With many protected lands in the area, we are able to support ecosystems suitable for many wildlife in the Perdido Key Area, a haven for more than 300 bird species.
Osprey: Known as Florida’s fishing eagles, ospreys have a distinct M wing shape and make their habitat near brackish estuaries where they can scan the surface for fish. Osprey mat for life- birds of a feather really do stay together!
Brown Pelican: A symbol of the Gulf Coast, the brown pelican is making a comeback. These water birds weigh 6-7 pounds and have a 7-foot wingspan. The pelicans fly as fast as 30 miles per hour and can often be seen perched on a piling in the bay.
Blue Heron: These graceful natives can be found along the shoreline hunting for fish. These birds have long legs and a long S-shaped neck.
Yellow-Breasted Chat: This lovely songbird prefers to spend its time in the dense brush, so it’s fun to finally spot it- especially since this area is not a common location. You’ll know the adult by its bright yellow chest and throat, white belly, and white around its eyes. Listen for the cheeps and whistles as a clue to its whereabouts during May and again July through September.
Gray Kingbird: These conspicuous birds will be hard not to notice if you’re visiting Perdido Key between April and October. Large-billed and vocal, gray kingbirds can be found along Florida’s coastline, waiting for large insects to fly by. They also eat other small vertebrates, including lizards and occasionally fruit. Look for these birds in mangroves and open coastal woodlands.
Roseate Spoonbill: One of Florida’s most distinguished wading birds, the roseate spoonbill is often confused with the flamingo because of its spectacular pink plumage. the main difference between this bird and the flamingo is its bill- flat and spatula-like. The bird uses this unique bill to feed on fish, crustaceans, and aquatic insects. Look for the spoonbill during May in coastal wetlands like those in Big Lagoon State Park.
Popular Bird Watching Locations
Gulf Islands National Seashore
Johnson’s Beach on Perdido Key is a hotspot for migrating birds in the spring and fall. Watch for pine warblers, towhees, clapper sails, spotted sandpipers, and wintering ducks. Fallouts can be seen in April as migrants reach land for the first time 8 am to sunset.
Eastern end of Johnson Beach Road; (850)934-2600, https://www.nps.gov/guis/planyourvisit/perdido-key-area.htm
Big Lagoon State Park
Acting as a gateway for the Great Florida Birding Trail, this 600-acre park along the intercoastal waterway is home to shorebirds, wintering ducks, dunlin, redhead, bufflehead, and red-breasted mergansers, black-bellied plovers, yellow-billed cuckoos, and flickers. The park offers five miles of nature trails and a 40-foot observation tower with stunning views. Birders can even stop at the visitor center and borrow a free part of binoculars from 8 am to sunset.
12301 Gulf Beach Hwy; (850)492-1595, https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/big-lagoon-state-park
Tarkiln Bayou Reserve State Park
The 4,200-acre preserve protects rare and endangered plant species such as white-topped pitcher plants, one of two carnivorous plants in the world. The half-mile trail and elevated boardwalk lead to an observation area at the bayou, while the 6.5 mile Perdido Bay Trail leads to the beach. Listen for brown-headed nuthatches, white-eyed vireos, pine warblers, and bobwhites from 8 am to sunset.
2401 Bauer Rd; (850)492-1595, https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/tarkiln-bayou-preserve-state-park