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?)
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 [email protected].
Florida Birding and Nature Festival, Tampa Bay area, Oct. 12-14, 2023
This four-day event takes place in Apollo Beach at the Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Suncoast Youth Conservation Center.
Naturalist, wildlife photographer and writer Stan Tekiela will present the Friday keynote address, Tekiela is the renowned author of more than 190 field guides, nature books and wildlife audio CDs for nearly every state. He will talk about the mysteries of bird migration.
David Johnson, the director of the Global Owl Project, will present Saturday’s keynote on the intriguing world of owls. A buffet will accompany both keynote presentations.
The festival coincides with the peak of fall migration of birds through Central Florida. More than 180 species have been observed during the Festival.
The outings, led by knowledgeable guides and in some cases the managers of the nature habitats visited, include walking, boat and canoe trips and a bus tour of Central Florida birding hot spots. Some field trips explore sites not normally open to the public. Among the field trip destinations: Egmont Key, the Cross Bar Ranch in Spring Hill, Cockroach Bay Aquatic Preserve, Alafia River Corridor South Nature Preserve, Rock Ponds Ecosystem Restoration Project, Fort DeSoto Park, and the Lower Green Swamp Nature Preserve. A trip to the Schultz Nature Preserve will highlight butterflies and dragonflies as well as birds.
Seminars are led by experts on such birds as anhingas, reddish egret and least terns. They also cover more than birds, with talks about fiddler crabs, manatees and black bears.
Florida Birding and Nature Festival, Apollo Beach, Oct. 12-15, 2023
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 naturalist, wildlife photographer and writer Stan Tekiela, the originator of the popular state-specific field guides such as Birds of (state name), and David Johnson, director of the Global Owl Project.
In 2023, trips will 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
Some of the trips are to areas normally not open to the public and space is limited so early registration is advised.
14th Annual Everglades Birding Festival, Davie, January
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.
Rookery Bay Festival of Birds, Naples, January 2024
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 including boat trips to see thousands of birds fly off at sunrise and return at sunset to Rookery Bay, tours by bike and kayak in Big Cypress, a field trip to Corkscrew Swamp and a Swamp Tromp in Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park.
Authors, biologists and other experts will give talks throughout the festival on topics ranging from how drones are helping researchers study scrub jays to a conservation success story about saving petrels and people. Here’s the schedule.
Scrub Jay Festival, Venice, April
Scrub jays are charmers — curious, friendly and beautifully blue. It is the only bird endemic to Florida (found only in Florida.) All those are good reasons to celebrate with the Annual Scrub Jay Festival, this year combined with an Earth Day Festival.
Where: Oscar Scherer State Park, 1843 S. Tamiami Trail, Osprey, 34229. The festival will take place at the Lake Osprey picnic area from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Park entry and the event are free. There is a fee for a guided tram tour.
You can join a guided hike and learn about the scrub habitat while in search of scrub-jay sightings. The event includes live music on the park stage; a photo contest exhibit; kids activities and games; food vendors; and family-friendly booths and exhibitors. A scrub-jay presentation will include a Q&A.
Florida’s Birding & Photo Fest, St. Augustine Beach, April, 2024
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
- Florida Great Birding and Wildlife Trail: How to use this excellent website.
- Flamingoes in Florida: Back for good?
- Birds hold court at Wakodahatchee Wetlands & Green Cay in suburban Palm Beach County
- Wakodahatchee Wetlands in Delray: Wood storks nesting in spring
- Peaceful Waters Sanctuary, Wellington: Top birding spot in sububan Palm Beach County
- Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge: Birds, beauty galore
- White pelicans: How to see spectacular birds wintering in Florida
- Circle B Bar Reserve: Lakeland park is terrific for wildlife
- Thousands of birds migrate over Keys in fall
- St. Augustine Alligator Farm bird rookery is thrilling for birders
- Fort Myers Bunche Beach: Heaven for birders, kayakers
- Naples Bird Rookery Swamp: 9 ways it’s great for hiking, biking
- Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge: Wild spot to hike and see wildlife
- Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
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The author, Bonnie Gross, travels with her husband David Blasco, discovering off-the-beaten path places to hike, kayak, bike, swim and explore. Florida Rambler was founded in 2010 by Bonnie and fellow journalist Bob Rountree, two long-time Florida residents who have spent decades exploring the Florida outdoors. Their articles have been published in the Sun Sentinel, the Miami Herald, the Orlando Sentinel, The Guardian and Visit Florida.