When the holidays are over, winter becomes a bit of a endurance test for many. Cold days, colder nights, wintry mix followed by ice followed by snow… it seems like a long time until spring. It’s the perfect time of year to seek out sunnier climes, and Florida is high on everyone’s list. For birders, Florida is an ideal location. There are more than 500 species on the official list of Florida birds, including spectacular finds like Roseate Spoonbills and Crested Caracaras. Good birding is around every corner in the Sunshine State, but the many Florida birding festivals make it even more fun. You can meet other birders like yourself and get expert views of new areas. Here are a few Florida birding festivals worth checking out in 2017.
Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival
January 25 – 30, 2017
Centered in Titusville on the east coast of Florida, the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival gives you the chance to see high technology and amazing wildlife all at the same time. Many people don’t realize that Kennedy Space Center is surrounded by acres of wildlife refuge and national seashore, making it an amazing place for birding. Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is an easy place for drive-by birding. Migratory ducks overwinter here in the thousands, and Roseate Spoonbill sightings are almost guaranteed. Last year at this festival, I spotted a Peregrine Falcon, a life bird for me.
Everglades Birding Festival
January 12 – 16, 2017
Everglades birding is a unique experience, as are the Everglades themselves. This vast National Park offers unbelievable birding opportunities, but it can be hard to know where to start. That makes festivals like this one especially helpful for new and experienced birders alike. Join others as you search for snail kites, wood storks, and hundreds more. This festival overlaps with the nearby Southwest Florida Nature Festival (Jan 13 – 15), which includes locations like Corkscrew Swamp and Big Cypress Preserve.
15th Annual Burrowing Owl Festival
February 25, 2017
Anyone who’s seen a photo of a burrowing owl knows they’re one of the cutest owls on the planet! Cape Coral has the largest known population of the Florida Burrowing Owl, and this festival is all about them. Learn all about burrowing owl nests and nesting season, as well as other local flora and fauna. A special photographers-only tour is worth getting up early for.
Lake Apopka Wildlife Festival & Birdapalooza
January 20 – 22, 2017
At this birding site less than 45 minutes from Orlando, more bird species have been documented at a single site than anywhere else in the state. Lake Apopka offers easy drive-by birding, as well as plenty of walking and hiking. It’s a restoration success story, having been one of the most polluted lakes in Florida only a few decades ago. Enjoy narrated tram tours, guided walks, and knowledgeable speakers as you enjoy one of Florida’s most exciting birding locations.
Know of other Florida birding festivals worth checking out this winter? Tell us in the comments below!