Bird Watching Florida

Sarasota is a place like any other, one of contrasts with beaches, parks, wetlands, and wildlife all around. Bird Watching Florida’s Gulf Coast is one of the best places to bird watch anywhere in Florida. The rich diversity of migratory species makes it a haven for people to spot birds around Sarasota County. Find out what species exist and how and where to enjoy bird watching in the area.

Field Guide For Bird Watching Florida

Watching birds in Florida on their annual migration and learning about their climate and habits can be a fun way to explore the area. Some of the most amazing avian species are right in Sarasota such as:

  • Loggerhead Shrike: small gray bird that likes to hang prey on thorns or wire to eat later
  • Black Skimmer: rare black-and-white beach birds that skim water surfaces with their bills
  • Purple Martin: South American bird that comes north each year to breed in Florida
  • Snowy Egret: wading bird with white feathers, one of several in the egret species around Florida
  • Florida Scrub-Jay: Blue and gray member of the jay family found only in Florida (and highly sought after by bird lovers to watch their patterns and behavior)
  • Limpkin: Has a distinctive shriek-like call that dines on snails
  • Great Blue Herons, Little Blue and other herons: wading birds popular around Sarasota
  • Cormorants: submerging birds who put their whole bodies underwater while hunting
  • Spoonbills: unique, rose colored bird who wades and uses the spoon-shaped beak to sift small fish, crustaceans and mollusks from mangroves and marshy areas

Time to Fly

The best time to visit Sarasota to check out the birds is in winter when migratory birds pass through. The year-round sunshine offers lots of chances to see all kinds of birds, it just depends on which type and what a person wants to see when they visit their fair-feathered friends.


Gear Up for Birdwatching

Birders know how to pack for the trip. Beginners may need some tips on what to bring. Some top gear to keep in mind for any bird watching occasion:

  • A good camera like a Canon 7D Mark II DSLR with great focus and lenses that zoom in to capture the images of birds in flight or stationary
  • A sport camera that captures action shots
  • Spotting scope to zoom in 
  • All Terrain insect repellent that is DEET-free and combats bugs like mosquitoes out on the trail or while kayaking the mangroves
  • Sunhat and UV protection from the sun
  • Snacks like granola, quick lunches, water, and other beverages to slake your thirst

Don’t be caught out with no gear to capture the amazing moments. Binoculars are just as good as any camera for viewing birds without having to take images or videos of them. Many people just enjoy the view without any equipment and love to listen to nature’s finest creatures do what they do in their natural habitat.

Where to Watch Birds in Florida

Start with the eBird app which helps identify birds along the way, logs sightings and connects bird lovers together. The hardest part of picking a spot to bird watch is knowing where to start. There are so many amazing places in Sarasota to look for birds. Just check out some of the places in and around the area.

Atlantic Flyway

Florida is along what is called the Atlantic Flyway, or a 3,000 mile stretch from tundra to Caribbean. The ecosystems have evolved over eons and bring nature lovers to Florida in droves. The Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail maps out 510 premier wildlife viewing sites in Florida to view butterflies, birds, and more. The Trail is part of Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission who seek to preserve the natural habitat and beauty of birds for visitors to enjoy, among many other sites.

Arlington Park

Many birds like small waders and seasonal ducks migrate here to the small park and nest in Sarasota. They are a bird lover’s paradise.

Blind Pass Beach Park

South of Sarasota County, the Spotted Sandpipers, Dunlin, and Black-bellied Plover are commonly sighted at this beach devoid (mostly) of other humans. Kayaks and canoes are often spotted in the mangrove swamps and lagoons nearby, catching glimpses of bird life all around. 

Carlton Reserve

A large site, Carlton Reserve in Venice has varied ecologies in one place. With over 24,000 acres, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recommends calling ahead to check out the trails and backcountry map. This site is large so plan ahead for best results. 

Caspersen Beach Park

The Gulf beach provides a spectacular spot for bird watching and listening to their songs. What better place than a coastal shoreline to see such birds as the Florida Scrub Jay and others warbling away.

Jelks Preserve

The Myakka River provides an environment to view birds in a natural, quiet habitat filled with hardwoods and moss. The preserve is wet and swampy with lots of different species like the Wood Stork and Osprey. This site is around 600 acres in Venice. 

Lemon Bay Park and Environmental Center

This site has many species of birds like woodpeckers and Wood Ducks. The environmental center offers guided tours and coastal walks to view and experience natural birds as they explore their habitats. Learn about environmental conservation efforts while listening to and viewing birds during migratory season.

Oscar Scherer State Park

Binoculars are a must for a visit to this state park. The Scrub Jay is a threatened species so many people like to look for it when they visit. Check in with state park officials on the best guides to view and hear these beautiful birds and many others.

Siesta Beach

While resting on the sands of Sarasota’s finest beach, check out some beautiful Spoonbills and Razorbill bird species early in the morning before heading out. These shorebirds love the quiet coastline so bring binoculars for a great view.