10 magnificent Florida birds

Florida birds

Topographically, Florida is stunning and oozes fun and amusement! Awe-inspiring landscapes, lush green hills, sun-soaked beaches looking out on the crystal-clear ocean water, and a relaxing atmosphere; are the defining elements of this spectacular state. Vacationers and nature lovers come to the sun on the white sands of the gorgeous peninsula to enjoy the quaint charm of the tropical environment, breathtaking scenic beauty, and a crisp breeze.

But also within the reaches of this fascinating state, nature has worked its magic to bring birders a wide range of birds to feast their eyes on. Florida is home to an excess of 500 species of wild birds. And the ordinary birds in your backyard are not fascinating at all, birds in Florida are. The animations of the bustling and lively feathered family in their natural habitat are thrilling and enlivening to watch, and their vibrant colors are such a beauty to behold.

The bad news; there is limited information out there about the Florida birds. The good news; with lots of experience and research, we’ve put together this informative post to save you the hassle of delving into websites and forums to dig for details on the birds of Florida. Let’s go ahead and have a look.

Table of Contents

What are Florida birds?

A visit to Florida is never complete without enjoying a birding trip. It is no surprise to see the scores of avian creatures attracted to Florida. Before encroachment of the extensive human settlements we see today, Florida was a vast chunk of inhospitable landmass covered by forests, swamps, and marshes.

Why the birds were attracted to Florida

  • The region was graced with abundant native trees and shrubs which provide bird food in the form of seeds, fruits, and flowers. Moreover, the swamps, marshes, wet prairies, and cultivated agricultural areas offer feeding ground for marshland birds.
  • As well, the dense forage of the wild growth offers a convenient venue for hiding and nesting.
  • More than that, the extensive beaches accommodate shorebirds and are an excellent breeding spot for birds that like to nest away from civilization and disturbance.
  • The geographical location and topographical shape of the region make an ideal stopover for migrating birds on their way to and from wintering parts of Canada, the United States, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America.
Man feeding Birds on the shores

Man feeding Birds on the shores.

Image source – https://www.pexels.com

The Number of Bird Species in Florida (Florida birds)

There are millions of other birds that claim residence in the region making it a great destination for a birding safari. In 2018, the Florida Ornithological Society Records Committee (FORSC) documented at least 525 different birds in the species list of the state.

Size and shape

Telling birds apart is no child’s play. One sure way of identifying birds is by looking at their size and shape. You need to be familiar with the body profile of the bird and the specific body features that set it apart from the rest.

Large birds in Florida

You will find up large birds like cranes, herons, great egrets, hawks, vultures, eagles, pelicans, ibises, the usual suspect, and more. The majority of these birds are long-legged and adapted to wading. Others have very wide wingspans that make it easy to coast above water and spot fish.

The brown pelican flying

The brown pelican flying

Medium sized birds

Not to forget medium-sized species like cuckoos, blackbirds, crows, sparrows, falcons, and sandpipers.

Small birds

Smaller species include warblers, thrushes, gulls, swallows and swifts, owls, hummingbirds, sparrows, chickadees, finches, starlings, woodpeckers, jays, wrens, and kingfishers.

Bird Shapes

You will also need to look at the shape of the birds if you intend to do bird identification at a glance.  You’re likely to come across many shapes including but not limited to duck-like birds, upright perching water-like, long-legged wading, pigeon-like, tree-clinging , perching-like, owl-like, hawk-like, upland ground-like, gull-like, swallow-like, hummingbird-like, and sandpiper-like birds.

Color

Birds come with diverse pops of color combinations that make it hard to confuse. However, the vibrancy of color in some birds’ feathers changes depending on the season of the year or breeding cycle. The color change makes bird identification a challenge.

Birds manage to change their color courtesy of a process called molting. It is the process of replacing old feathers with new ones. Most birds will most at least once yearly.

Colorful Thrushes holding each other

Colorful Thrushes holding each other. Florida birds

Behavior

Birds usually behave differently depending on the weather season, and the migration and mating cycle. Many birds migrate to Florida during the winter period. Examples are warblers, sparrows, waterfowl like the American black duck and the mallard. More than that birds

A flock of gulls flying above shore

A flock of gulls flying above shore. Florida birds

The peninsula plays host to millions of backyard or feeder birds. These birds do not shy away from human settlements and are often attracted to homes and backyards by leftover food. Some of the common backyard birds include blue jays, eastern bluebird, Carolina chickadee, northern cardinal, tufted titmouse, Florida scrub-jay, mourning dove, American robin, European starling, Carolina wren, house sparrow, American goldfinch et al.

Backyard birds feeding

Backyard birds feeding

What are the largest birds in Florida?

