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The Great Florida Birding Trail photo essay

Great Florida birding trail

An osprey enjoying lunch on a sign in the Weedon Island Preserve

Florida is the premier birding state

It seemed wherever I drove in Florida on a recent road trip, I saw a brown sign indicating it was on the Great Florida Birding Trail. This is not a surprise as Florida is the supreme state regarding sunshine and birds. I don’t think it is even debatable that the state it number one when it comes to the top birding destination in the country.

Florida has over 2,000 miles of shoreline, the Everglades and the Big Cypress in the south, and many beautiful rivers, lakes, swamps, and forests rich with bird life. You have herons, egrets, shore birds, gulls, birds of prey, songbirds, ducks, and many others. There are a whopping 510 birds on the state of Florida bird checklist.

Great Florida Birding Trail

The Great Florida Birding Trail at Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve

The Great Florida Birding Trail

The Great Florida Birding Trail is a self-guided highway trail that links 515 different birding hot spots in the state of Florida. In the south I visited Fakahatchee Strand, Collier Seminole, and Corkscrew Swamp that made the list. In the west I visited Alligator Lake, Ichetucknee Springs, Crystal River, the Hillsborough River, and Weedon Island. Check out the list on the website linked above and see which spots you have visited or would like to visit.

While you will not find 510 bird pictures in this photo essay, you will see a decent amount as I traveled almost the whole length of the state in my two week road trip. I am not a professional birder, nor am I a professional photographer, but I have always enjoyed seeing and identifying birds while in the midst of an adventure. I do not have the patience to sit in one place for long to wait for a bird, but if I see one while I am hiking, canoeing, or skiing, I will stop and check them out and try to capture on camera.

When you hit the Florida highways, take a look for the brown sign. You will know you are nearing an outdoor place filled with some kind of adventure and a lot of interesting birds. If I misidentified any species, please let me know in the comment section.

Weedon Island Preserve-

American oystercatcher

An American oystercatcher feeding on an exposed sandbar

White ibis Florida

Three white ibis feeding in the shallows

Great Florida birding trail

The brown pelican on a boating sign in the Weedon Island Preserve is almost an iconic representation of the state

Osprey Weedon Island

Osprey eating a fish on a Weedon Island sign

Great Florida birding trail

An American oystercatcher among sandpipers at Weedon Island

American oystercatcher Great Florida Birding Trail

Another shot of the American oystercatcher at Weedon Island

Great Florida birding trail

The Louisiana or tricolored heron at Weedon Island

Weedon Island Preserve Tampa Bay

Yellow-crowned night heron in the Weedon Island mangroves

Great Florida birding trail

Reddish egret and little blue heron share the same fishing spot

Hillsborough River State Park –


Great Florida birding trail

White ibis on the Hillsborough River

Great Florida birding trail

A great blue heron on the shore of the Hillsborough River

Great Florida birding trail

Vultures on the Hillsborough River in Florida

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary –

Corkscrew swamp

Red-shouldered hawk near the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary entrance

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary anhinga

Anhinga wrestling with a nice lunch at the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

Anhinga Corkscrew swamp Florida

Anhinga in full food coma – I think he needs a nap

Great Florida Birding Trail

Beautiful egret fishing for a meal in the Corkscrew Swamp

Great Florida Birding Trail

Success in the form of a crayfish

Barred owl Corkscrew Swamp

The back of a barred owl

Wood stork Florida

A wood stork photographed on the highway on the way to Corkscrew swamp

Great Florida Birding Trail

I returned for a 2nd day to Corkscrew Swamp for more birds

Great Florida Birding Trail

Another egret shot at Corkscrew Swamp

Barred owl Corkscrew Swamp

Here is the same barred owl from the day before, but up close

Great Florida Birding Trail

Super close up of the barred owl

Great Florida Birding Trail

Anhinga drying its wings at Corkscrew swamp

Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve

Fakahatchee Strand egret

The official greeter at Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve

Fakahatchee Strand sunset Florida

Two herons fly into this sunset picture

Great Florida Birding Trail

Wood stork at Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve

Great blue heron Fakahatchee

Great blue heron catches a minnow

Great Florida Birding Trail

A bald eagle nest, but no bald eagles

Collier-Seminole State Park

Collier-Seminole may be the best birding spot of all the places I visited, but I hiked the adventure trail and only saw this red-shouldered hawk. If you kayak into the 10,000 Islands or into the Everglades, you will see tons of birds.

