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Florida birding festivals: Where bird lovers flock

If you spend time outdoors in Florida, there’s a good chance you’ll end up seeing and appeciating birds.

Florida is such a bird-y spot! It’s so big and varied — forests, grasslands, wetlands — plus it has the longest coastline of any state in the lower 48.

Birders from beginners to pros gather each year to share their passion, learn new skills and join in outdoor adventures at Florida birding festivals.

There a lot of birds to see. The Audubon Society says 516 species have been recorded in the state, including more than 100 species who stop in Florida on their migration journey.

These events occur all over the state attracting both Florida residents and visitors. (Dare I call them snow birds?)

Burrowing owls at Brian Piccolo Park in Cooper City.
Florida birding festivals: Burrowing owls at Brian Piccolo Park in Cooper City.

Some events have struggled during the pandemic. The large and popular Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival, for example, is not coming back in 2023 after two years of cancellations.

But some festivals are continuing, and they need support.

Here’s a roundup of major Florida birding festivals for 2022-23. If we missed yours, please add it to the comments field at the bottom of this article or email floridarambler@gmail.com.

Florida Birding and Nature Festival, Apollo Beach, Oct. 20-23, 2022

Where: Headquartered at the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center, 6650 Dickman Road in Apollo Beach, in the Tampa Bay area.

What: The annual event coincides with the peak migration of more than 180 species and features expert-led field and boating trips to the best wildlife sites in West Central Florida. Keynote speakers will be best-selling author and world-renowned conservationist Carl Safina, the winner of a MacArthur “genius” prize,  and woodpecker expert Stephen Shunk.

Trips include the Cross Bar Ranch in Spring Hill; Circle B Bar Reserve in Polk County; Egmont Key and Cockroach Bay Aquatic Preserve in Hillsborough County; and Honeymoon Island and Fort Desoto Park in Pinellas County. A cross-Florida bus trip will offer participants the chance to see a wide variety of birds, including rarities such as the crested caracara and the scrub jay. One outing will identify butterflies.

Some of the trips are to areas normally not open to the public and space is limited so early registration is advised.

Eco-pond, across from the campground in Flamingo in Everglades National Park is full of birds in November. Here, American avocets rest below a roseate spoonbill. (Photo: David Blasco)
Florida birding festivals: At the eco-pond, across from the campground in Flamingo in Everglades National Park, American avocets rest below a roseate spoonbill. (Photo: David Blasco)

14th Annual Everglades Birding Festival, Davie, Jan. 12-16, 2023

Where: Holiday Inn Express, 2540 Davie Road, Davie, in Broward County.

What: This South Florida festival focuses on the beautiful cypress swamps and Everglades prairies where you can spot wintering species such as waterfowl, shorebirds and raptors. South Florida is considered one of the top 10 birding  destination in the country. Organizer Paddy Cunningham is a birding professional; her company Birding Adventures takes small groups of birders throughout Florida and to such tropical birding destinations as Jamaica and Colombia.

For the festival, organized trips take participants to Everglades National Park, the Upper Keys and local birding hot spots in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.  Target birds for the festival include the snail kite, limpkin, wood stork, painted bunting, roseate spoonbill,  short-tailed hawk, purple gallinule, common myna, crested caracara and more.

Florida birding festials: White pelicans on the mud flats of Snake Bight near Flamingo in Everglades National Park,  (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
Florida birding festivals: Some run field trips to Everglades National Park. These white pelicans were on the mud flats of Snake Bight near Flamingo. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Rookery Bay Festival of Birds, Naples, January 14-21, 2023

Where: Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center, 300 Tower Road Naples, Florida 34113

What: Rookery Bay, a 110,000-acre reserve that stretches from Naples to Ten Thousand Islands, is a terrific place for birding in the winter. Its festival offers boat tours and field trips to many nearby birding hotspots plus authors, biologists and other experts giving talks throughout the festival. Its schedule is being finalized.

Florida’s Birding & Photo Fest, St. Augustine Beach, April 19-23, 2023

Where: Celebration Hall, St. Anastasia, 5205 A1A South, St. Augustine Beach

What: This is for birders who are also avid photographers. It offers 110 photography and birding events including field workshops and classroom sessions. There are many opportunities for boat tours, many speakers and multiple classes and field options every day for five days. One of the unique locations where photographers capture images is the historic St. Augustine Alligator Farm, which has a bird rookery that is full of nesting birds right off the boardwalk in April.

Additional birding festivals are finalizing dates and will be added when information is available.

Florida birding resources from Florida Rambler:

A note from the editor:

The information in this article was accurate when published but may change without notice. Confirm details when planning your trip.

This page may include affiliate links from which we may earn a modest commission if a purchase is made. More often, we include free courtesy links to small businesses, such as kayak outfitters, from whom we receive no compensation.

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