Birding / Southeast Florida

Birds hold court at Wakodahatchee Preserve & Green Cay


Green Cay Wetlands

Green Cay boardwalk and nature center.

~There may not be a more accessible environment to observe our feathered friends than two man-made wetland preserves west of Delray Beach.

And while all manner of birds and other wildlife hold court here year-round, these wetlands are especially lively during the fall and spring migrations.

Best time to visit is early morning. And bring your camera.

Note: Wakodahatchee will be closed March 6 to 17 for construction work on the grounds.

The  Green Cay Wetlands and Wakodahatchee Preserve are just two miles apart, making them an easy outing to enjoy both in one day.

Both preserves are man-made wetlands designed to treat highly treated water from a county water treatment plant, filtering the water as it seeps into the underground aquifer that is essential to South Florida’s water supply.

But you’d never know it when you look at it.

Nearly 100 varieties of native trees and plants were planted and natural habitats restored, and exotic species removed, turning both preserves into “wild” wonderlands and attracting an incredible variety of birds and other wildlife, a match for any state or federal lands you may have visited recently.

Wakodahatchee has a three-quarter-mile boardwalk, and along the way, you will see birds that are so used to the passing people and you can get extraordinarily close.

More than 140 species of birds have been identified here, including the Purple Gallinule, green herons, yellow-rumped warblers, bald eagles, a variety of hawks and flocks of shore birds, to name just a few. (Click here for the official bird list at Wakodahatchee.)

No doubt you will come across visitors with cameras with long lenses — this boardwalk is a nature photographer’s paradise. Wildlife, even the birds, cluster close to the boardwalk, providing surprisingly easy viewing. Several varieties of turtles can be seen darting in and out of the shade of the boardwalk, and alligators linger nearby.

Wakodahatchee Preserve13026 Jog Road, Delray Beach. Open daily from 7 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Wakodahatchee website.

It took a few years for Green Cay to catch up with Wakodahatchee, but now its 1.5-mile boardwalk also attracts an impressive variety of birds and other wildlife. (Here’s the official bird list at Green Cay)

Green Cay’s 9,000-square-foot nature center features  interactive exhibits and a gift shop.

Green Cay Wetlands and Nature Center12800 Hagen Ranch Road, Boynton Beach, (561) 966-7000. Boardwalk open daily from 7 a.m. until sunset; Exhibits open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday. Green Cay website.

When we have visitors determined to see alligators, but no time to trek to the Everglades, here’s where we go. When my mom visits with her arthritic knees, we take a wheelchair and roll through here. (Both boardwalks are handicap accessible, and thus are perfect for families with strollers, too.)

When visiting friends in the area, we try to leave 45 minutes to stop and see who’s new at the wetlands. By doing so, we’ve seen all the seasons, including spring when some cormorants, heron and other birds nest as close as 20 feet off the boardwalk.

I love spotting the occasional roseate spoonbill and the wonderfully colored whistling ducks.  At times, Wakodahatchee has a lot of black-necked stilts, whose eye-catching black-and-white color scheme looks like it was created by a graphic designer.

We’ve seen swimming marsh rabbits and a bobcat and more varieties of birds than I can name.

Oh, and did I mention? Both sites are FREE.

More things to do nearby:



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  1. Angelo Orlando says:

    Are there any photo walks planned for wakodahachee ??

  2. Thanks for the comments, Lois. I was at Wakodahatchee during the first week of January this year and a number of hatchlings were being fed in nests at that point. It was amazing to see them (through binoculars). There were other nests, though, where eggs had not hatched, so I suspect you will see nest action through February this year. (There is always something to see there and I go during every season.)

  3. Lois Speer says:

    Any idea when the birds will be hatching this year?
    Last year the middle of Feb. proved amazing with heron,
    anhinga and others sitting on and feeding chicks.
    We are from Michigan and would like to see the same this year if possible. Thanks, Lois Speer

  4. Pingback: Delray Beach: Preserving history pays off | Florida Rambler

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