Five Fantastic Birding Spots

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There's really only one way to put it. Birding in Florida is fantastic. I recently attended the 13th Annual Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival in Titusville, where thousands of birding enthusiasts from around the country gathered to participate in educational seminars and guided field trips or just browse the show floor. While the Space Coast show is the largest, there are about 30 such events that happen annually here in the Sunshine State.

Why so many birding and wildlife festivals? According to research by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, more people travel to Florida than anywhere else in the United States to participate in wildlife viewing activities. For birders, Florida has the largest number of bird species in the eastern United States. I suppose that's the reason!

Birding is great year 'round, and tons of both resident and migrating species can be found all over the state. Grab your optics and checklist. Here are five spots in Florida that will definitely keep you busy.

St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge - Near Tallahassee, world-class birding can be found in the 65,000-acre St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, which in 1931 was originally named "St. Marks Migratory Bird Refuge." With 14 active bald eagle nesting territories and an incredible spring songbird migration, you can't go wrong. Along with eagles, look for large numbers of herons, egrets and sandpipers, just to name a few.

Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park - Osprey, barred owls, hawks and wading birds reside south of Gainesville in Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. Sandhill cranes and other winter migrating species will have departed by spring, but there is a large list of resident species to enjoy. Be on the lookout for pileated and red-bellied woodpeckers along the Bolen Bluff Trail.

Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge - Located 25 miles west of Daytona Beach, Lake Woodruff NWR borders the St. Johns River and provides habitat for migratory waterfowl and wading birds. Herons, white ibis, anhinga and pied-billed grebes are commonly seen in the spring.

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge - Acting as a buffer around Kennedy Space Center, Merritt Island NWR boasts an amazing array of wildlife. Stop in at the Visitor Center and afterward take a ride down Wildlife Drive. Birding is best in cooler weather, and the peak season runs from October to April. In the warmer months, look for resident wading species along the coast, and the rare Florida scrub-jay can be found on the Scrub Ridge and Pine Flatwoods Trails. 

Everglades National Park - Birding is phenomenal in Everglades National Park, and it attracts birders from around the globe. Three-hundred and 60 species (and counting) of birds have been identified in Everglades National Park, and two of the most popular spots are the Anhinga and Snake Bight Trails. Both are great locations for year 'round birding, with mangrove cuckoo and black-whiskered vireo being seen along the Snake Bight Trail in the spring and summer. These are very popular locations for photographers, so make sure to bring along your camera.

In addition to the five locations listed above, you can find 489 more birding spots along the Great Florida Birding Trail, which spans 2,000 miles! Make sure to visit www.myfwc.com/gfbt for locations. Happy birding! 

Sponsored listings by VISIT FLORIDA Partners

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