No matter where you are in Florida’s 1,350 -mile coastline, you’re sure to find magnificent Florida beach birds. From the largest herons, pelicans, ibis, and spoonbills to the smallest gulls, willets, and dowitchers, Florida is a haven for watching sea birds soar on ocean currents, dive into the sea, and glean for seafood.
Straddling from the north and west through the panhandle, and to the south to Keys, then around the Gulf of Mexico, Florida’s shoreline is the second largest in the United States. The Sunshine State is famous for its vibrant nightlife, diverse Everglades, and the grand Disney World.
It’s also a top destination for beach lovers who double as birding enthusiasts. Whether you’re yachting, playing on the sand, or just resting by the shores, you won’t miss gulls or pelicans chirping and hunting for seafood.
Let’s learn about some of the most popular Florida beach birds.
Where To Watch Florida Beach Birds
You can watch the seabirds of Florida anywhere along the coastline. No matter where you are or doing, whether it’s hiking in the rocky islands, surfing deep in the Atlantic, or resting by the beach side, you’re sure to spot beach birds.
Don’t forget to bring your birdwatching scope and camera to capture the amazing action of seabirds when birding on Florida’s beaches and bays. You’ll also see birds perching on mangrove trees and gliding by the seawalls and piers. The best time to watch Florida beach birds is during the evenings and mornings.
Popular Types of Florida Beach Birds
The next time you visit any of the charming beaches of the Sunshine State, here are the most common beach birds you’re likely to spot:
Gulls are a common sight along the coast of Florida and can be found on any of the coastlines from the Keys to the Gulf. There are three species of gulls you can find on Florida beaches: the Laughing Gull, the Red-Billed Gull, and the Herring Gull.
You’ll probably see them scavenging for food around beachside restaurants and trash bins. These birds are opportunistic feeders and will eat a wide range of food, including fish, invertebrates, and garbage. Gulls are intelligent birds, so get ready with your birding monocular to seize every moment you find these birds using tools to solve birds’ problems.
Pelicans are popular, large, wading beach birds along beaches of Florida and you can find them in a variety of habitats, including coastal marshes, estuaries, and open oceans. When you catch a boat or yacht, you’ll probably spot them following you around as they try to catch fish rattled by the boat’s wake.
The most common type of pelican on the coast of Florida is the Brown Pelican. It has spectacular diving abilities—it plunges headfirst into the water from heights of up to 60 feet to catch its prey. You can easily recognize it by its long, flat bill and distinctive, puffed-up throat pouch.
The Brown Pelican has brown and white plumage, with a white head and neck, a dark brown back and wings, and a pale belly. It has long, pointed wings and a powerful, muscular body, and is an excellent flier. You can find them near the shore, perching on piers, seawalls, and other structures near the water.
Tallest among all wading Florida beach birds, the Great Blue Heron, can be seen standing motionless in the water, trying to surprise and snatch unsuspecting sardines. Other types of herons that cherish this beautiful coastline include the Little Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, and the Great White Heron.
Smaller than her cousin, the Great Blue Heron, the Little Blue Heron wears a bluish plumage, with reddish-buff on their necks. Young Little Blue Heron has a light, ash-gray color, with a white head and neck and a thin, pointed bill. As they mature, they transition to a deeper bluish color.
The Great White Heron and the White Egret share many characteristics, only that the egret’s legs are long and black while the heron’s legs are long but light colored. Snowy Egret takes the body, shape, and color of the Great White Heron, but it’s distinctive, with its florescent yellow feet.
Along Florida’s coastline, you’ll meet the Ibis, a beach bird famous for only grunting or croaking on its breeding grounds. If you see quiet, gregarious Florida beach birds, then be confident they are ibises.
You can find the White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, and White-faced Ibis along the shores of Florida. The White Ibis is a medium-sized shorebird with a long, curved bill and long, thin legs. It has a white plumage with a pinkish hue and a distinctive, downward-curving bill.
Similar in size to the White Ibis, the Glossy Ibis has a glossy, iridescent plumage that ranges in color from violet to purplish-black and emerald. Long-legged and long-billed, just like the Glossy Ibis, the White-faced Ibis has a narrow, white band on the face and a glossy maroon body with bronze and metallic green tones.
5. Roseate Spoonbill
With bright pink plumage, the Roseate Spoonbill is arguably the most beautiful of all Florida beach birds. It has a long, broad bill that is shaped like a spoon, with a slightly upturned tip. It has a long, thin neck and long, thin legs, and stands up to three feet tall.
Besides the beach, you can find these birds in wetlands, marshes, and shallow ponds of Florida. They breed in colonies and feed on small fish, mollusks, snails, and other crustaceans. You like to spot them at dawn and dusk, foraging on the shores or flying in large flocks.
6. Black Skimmer
Tern-like with a stark black top and white underside, the Black skimmer has a long bill with the lower mandible slightly longer than the upper mandible. This allows this seabird to skim and snap fish with ease. Its plumage is predominantly black, with white underparts and a white patch on its forehead.
Black skimmers are popular along the coasts and in estuaries of Florida, where they feed small fish, crustaceans, and other aquatic animals. They are most active at dawn and dusk, and can often be seen flying low over the water, dipping their bill into the water to catch their prey.
Related to gulls, terns are slender Florida seabirds with long, narrow bills, and forked tails. Types of beach tern birds on Florida’s coast include Royal Tern, Sandwich Tern, Roseate Tern, and Forster’s Tern. These birds have a light gray back and wings, a white head and underparts, and a black cap that becomes patchy in winter.
Ospreys aren’t your common beach birds; they just appear on the beach a few times a day when scavenging for fish. You’ll see them perching on piers and poles as they scan the water for their prey.
Ospreys have long wings and a sharp, curved beak adapted for catching fish. When they spot a fish, they will dive toward the water and snatch the fish up in their talons. They are skilled hunters and can catch a variety of different fish species.