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How to Bird Watch at Marco Island Beaches

Introduction to Bird Watching in Florida 

If ornithology is your thing, then there is no better place to birdwatch than here in sunny Florida. Ornithology has been popular here since the 1770s when William Bartram began cataloging wildlife in Florida. Unfortunately, after John Hames Audubon’s visit in the 1830s, many people began plundering Florida’s birds. In the Victorian era, egret plumes were used for women’s hats, and roseate spoonbill wings were collected to make fans. By the turn of the century, many rookeries in the Everglades were totally annihilated.

In 1896, the Audubon Society was founded to stop the destruction and soon began conservation efforts. Plume hunters were a problem until two wardens were killed and the public became outraged over the birds’ slaughter. The 1913 Migratory Bird Treaty Act ended the millinery trade once and for all in Florida.

Florida is host to many types of birds and sees many migratory birds come through each year. There are quite a few species who remain in Florida for the winter. Keep in mind that you need to be here during the right time of year to see certain species. You also have to know the bird watching hot spots in Florida. Knowing where to bird watch in Marco Island is key to seeing a variety of species.

5 Bird Watching Hot Spots Near Marco Island

Everglades National Park

Step outside your Marco Island rentals and head over to Everglades National Park. It is home to over 300 species. You can find wading birds and nesting Anhingas on the Anhinga Trail. Bald eagles tend to appear in the morning in the Mahogany Hammock area, and Barred Owls emerge after dusk.

Nine Mile Pond is a favored area for Limpkins, Snail Kites, and Wood Storks. Take a canoe in the morning to see them out and about in this spikerush abode.

Flamingos in the Everglades National Park

Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

North of Naples is the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, located in the Corkscrew Watershed. This 13,000-acre sanctuary is home to many Florid Sandhill Cranes, Limpkins, Snowy Egrets, and Roseate Spoonbills. The area even has a few rare plants like the Ghost Orchid. And, of course, the sanctuary is home to a large Corkscrew population, which the Audubon Society still strives to protect.

Tigertail Beach

Tigertail Beach is host to a trail that winds through the habitat of over 200 species of birds. The tidal lagoon gives you an expansive view of everything from Snowy and Piping Plovers to Red Knots. Peregrine Falcons will come here during winter and while migrating. It’s a great place to go shelling and bird watching in Marco Island.

The Wildlife Viewing Tower provides bird identification guides and scopes to help you see.

Eagle looking at camera from a branch perch

Cocohatchee River

Launch from one of four boat launching lanes and spend the day along this waterway that is home to Ospreys, Snowy Egrets, and Bald Eagles. Rent a kayak from the nearby marina or charter one of their eco-friendly cruises in order to see these birds.

Marco Eagle Sanctuary Foundation

Marco Island birding wouldn’t be complete without a stop to Marco Eagle Sanctuary Foundation. Leave your Marco Island vacation rentals for the day and check out the nesting American Bald Eagles who live in the Nature Preserve.

Florida Birding by Season

Summer

Most Florida birds nest in late May to early June, making this the best time to see Bald Eagles, Great Horned Owls, and (at dusk) Antillean nighthawks. The Burrowing Owl is often spotted on lawns and farmland fields. Freshwater marshes are hang-outs for Green Herons and Least Bitterns, and Snail Kite prefer the northern Everglades.

Fall

September marks a peak for southward land bird migration. Shorebird migration hits a peak too as juvenile birds head south with the adults for their winter stays. Flooded fields make nice spots for seeing Buff-Breasted and Pectoral Sandpipers. The Argentina-bound American Golden-Plover also stops here.

Winter

Many northern birds are here for winter, including Blue- and Green-Winged Teal, Northern Shovelers, and Buffleheads. Loons make their presence known along the coast, and feeder birds like the Blue Jay can be spotted throughout Florida.

Spring

Spring comes early in Florida, as migration and breeding begin. Wading birds are everywhere. Expect to see Egrets, Blue Herons, and White and Glossy Ibises hanging out on mid-lake or mangrove islands. Wood Storks are found aplenty in the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, and late April marks the arrival of Mangrove Cuckoos and Gray Kingbirds.

Plan Your Visit

Come to Marco Island and experience a beautiful vacation getaway. There are so many things to do and see while on the island.