Beach Birding During Migration

One of my favorite birding hotspots is also my favorite beach, and the spottings during migration can be spectacular.

Jill Staake

There’s no doubt that migration season is in full swing! This past week, I spent an afternoon at my favorite local beach, Fort De Soto Park, which also happens to be one of the best birding hotspots in Florida. Within just a few minutes, before we’d even gotten out of the car, I spotted a new life bird – this gorgeous Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea)!

Beach Birding

Jill Staake Scarlet Tanager

Some shore birds migrate too, with the famous Red Knot (Calidris canutus) being a great example. These birds have one of the longest known migrations, traveling 9300 miles from their Arctic summer breeding grounds to their wintering grounds in southern South America. That means the Red Knots we spotted this weekend in Central Florida could still have a couple thousand miles to travel this spring!

Beach Birding

Jill Staake Red Knots

The Least Terns (Sternula antillarum) we spotted, on the other  hand, have probably finished their journey. They winter in the Caribbean and northern South America, but breed along the southern coasts. They also breed far inland along major river systems, though, so these birds could just be stopping for a break before continuing north.

Beach Birding

Jill Staake Least Tern

Red-Breasted Mergansers (Mergus serrator) like this female have been seen here in large numbers this winter, but we were surprised to still see them this far south in the middle of April. Their summer breeding grounds include much of Canada and Alaska, so perhaps they’ve been waiting for this year’s seemingly-endless winter to finish before starting their journey north.

Beach Birding

Jill Staake Red-Breasted Merganser (female)

Of course, there were plenty of regular park residents to enjoy as well, along with spectacular sunsets. All in all, it was a perfect way to spend a warm sunny Florida spring day.

Beach Birding

Jill Staake Clockwise from top left: Laughing Gull, Reddish Egret, Short-Billed Dowitchers, Black Skimmer

What migrating birds do you like to watch at the beach? Tell us in the comments below!

  1. Sandy Parks says

    I live close to Pensacola Beach, FL. I love watching the Least Terns and the Black Skimmers.

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