You will catch up with large species like cranes, herons, great egrets, hawks, vultures, eagles, pelicans, ibises, the usual suspect, and more.

The largest bird is the whooping crane. Standing at 5 feet tall and with a wingspan of 4.5 feet, this giant bird has little completion in matters of size.

What is the rarest bird in Florida?

Try as hard as you might, it is almost impossible to spot the grasshopper sparrow. The bird hides in ground-cover, dense prairies, and grasses. There are less than 30 breeding pairs in existence. The human population has been on a coalition course with this species making it a highly endangered species.

What are the types of birds are native to Florida?

Many species call the state home. Below are some of the bird species that are native the Florida;

  • Florida sub-jay
  • Snail kite
  • Anhinga
  • Northern cardinal
  • Sandhill cranes
  • Red cockaded woodpecker
  • White-crowned pigeons
  • Limpkin
  • Grey kingbirds
  • Red-winged blackbird
  • Killdeer
  • Short-tailed hawk
  • Roseate spoonbill

 

List of the 10 magnificent bird species in Florida

1. The Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

The Northern cardinal is often referred to as redbirds. It is a medium-sized backyard bird about 8.3–9.1 inches long from head to tail. There exist about 18 sub-species of the bird. They are the most common feeder bird species in Florida.

Color, Size and shape

Males are brightly colored with a stunning red overall and a black face mask on the throat, head and neck while the female species is light brown to yellow-green with some red highlights. Additionally, both male and female sexes have a distinctive crest on the head which raises and points up when the cardinal is agitated.

Behavior and Habitat

The northern cardinal loves to live on short trees or dense bushes in well-concealed areas that are covered by thick foliage. The female constructs a cup nest made of thin and pliable twigs and bark strips and lined, and grasses with fine grasses and other plant fibers. The bird usually uses the nest for only one breeding season. Keep an eye out for this bird on the backyards, suburban gardens,overgrown fields, hedgerows, city parks, towns, thickets, bushes, edges of woodlands and desert washes.

Cardinals hang around in flocks of about a dozen birds during fall and winter but pair up when its time to breed. They can forage with other birds such as sparrows,  Tufted Titmics and goldfinches.

Diet

This species mainly feed on seeds, grains, common fruits, and small insects. They have strong bills that are adapted to eating seeds and digging up insects.

The Northern Cardinal setting on branch

The Northern Cardinal setting on branch

2. Florida Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens)

The scrub-jay is unique to the state of Florida. This species got its name from its exclusive habitat on the scrub oak areas. These regions are usually open areas with sandy soil profiles and short shrubs and oaks.

Color, Size and shape

They are smaller and less colorful than the blue jay. The scrub-jay grows to about 10 – 12 inches long. Unlike other jays (Cyanocitta), the bird has no head crest despite close similarity in appearance. Grown-up birds are light grey at the back and chest, blue at the wings, neck, and tail. Their off springs are usually blue with spots of dark grey.

Behavior and Habitat

Scrub-jays are territorial and live together with extended families and resort in large groups. Even so, they normally form lifetime breeding pairs. Scrub-jays will nest between early March to late June. The birds are noisy and like jumping from branch to branch and hopping on the ground in search of food.

You will also want to note that scrub-jays use visual cues and vocalizations to communicate and alert each other. It gets good with the fact that they are not afraid of human presence. The family structure is dominated by breeding males are most dominant assisted by helper males. Breeding female and helper females then follow.

Scrub-jays mainly occur mainly in thickets of sand pine and scrub oak of scrub woodlands in peninsular Florida.

Diet

This species usually consume insects, reptiles, small mammals, bird eggs, and acorns. Also, they often hunt snakes in numbers.

The Florida Scrub-Jay eating corn

The Florida Scrub-Jay eating corn

3. Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga)

The Anhinga is a common year-round water bird that spreads throughout Florida. They are large and easy to spot with fairly long legs and bill.

Color, Size and shape

Grown up males have a brownish-black plumage with white speckles on the back and wings. On the contrary, there is a pale tan on the head, neck and breast of the females and young ones. You will also want to note that the long and webbed feet are colored either in orange, bright yellow, or grey. The body of the anhinga is slim and appear rather flattened in flight, with long tail feathers that are fan-like. It can grow to a head-to-tail length of about 29-38 inches.

Behavior and Habitat

The waterbird hunts by stretching out the neck and striking to spear the prey. The long pointed bill and long neck which help them in spearing fish. The anhinga are common near shallow fresh water and are also good swimmers. They can submerge fully when hunting for underwater prey although the feather are not waterproof.

