Birds in Florida – Species and Distribution
From chirping songbirds and hunters of the sky to specimens that live in wetlands or off the coast – amateur ornithologists should know the following bird species in Florida:
While exploring the state’s parks, gardens and forests, you will most likely see songbirds of all colors: among them blue jays, golden finches, house finches and tanagers. Other common bird species include red-brownish American robins – as well as swallows, the lightning-fast acrobats of the sky.
If you spot a red bird with feather cap in Florida, it’s most likely the Northern Cardinale. This species lives at the edge of forests, but also in populated areas where it feasts on seeds and fruits. On nature walks, you are also likely to hear the staccato of woodpeckers. The downy woodpecker, for example, has become accustomed to the presence of humans and is now one of the most common birds in the state.
In addition, the Sunshine State is home to an endemic species that lives nowhere else in the world: the Florida Scrub-Jay. This blue-grayish, 12” bird mostly lives in light oak forests. However, you will need quite a bit of luck to see it, as the Scrub-Jay is now a rare and endangered species.
They are the undisputed rulers of the avian kingdom – lightning fast, deadly and perfectly adapted to their habitat: Florida´s birds of prey. The variety of species ranges from small falcons, merlins and sparrowhawks to the golden eagle – a colossus with a wingspan of up to 6.5 ft that prefers flat, open areas. Unmistakable due to its blue plumage and red eyes is the snail kite. This species breeds exclusively in Florida and feeds on apple snails – hence its name.
An absolute favorite among patriotic bird lovers is the bald eagle: the national symbol of the USA. With recent protection measures bearing fruit, Florida is now home to more and more breeding pairs – especially in areas with tall trees. The animals can reach a wingspan of up to 6.5 ft and are skilled fish hunters. However, they do not disdain carrion, either. Speaking of carrion: Less majestic, but equally indispensable to the ecosystem are turkey vultures. These scavengers soar high in the sky, always on the look-out for dead animals.
Florida is also home to a rather unusual bird: the burrowing owl. Originally, these small prairie dwellers are native to the Midwest. In Florida, however, they have found a new home on flat, undeveloped plots where they can dig their nests in the soil.
Florida’s lakes, rivers and swamps are home to many kinds of plants, fish and insects. Of course, this abundance also attracts larger animals such as waterbirds. These feathered longnecks are perfectly adapted to their habitat – which becomes obvious when you look at their beaks: Spoonbills sieve the water with their flat bills, storks strike at lightning speed, and the curved tool of ibises is perfect for foraging in the mud. Grey herons are also a common sight – not only in swamps, but also near canals or on golf courses. In addition, the Sunshine State is home to various types of ducks and coots.
You need a good amount of luck if you want to see flamingos. Although the pink birds are a heraldic animal of Florida, they are only seen in the extreme south of the state, as human impact has caused their population to shrink. Due to their attractive feathers, great egrets were also hunted to extinction in the 19th century. Fortunately, the population has been able to recover in recent years.
Long coastlines and the change of tides attracts many shore birds such as plovers, snipes and oystercatchers that are looking for food in the surf. Black-headed gulls fill the air with their characteristic laughs and skimmers fly close to the surface, while frigate birds can be observed high above ground. These “pirates of the sky” often use their agility to relieve other birds of their food.
Pelicans are another common sight on the coast – especially in places where fishermen are at work. Sometimes, these clever birds even wait for tourists to drop their snacks. While brown pelicans can be seen in the state all year round, white pelicans only come to Florida during the winter.