You’d have to be living under a tree not to take notice of the wildlife in southwest Florida and its unique connection to the natural world. Perhaps due to its proximity and consistency to the Everglades ecosystem, there seems to be a focus on nature and preservation that doesn’t exist in many other parts of Florida. As such, the wildlife and plants are one of my favorite experiences when I visit and I suggest you slow down and look around when you get there too.

Florida’s Best

I’ve grown to love watching birds. I never thought I’d be the type, but after placing a few backyard feeders in view and watching the variety and their interactions, let me tell you, it is fascinating.
This love of birds follows me when I travel, so here are my favorites.

Florida has many songbirds, woodpeckers, and raptors native to North America, but they also have an array of birds a lot of us don’t see at home; shore, wading, swimming, and diving birds.

Because southwest Florida’s extensive water systems consist of coastline, ponds, swamps, marshes, and bogs, it supports a sizable variety of water-loving birds.

All Ashore!

Shorebirds are most common and seemingly in abundance. Gulls, terns, sanderlings, dowitchers, and willets are a few you’ll see in southwest Florida. You’ll know a shorebird by its round head, long legs for its size, and propensity to hang out along the shores probing for food in the sand, mud, or water.

Toes in the Water

One of my favorites, the wading bird can be spotted everywhere there is water. In the pond next to the grocery store or the marshy area behind it. You’ll know you’ve seen a wading bird by what I call their “long-ness”. These birds have long legs, long wings, long necks, and long bills, plus I feel like they stand still for a long time while foraging and it feels like it takes a long time for them to take flight. SW Florida is home to herons, egrets, spoonbills, storks, moorhens, and the ibis.

Action Packed

If flittering shorebirds and slow, graceful wading birds are not your styles, check out the action of the swimming and diving birds. Their magnificent, head-first plunge into the water from sometimes great distances and at great speed is a spectacular sight. Each species has unique characteristics that allow them to perform such a stunt. Some of the coolest you’ll see in southwest Florida are the osprey, anhinga, cormorant, and the pelican, specifically the brown pelican. The American white pelicans you see don’t dive for food, they cruise on the surface kicking up schools of fish.

Bring the Binoculars

You can catch these and many other birds in and around the water system of southwest Florida, and for a sure thing check out these hot spots.

Alan Ohara