Florida is one of the perfect places in the United States for birdwatching, and fortunately, it has the massive 2,000-mile-long Great Florida Birding Trail. The purpose of the trail is to conserve Florida's native species of birds through education, economic opportunities, and birdwatching.
Florida is a great place for bird watching, but there are also many other superb places in the world for bird watching where one can see a dizzying array of exotic birds. The best place in the United States to see North American wildlife is generally considered to be Yellowstone National Park - where one can see brown and black bears, wolves, bison, elk, and much more.
What The Great Florida Birding Trail Is
The Great Florida Birding Trail is not a single trail, but a collection of over 500 locations in Florida where the bird habitats in the state are protected. In total, the Great Florida Birding Trail extends for around 2,000 miles. The trail is split into four sections - the South, Eastern, West, and Panhandle sections.
- East Florida Section: Opened November 2000
- West Florida Section: Opened November 2002
- Panhandle Florida Section: Opened May 2004
- South Florida Section: Opened 2006
It was modeled after the successful Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail and is identified with road signs bearing the Swallow-tailed kite logo. The trail is a program of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
- Length: 2,000 miles or 3,200 km
- Species: Around 490 Species Of Native Birds
- Sites: Around 510 Premier Wildlife Viewing Sites
The sites are diverse. In some, they are designed for drive-by viewing while in others one needs to hike, bicycle, or even paddle to get a better view.
On the trail, one can see many of Florida's 490 or so species of birds (like the limpkin, swallow-tailed kite, red-cockaded woodpeckers, Florida scrub-jay, and the roseate spoonbill).
Florida's Location On The Atlantic Flyway
Florida is located on the Atlantic Flyway. The Atlantic Flyway is a 3,000-mile stretch from the arctic tundra of Greenland to the tropical south of the Caribbean and South America. Along this Flyway migrate a dizzying number of migrant birds as they fly south in the winter and search for food or fly to their breeding grounds.
- Atlantic Flyway: The Corridor Of Migrant Birds From The Arctic To The Tropics
Florida is bird-rich partly due to its placement between tropical and temperate regions.
The Atlantic Flyway is not the only major north-south flyway for migratory birds in North America - the others are the Pacific, Mississippi, and Central Flyways. The Atlantic Flyway offers good sources of water, food, and cover over its full length, and it doesn't have mountains blocking its path.
What Birds Are Seen On The Florida Birding Trail?
Many of these migrant birds stop by in Florida and can be seen on the Great Florida Birding Trail. Of course, one can see more than just migrant birds. One can also view Florida's resident birds and a large variety of other animals (like alligators, bobcats, gopher tortoises, zebra longwing butterflies, and otters).
- Tip: Get a Good Pair Of Binoculars
- Migration Season: Particularly October and April
Some migratory birds come just to rest and feed, while others (like the swallow-tailed kites and yellow-billed cuckoos) come to raise their young in Florida in the spring and summer.
- When To See The Birding Trail: Best In Spring and Fall During Migrations
The birding trail is also a great way to see the diversity and richness of Florida and see everything from beautiful beaches to marshes and swamps.
Remember to respect the wildlife and follow the rules of taking nothing but photographs and leaving nothing but footprints.
Planning One's Trip On The Great Florida Birding Trail
Use the official Great Florida Birding Trail website to plan one's trip to explore the trail. On their website, one can see the amenities offered at different sites and sort by the species of birds one would like to see.
The website compiles all the information on one site. One will see if the site is a state park, national park, wildlife refugee, etc. and whether there is an entry fee and what any relevant opening hours are.
There is useful information like the hiking trails at the site, what other birds one can expect to see there, addresses, and more information.