For the birding devotee, Northeast Florida is a popular spot to witness creatures in flight due to its moderate temperature, diverse array of habitats and location on migratory routes.
Bring binoculars because with the large number of parks in the region, beautiful surroundings and the Northeast Gateway to The Great Florida Birding Trail, bird lovers find Jacksonville a natural choice for an excursion.
The 2,000-mile Great Florida Birding Trail, designated by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, is a self-guided trail complete with detailed guide books complete with species descriptions, directions and maps of birding opportunity sites and special signs identifying trail sites. One of the Trail's designated "gateway" sites is at Amelia Island's Fort Clinch State Park. Birding maps are available at the ranger station. Scan the shoreline of this park which also boasts Civil War history for laughing, ring-billed herring and great black-backed gulls, royal terns and other shorebirds. Migratory warblers, mourning doves and typical woodland birds can be seen along both loops of the Willow Pond Nature Trail. In the spring and summer, stay alert for glimpses of the brilliantly plumaged painted bunting.
Huguenot Memorial Park, just south of Fort Clinch, was designated a Great Florida Birding Trail site because of the outstanding habitat and the abundance and variety of birds. The park includes a critical nesting area for terns and shorebirds, and often hosts rarities like bar-tailed godwits. Birders are likely to spot gannets, loons, and sea ducks. The park is also a popular spot for beachgoers with cars still allowed access to the beach.
Each spring, Jacksonville's ultimate traveler, the migratory red knot, travels roundtrip between southern Argentina and Arctic Canada with an annual layover in Little Talbot Island. Spectators can observe these birds as they feed on small surf clams to build up their strength and fat reserves for the final push to breeding grounds up north.
One of the most advantageous ways of viewing birds on the inland salt marshes is by canoe or kayak. Canoes can be rented by the hour or the day at Little Talbot Island State Park and kayaks are available for rent from Kayak Amelia. Approximately 200 species of birds make their homes along the waterways unreachable by foot.
Area attractions also offer opportunities to spot rare birds. Take a walk through the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park’s wild rookery. Bird photographers have also been spotted at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.