Nonetheless, they cannot fly with soaked wet feathers. So, they are fond of spreading the wings out to dry. The anhinga resembles a male turkey when it assumes the drying position. Consequently, most people refer to it as the water turkey or swamp turkey.

Although the wading birds are normally solitary, they often  gather with cormorants, herons, storks and ibises. It is easy to find the anhinga near freshwater bodies, marshes, shallow lagoons and bays, and mangrove swamps covered with tall trees and thick vegetation.

Diet

Its diet is primarily fish, supplemented by underwater vegetation, insects, aquatic invertebrates, amphibians, and reptiles.

The Anhinga anhinga setting on branch of tree singing

The Anhinga anhinga setting on branch of tree singing

4. Great Blue Heron(Ardea herodias)

Another large wading bird from the heron family, the great blue heron is also called the night heron. Birders will encounter the bird  along Florida’s shores, open water and in wetlands. Among the herons in North America, the blue heron is the largest.

Color, Size and shape

The night heron lives up to the name with a slate blue appearance from a distance. But in flight there are two color tones, the fore part of the body is pale while the hind and lower side of the wings appears blue gray. Males are noticeably larger than females. Besides, the male’s bill is longer than the female’s. The long legs will elevate it over shallow water while the a specially shaped neck vertebrae coupled with the long sharp bill will be efficient in quickly striking to spear prey.

Behavior and Habitat

Despite their usual slow movement when wading and stalking, the speed at which they strike to grab prey can be neck breaking.Also, the night vision is excellent and so the night heron can hunt both day and night. The birds gather at fish hatcheries to feed on the fingerlings.

Birders can watch the night heron at shorelines and banks of water bodies, edges of marshes, swamps,estuaries, and ponds, and meadows. The birds also forage in grasslands, farmlands, other open fields across much of Florida. During the breeding season, blue herons build nests together in colonies popularly referred to as heronries.

Diet

The bird feeds on fish, crabs, insects, and small mammals, amphibians and reptiles. It also known to feed on the ducklings of other species.

The Great Blue Heron flying

The Great Blue Heron flying

5. Limpkins (Aramus guarauna)

Limpkins are tall wading birds with brown and white speckles. The name is courtesy of their step and pause limping motion when hunting for fish and other aquatic organisms.

Color, Size and shape

They have long grey legs, a thin grey curved bill, and about two-foot height. Birders can find them on the shores of freshwater lakes, marshes, and wetlands of Florid. Limpkins are hunted and killed for their meat and are among the endangered species.

Diet

Small amounts of seeds, insects, small reptiles, crustaceans such as crayfish, worms, and aquatic plants.

The Limpkin resting

The Limpkin resting

7. Snail kite (Rostrhamus sociabillis)

Another endangered species, the snail kite is quite different from other raptures. In its entirety, the bird is black and bears a close resemblance to the slender bill kite save for white patches on its plumage.

Color, Size and shape

It is about 17 inches in length. The bill is deeply curved, modified, and highly adapted to feeding on snails. Apple snails Pomacea are their staples.

Behavior and Habitat

You will find the raptor in marshes and wetlands in Florida with abundant apple snails. It’s fond of foraging in thick forests. Although it is common in other parts of North America, nowhere else in the world does this species breed but in Florida.

Diet

Snail kites only feed apple snails.

7. Purple Gallinule (Porphyrio martinicius)

Also called the yellow legged gallinule, it is a crane-like marsh bird found on the banks of water bodies. It is a member of the rail family.

Color, Size and shape

It is purple in color with a bright red yellow beak and yellow feet. In well-lit environs, the back side appears glossy with brilliant green and turquoise hues. They have long feet that are efficient in providing the much-needed balance when walking on floating vegetation and clinging on to stems.

Behavior and Habitat

The birds are excellent swimmers and will occasionally perch on tall trees and bushes. They are common around the edges of water bodies. Birders can look out for the purple gallinule in marshy areas that have tons of floating leaves.

Diet

The purple gallinule feeds on seeds, fruits and leaves from aquatic vegetation. Apart from that, they also eat insects, small reptile, amphibians, worms and fish.

8. Florida Mottled Ducks (Anas fulvigula)

Another non-migratory bird, the mottled mallard, Florida duck or Florida mullard is a medium-sized duck. A close relative of the American black duck, it is the only dabbling duck but has a lighter complexion as far as color goes.

Color, Size and shape

The body is an alternation of contrasting light and dark brown feathers while the neck and head is pale. You will also notice a dark brown cap on the head. Whereas the male’s bill is bright yellow with a bright spot at the tip, the female’s is black with an orange yellow tip. The body to tail length is between 18 – 23 inches.