Collier-Seminole State Park

Red shouldered hawk from the start of the adventure trail in the Great Florida Birding Trail – Collier-Seminole section

Alligator Lake Recreation Area

Alligator Lake Recreation Area

White ibis in thick green vegetation at Alligator Lake

Great Florida Birding Trail Alligator Lake

An anhinga tenses up on the top of a tree sensing our arrival

Anhinga flying Alligator Lake Recreation Area

Anhinga getting out of dodge

Redhead duck Alligator Lake

A couple of coots surround a redhead – Sounds lecherous

Ichetucknee River State Park

Black-crowned night heron Ichetucknee River

Black-crowned night heron looking for a morsel on the Ichetucknee shoreline

Coots Ichetucknee River Great Florida Birding Trail

Coots cluster in an Ichetucknee eddy

Great egret Ichetucknee River

Another great egret – They are so majestic it is hard not to take a picture of them

Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge

Crystal River National WIldlife Refuge osprey

Osprey greets us perched on a tree in the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge

Crystal River osprey

Manatees are the main attraction here, but I was momentarily distracted by a perched osprey

Brown pelican crystal river florida

A brown pelican keeps an eye on boaters to make sure they heed the signs and keep manatees safe


The goal of Traveling Ted is to inspire people to outdoor adventure travel and then provide tips on where and how to go. If you liked this post then enter your email in the box to get email notifications for each new entry. Daily travel photos are excluded from your email in order to not flood you with posts. There is no spam and email information will not be shared. Other e-follow options include Facebook (click on the like box to the right) or twitter (click on the pretty bird on the rainbow above).

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18 Responses to The Great Florida Birding Trail photo essay

  1. ben March 31, 2014 at 7:34 am #

    so many kinds of birds. I agree that Florida is the premier birding state! 😀
    ben recently posted..Grand Canyon Air Tour – A Marvelous Way to See the Sights

    • Ted Nelson April 5, 2014 at 4:21 am #

      Florida is definitely number one for birds.

  2. Leigh April 2, 2014 at 3:16 am #

    I think looking for birds so enhances any trip outside. John feels lost without binoculars and I feel lost without a camera. Of course I would really like a 150-500 mm lens so I could get some great close-ups.
    What a great lot of birds you saw. I especially love the pelicans.
    Leigh recently posted..Hiking the Nokomis Trail, Lake Superior Provincial Park

    • Ted Nelson April 5, 2014 at 4:23 am #

      Pelicans perched on a sign in the water captures the spirit of Florida in my opinion. Glad you liked them. I would like a better zoom myself.

  3. Jeff April 2, 2014 at 2:38 pm #

    Omg! so many kinds. You’ve given me a reason to visit Florida.
    Jeff recently posted..Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard Reviews

    • Ted Nelson April 5, 2014 at 4:24 am #

      It is a different side of Florida from the beaches, retirement communities, and theme parks.

  4. Jason Hussong April 3, 2014 at 2:43 pm #

    Great shots! I find it amusing that I’m going to “tweet” your bird photos. 😛

    • Ted Nelson April 3, 2014 at 2:59 pm #

      I hope people don’t find it a fowl tweet 🙂 One pun deserves a worse one.

  5. Trips By Lance April 3, 2014 at 7:34 pm #

    This is an impressive two-week roadtrip. For someone who says he’s not a birder it sure seems that way to me.
    Trips By Lance recently posted..48 Hours in New Orleans on NBA Road Trip

    • Ted Nelson April 5, 2014 at 4:26 am #

      I do enjoy seeing birds, but definitely an amateur at identification. I can get the main ones right, but it gets difficult with the sparrows and warblers.

  6. the lazy travelers April 5, 2014 at 3:13 pm #

    def thought that osprey was eating another bird until i read the caption and saw it was a fish. so many emotions in such a short amount of time.
    the lazy travelers recently travel required: #frifotos

    • Ted Nelson April 7, 2014 at 3:03 am #

      Ospreys and bald eagles eat fish, but falcons and hawks will eat other birds.

  7. Leah April 6, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

    What lovely captures of these beautiful birds–except for the vultures. Those things creep me out.
    Leah recently posted..Where should I go for my Big Four-Oh?

    • Ted Nelson April 7, 2014 at 3:03 am #

      Yep, saw a lot of vultures driving today from Dallas to San Antonio.

  8. Erin at The World Wanderer April 6, 2014 at 3:41 pm #

    You always take such great wildlife photos, Ted! I used to have no real interest in birds, until I went to Africa. Now I have such a great appreciation for their beauty, which is often overlooked.
    Erin at The World Wanderer recently posted..Ways to Live in the Present Moment.

    • Ted Nelson April 7, 2014 at 3:09 am #

      Thanks Erin. I do the best I can with the tools I have. One of these days I am going to get a real camera with a zoom and take better pictures. Until that day, this is it 🙂

  9. Brianna April 9, 2014 at 10:47 pm #

    I caught the birding bug in Costa Rica. Like you I’m still fairly amateur compared to some of the diehard birders out there but I certainly enjoy seeing them outside. I’m lucky to have a great birding area her in coastal Virginia as well as when visiting family in Tampa
    Brianna recently posted..The wild side of central Florida

    • Ted Nelson April 16, 2014 at 2:23 am #

      I have been to Costa Rica and have enjoyed the birds there as well as Trinidad & Tobago and Guyana. Guyana is an incredible birding place, but Florida stacks up well with any place in the world.

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