Here’s where to go BIRD WATCHING near Disney World (& Orlando)
Do you want to go bird watching while visiting Disney World or Orlando?
Whether you are tired of the crowds, have spent too much money on souvenirs and food, or need some peace and quiet, I have great news!
There are some excellent parks and refuges in the surrounding Orlando area that are great for watching birds! The list below shows NINE different birding hotspots just a short drive from Disney. I tried to put them in order from closest to farthest from Disney World.
And make sure to see my BONUS tip for finding great places to watch birds at the end. 🙂
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#1: Tibet-Butler Reserve
- Only 10- 15 minutes away!
- Home of the Vera Carter Environmental Center, which provides a variety of exhibits and displays.
- Miles and miles of hiking trails.
#2. Oakland Nature Preserve
- Approximately 30 minutes away, west of Orlando.
- A 150-acre preserve that offers environmental education and ecotourism activities for visitors of all ages.
#3: Disney Wilderness Preserve
- Home to more than 1,000 species of plants and animals, the preserve is an essential part of the Everglades ecosystem. It contains 3,500 acres of restored wetlands that act as nature’s “sponges,” capturing rain, filtering out nutrients, and replenishing our groundwater.
- It’s not affiliated with Disney, but the Walt Disney Company provided funds for restoration and wildlife monitoring on the preserve and continues to partner on several on-site projects today.
- 11,500 acres!
#4: Lake Apopka North Shore
- Once a fishing paradise known for its trophy bass, Lake Apopka endured nearly five decades of pollution along its shores, creating one of Florida’s most polluted lakes. FOLA is a citizen advocacy group focused on restoring Lake Apopka to its once pristine condition.
The Florida Birding Trail recommends two different areas for birds:
- Recreation Guide to the Lake Apopka North Shore (with maps for trails!)
#5: Wekiwa Springs State Park
- With emerald springs feeding the Wekiwa River and lush tropical hammocks, this unique park is just minutes from downtown Orlando and is perfect for observing abundant wildlife.
- Miles of trails beg to be explored on foot, bike or horseback, and canoes and kayaks are available on-site. From the dense, almost tropical hammocks near where the springs feed into the Wekiva River to the scenic sandhill uplands, the park offers ample opportunities to see many kinds of animals.
#6: Hal Scott Regional Preserve and Park
- This property is an oasis in the rapidly developing Orlando area and protects the resources of the Econlockhatchee River. Despite its proximity to a metropolitan area, the property is a gem of natural areas with abundant wildlife.
- One of the special highlights of this property is its most famous resident: the red-cockaded woodpecker. Red-cockaded woodpeckers are the only woodpeckers in our area living exclusively in cavities drilled into live pine trees. So keep your eyes peeled while visiting, and you may catch a glimpse.
- There is also great butterfly viewing here!
More Information from the Florida Birding Trail
#7: Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area
- Abundant wildlife, more than 60 miles of trails, and numerous fishing spots attract a broad range of visitors.
#8: Orlando Wetlands Park
- The Orlando Wetlands Park is a man-made wetland designed to provide advanced treatment for reclaimed water from the City of Orlando and other local cities. The park is 1650 acres and is located in Christmas, Florida.
- Passive recreation activities are permitted at the park. These include photography, wildlife viewing, hiking, non-motorized bicycles, and horseback riding.
#9: Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
- Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1963 to protect migratory birds.
- Consisting of 140,000 acres, the refuge provides a wide variety of habitats: coastal dunes, saltwater marshes, scrub, pine flatwoods, and hardwood hammocks. These habitats provide habitat for more than 1,500 species of plants and animals and 15 federally listed species.
- It is located about 60 miles east of Orlando.
**Bonus** – Orange Audubon Society
When traveling, I find it helpful to check out the local Audubon chapter for information about the area. This chapter seems to be very active and looks to be a useful resource. If you have time, it may be worth joining one of their field trips while in town!
What are your favorite places to watch birds near Disney World or Orlando?
Please leave a COMMENT below!