Want to know where to go birding while you are there visiting Florida this winter? Florida is an incredible January birding destination and there are lots of great places to choose from! I drove 1,500 miles over 6 days and visited 24 different locations. They were not all equal, and I’d love to make some recommendations for your future Florida birding trips.
This is a link to my eBird Trip Report, and I’ll include links to each location as well. These will all have photos and map coordinates attached for your convenience! If you don’t use eBird, I definitely recommend it!
Helen and Allan Cruickshank Sanctuary
Florida’s only endemic bird, the Florida Scrub Jay, will land on your head here. Please don’t feed them, just show up. I’d recommend a hat for your comfort. I got there at sunrise and was early enough to also see a Great horned owl fly into a big nest with prey. That was pretty neat too! 12/10
“Viera” Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands
Lots of great birds here, very good for larger birds, had 7 different heron species, very approachable sandhill cranes and black vultures, anhinga, limpkin and woodstorks. I walked 2 miles and saw 30 species in about 90 minutes. 8/10
Merritt Island NWR — Black Point Wildlife Drive
A nice auto loop for when you are tired of walking around but still want to look at birds. Bring cash for the entrance fee. Meritt Island also has a lot of habitat to explore if you just want to stay in the area. On the auto loop there are lots of nice views of Blue-winged teals, and pretty good duck variety for central Florida. It is a pretty substantial loop with lots of nice photo opportunities. Definitely another duck/heron spot. 9/10
Pack a snack and some water, this place is incredible! I walked about 6 miles here. There are a few different loops, and I would recommend all of them. They take you both through forest and wetland habitat and there are lots of birds here. I saw Red-shouldered hawks mating, lots of great wetlands birds, as well as some nice warblers and song birds in the trees. This place is super birdy! I saw about 50 species in 4 hours. I’d love to go back 11/10
Paynes Prairie Preserve SP–La Chua Trail
Paynes Prarie was wonderful. La Chua trail has a boardwalk that goes through snail laden waters where The Snail Kites and Limpkin are plentiful! When I was there the trail was flooded at the end so I didn’t get to see Bison that were reintroduced there, but I did see some wild horses as well as aligators. The ability to get this close to limpkins and see snail kites hunt really made this place magical for me. Paynes Prarie also had a single Whooping crane visible from Wacahoota Trail, so I’d recommend looking into that as well! 10/10
Plovers are the cutest bird type, and there are a lot of them here! I had Piping, Wilsons, Snowy, Black-bellied, and I hear there are Semi-palmated plovers too. Lots of shorebirds and waders, terns, gulls and sea ducks. If you go on a bad weather day you have the chance of seeing a Frigate bird as well. There is an entrance fee, but they take cards, it was worth it! There was a lot of diversity and would be well worth the trip. I’d love to return! 11/10
Buntings are beautiful, and this was a great spot to see them. I had painted and indigo buntings as well as some Nanday Parakeets. The feeders will also attract some fancy blackbirds in the winter. There is a nice covered area to watch well stocked feeders, Purple martin houses, and across the street there is a good wetland to scope for Gray-headed swamphens and Purple gallinule. Very accessible very birdy spot 10/10
These two locations are very close and similar habitat. Hammocks are dense thickets which aren’t easily birded, but the birds coming out of these places are very good! I had short-tailed hawks at both, White-tailed kite at the Canal, and some great flycatchers at the Canal, including a Cassin’s Kingbird and Scissor-tailed flycatchers. Great rarities pop up at the canal, and it is a good change in diversity, but there can be a lot of walking and you might really have to work for the birds here in the dense thickets. This’d be a good spot for a day with good lighting, bring water and walking shoes, you can really walk as far as you want at these spots! 7/10
Key West – Tropical Forest & Botanical Gardens
This spot had the most warblers I have ever seen in January with 6 species of warblers and one vireo! A fancy tanager was also reported there. It is a beautiful garden with lots of great plants and lots of great song birds! I loved this spot and would love to go back! They have the coolest palm trees there (and domestic Red Junglefowl! 11/10
Belle Glade Marina & Torry Island
One of my favorite places on the trip! It had a perfect blend of songbirds like buntings and warblers feeding in the long grass, as well as flycatchers and swallows eating the insects over the pond. There were also good numbers of waterfowl and herons. This place has incredible birding potential and I’d put it high on any Florida birding list! 11/10
I didn’t go here. ?/10 This place is supposed to be incredible though. I missed a lot of places, do you have a recommendation for others reading here? Leave it in the comments! Share this with your friends, and if you want to support me, consider getting a shirt, sticker, or book from my store! Happy birding friends!