their appearance here, as well as hawks, herons, egrets, warblers, blue jays, and others. One of its mainstays is the threatened Florida scrub-jay. The refuge holds one of the state's three stronghold populations of this species, whose habitat is under constant threat.

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2. Wakodahatchee Wetlands

Free and open to the public, this former wastewater property is now dedicated to fostering nesting and roosting. Visitors can enjoy the .75-mile boardwalk that winds over water and near islands that play home to over 175 bird species. This spot is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail, and offers prime viewing of birds in their natural habitat. Wading birds are in abundance here, as well as plenty of birdsong to accompany you on your stroll around the park.

3. Audubon Center for Birds of Prey

This particular park focuses on the treatment, rehabilitation, and needs of raptors. Here you can get up close and personal with bald eagles, owls, ospreys, kites, and falcons. The park offers a boardwalk that takes you to the nearby lake for more bird and wildlife spotting opportunities. The center here offers a chance for citizens to become part of a bald eagle monitoring program, where participants can find, monitor, and report on nests in the wild. Or, you can visit the Magic of Flight barn that gives you a first-hand look into the rehabilitation efforts of these magnificent birds.

4. Tree Tops Park

Given the abundance of wildlife in this area and its system of trails and observation areas, it’s no wonder that Tree Tops Park has established itself as a must-visit for birdwatchers. There are three trails in the park, one of which leads to a 28-foot-high observation tower that offers magnificent birding views. In addition, the park’s varied marshes, lake, and wooded area make it attractive for many different bird species. Wading birds, waterfowl, raptors, and woodpeckers have all been known to frequent the area, especially in and around the Pine Island Ridge portion of the park.

5. Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park

Explored by none other than William Bartram himself, this magnificent park is one of Florida’s premiere sites for birdwatching. Combing marshes, wetlands, hardwood hammocks, flatlands, and swamps into a single experience, birdwatchers can count on seeing one of the most diverse bird populations in the state. Sandhill cranes are viewable year-round, but fall through spring bring the most variety: winter sparrow, waterfowl, hawks, warblers, and other species frequent the area during migration. In total, there are about 270 bird species throughout the year, along with other wildlife to keep you company.

Alli Hill is a freelance content writer and mom of two. She spends most of her free time exploring the great outdoors by trail or by kayak. She is also the founder and director of FreelanceSpeak, a blog to support other freelance creatives.