Behavior and Habitat

They’re good swimmers and move flawlessly on bare ground. Their strong and effortful wing beats make for direct and slow flight. Besides that, mottled ducks are dabbling ducks meaning they consume both surface and submerged vegetation. The males are usually more aggressive than females. Common in marshy areas, ponds, ditches, and wetlands, water collection points and flooded fields.

Diet

The mottled duck usually feasts on aquatic plants and invertebrates from shallow waters.

9. American White Ibis (Eudocimus albuss)

You cannot help but notice the white ibis every time you step in Florida. The wading birds are widespread throughout Florida.

Color, Size and shape

The white ibis is a large round bird with long pink legs, and a pink bill. Grown-ups have a white plumage with patches of red around the eye. The pink bills are long, curved, and efficient in digging food out of the mud. Juvenile white ibis have a combination of splotchy brown and white.

Behavior and Habitat

They are usually in flocks and fly in a trove of colorful and picturesque flocks. They move around with their eyes keenly focused on scanning muddy surface for prey.

Birders can observe them from freshwater marshes, shallow water bodies, swamps and wetlands. They also forage in parks, yards and other open spaces.

 Diet

The white ibis usually eats crayfish, crabs, marine worms, snails, frogs, insects, and snakes.

The cattle egret looking for prey

The cattle egret looking for prey

10. The Cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis)

The cattle egret is a member of the heron family. Despite being regular near water bodies, swamps and wetlands, they prefer drier habitats of Florida.

Color, Size and shape

The cattle egret is tall, long-legged heron about 18–22 inches long, and snowy white in color. The dagger-like bill is pinkish yellow and slightly curved but turns bright red during the breeding season. During the breeding season, it also exhibits a yellow crown with yellow patches around the neck and breast. Even more, the legs are black, the neck is long and S-shaped whereas the tail is quite short.

Behavior and Habitat

The cattle egret is common in marshy areas, ponds, ditches, and wetlands. Egrets are as comfortable in freshwater as they are in saltwater. They like wading in shallow water and routinely stand still to watch out for unsuspecting prey. Egrets like feeding along with large grazing mammals.

This species nests in colonies, and usually build their nests high in trees. They often nest in secluded , out-of-reach places for predators for example on islands. They build nests using trees under trees and shrubs.

 Diet

Their diet consists of small vertebrae, insects, small fish, frogs, lizards and earthworms.

Facts about birds in Florida

State Birds

The common northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) is the state bird of Florida favorite. It was designated in 1927 by a legislative session. The year round resident of the state is a favorite to many thanks to its elite vocal and singing ability. The bird also happens to be a state bird in states like Arkansas, Texas Mississippi, and Tennessee. It feeds on insects, weed seeds and ripe berries.

The Northern mockingbird setting on branch

The Northern mockingbird setting on branch

Location of Florida

While a significant number of birds will live in Florida all year round, Florida’s geographical location in the United States and topographical shape make it the perfect stopover for migrating birds. Florida projects into the Gulf of Mexico providing a strategic stop-off point for species that are on their way to and from wintering parts of Canada, the United States, the Caribbean, Central and South America.

Florida Coastline view from the sky

Florida Coastline view from the sky

Decline of year round Birds

A recent study found out almost 20 percent decline in the population of birds since 1970. The decline is attributable to encroachment of their natural habitat by humans. Human development and agriculture has fragmented or eliminated most of their habitats. This threat explains the numbers of bird sanctuaries in Florida that are dedicated to protecting the natural habitats and endangered species.

Other facts

Did you also know that Florida’s smallest bird is the ruby-throated hummingbird?

The ruby-throated hummingbird feeding

The ruby-throated hummingbird feeding

Frequently Asked Questions

Which are the birds of South Florida?

Bird species from the south Florida include tricolored heron, red-bellied and red-headed woodpeckers, painted bunting, spoonbills, white ibis, and northern flicker. Winter birds like rufous hummingbirds, Swainson’s hawk, flycatcher, western kingbird, and lesser nighthawk are also observable.

Which are birds of North Florida?

Common species that are specific to the north of Florida include swallow tailed kite, , tufted titmouse, red-shouldered hawk, great blue heron, red-winged blackbird, cormorants, cattle egret, blue jay, bald eagle, northern mockingbird, red-bellied woodpecker, Carolina wren, and more.

Read also about  Rainbow bird The Best Brilliant rainbow lorikeet

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Mohamed Rida Allah

This is Mohamed Rida Allah, A web designer and digital marketing specialist. The CEO of Noordev Technologies inc. Mohamed is a small business owner who's taken a more traditional approach to the professional bio on his website — but in a way that takes care to speak to his intended audience.

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