What kinds of birds can you find in Everglades National Park?
This question is hard to answer because of the vast number of birds found in the park. Did you know there have been over 400 species recorded here? As you can imagine, there was no way to include this many birds in the below article. So instead, I tried to focus on the birds that are most regularly seen and observed.
Below I have listed the TEN birds you are most likely to find while visiting Everglades National Park.
#1. White Ibis
- White bodies and red legs. The red bill is long and curved.
- A bare patch of red skin behind the bill and around the eye.
- When flying, look for black wing tips.
White Ibises typically forage together in large groups in shallow wetlands looking for crustaceans and insects.
White Ibis Range Map
These social water birds don’t like to be alone. In addition to feeding, they also nest together in large colonies, fly in flocks, and even take group baths!
Lastly, I find it interesting that White Ibis chicks are born with completely straight bills. Over their first two weeks of being alive, they slowly curve.
Their call is not very musical. Listen for a nasally honk given while looking for food or flying.
#2. Muscovy Duck
- Cairina moschata
- Both sexes are black and white, but the pattern of color is highly variable. Adults have bare skin on their faces, which looks like a pink mask. Their bills can be yellow, pink, black, or a combination of these colors.
- Males’ black feathers are iridescent, giving off a greenish sheen in the sunlight.
- Females lack the green tint and are usually more drab looking.
Identifying the Muscovy Duck can be challenging in Everglades National Park because this domesticated breed has many color variations. The easiest way to tell if you’ve seen this species is by its size since it’s larger than other ducks in Florida.
Muscovy Ducks are native to South America, where they’ve been domesticated since the pre-Columbian era by Native Americans. They are bred primarily as a food source. They were originally brought to North America as farming stock, but some Muscovy Ducks escaped and established feral colonies in the wild. Interestingly, this breed is the ONLY domesticated duck that isn’t a descendant of the Mallard!
Today, there are feral populations of Muscovy Ducks found all over the world. In combination with wild subspecies, it’s one of the most widespread ducks. Their tolerance for cold weather and human presence makes them the perfect species for population growth, even outside their natural habitat. Look for Muscovy Ducks alongside lakes, rivers, and ponds in populated areas.
- Anhinga anhinga
- Males display glossy black-green plumage with glossy black-blue wings and tails. Elongated feathers on the back of its head and neck.
- Females resemble males but have a pale gray-buff or light brown head, neck, and upper chest. In addition, its lower chest or breast exhibits a chestnut color, and its back is browner compared to the male.
The Anhinga acquired the nickname “water turkey” due to its unique shape, resembling a swimming turkey with its distinctive tail. Many people also call them “snake birds” owing to their long, snakelike neck that sticks up as it glides through the water.
Interestingly, Anhingas are different from most waterbirds because they don’t have waterproof feathers. Because of this trait, you will often see them perched with their wings spread out, drying in the sun.
One look at their dagger-like beak, and it should be apparent that Anhingas are hunters, preying on a wide variety of fish, amphibians, aquatic invertebrates, and insects.
Look for them in Everglades National Park, swimming with just their heads above water or perched, drying themselves. They are almost always found near lakes and ponds. But despite being waterbirds, they are skilled at soaring and are often seen gliding at great heights, displaying a unique cross-shaped silhouette.
#4. Northern Mockingbird
- Mimus polyglottos
- Medium-sized gray songbird with a LONG, slender tail.
- Distinctive white wing patches that are visible when in flight.
These birds are hard to ignore in Everglades National Park!
First, Northern Mockingbirds LOVE to sing, and they almost never stop. Sometimes they will even sing through the entire night. If this happens to you, it’s advised to keep your windows closed if you want to get any sleep. 🙂
Click PLAY below. Have you heard this call before?
In addition, Northern Mockingbirds have bold personalities. For example, it’s common for them to harass other birds by flying slowly around them and then approaching with their wings up, showing off their white wing patches.
Northern Mockingbird Range Map
#5. Great Blue Heron
- A very tall and large water bird, with a long neck and a wide black stripe over its eye.
- As the name suggests, they are a grayish-blue color.
- Long feather plumes on their head, neck, and back.
Great Blue Herons are typically seen in the Everglades along the edges of lakes and wetlands.
Most of the time, they will either be motionless or moving very slowly through the water, looking for their prey. But watch them closely because when an opportunity presents itself, these herons will strike quickly and ferociously to grab something to eat. Common foods include fish, frogs, reptiles, small mammals, and even other birds.
Great Blue Heron Range Map
Great Blue Herons appear majestic in flight, and once you know what to look for, it’s pretty easy to spot them. Watch the skies in Cleveland for a LARGE water bird that folds its neck into an “S” shape and has its legs trailing straight behind.
When disturbed, these large birds make a loud “kraak” or “fraunk” sound, which can also be heard when in flight. Listen below!
#6. Great Egret
- Large, white bird with long, black legs.
- S-curved neck and a daggerlike yellow bill. Look for a greenish area between their eyes and the base of the bill.
- While they fly, their neck is tucked in, and their long legs trail behind.
Appearance-wise, Great Egrets are one of the most stunning water birds found in Everglades National park. They especially put on a show during breeding season when they grow long feathery plumes, called aigrettes, which are held up during courtship displays.
Great Egret Range Map
In fact, these aigrettes are so beautiful, Great Egrets were almost hunted to extinction in the 19th century because these feathers made such nice decorations on ladies’ hats. The National Audubon Society was actually formed in response to help protect these birds from being slaughtered. To this day, the Great Egret serves as the symbol of the organization.
Great Egrets don’t get any awards for their beautiful songs. Listen for a loud sound that is best described as a croak (“kraak).” When surprised, you may hear a fast “cuk-cuk-cuk” alarm call. LISTEN BELOW!
#7. Boat-tailed Grackle
- Quiscalus major
- These grackles are lanky looking and have long legs with a large, pointed bill.
- As the name suggests, adults have a long, V-shaped tail, which resembles the keel of a boat.
- Males are glossy black all over. Females look completely different, as they are smaller with a pale brown breast and dark brown upperparts.
When they are in the vicinity, it’s easy to identify and see these loud birds in the Everglades! Naturally, look for them in coastal salt marshes. But the easiest place to see them is around people, as Boat-tailed Grackles are not shy!
Boat-tailed Grackle Range Map
They readily take advantage of humans for food and protection from predators. For example, when our family visits Disney World, I see them in large numbers, hanging out around busy food areas looking to scavenge leftover popcorn, pretzels, and french fries.
Boat-tailed Grackles have a unique mating system called “harem defense polygamy,” which is similar to how deer and elk breed. Female birds all cluster their nests close together and then let males compete (through displays and fighting) to see who gets to mate with the entire colony.
To identify them by their song, listen for a loud, abrasive “jeeb, jeeb, jeeb.“ Other noises include a variety of harsh rattles, clicks, screams, and whistles.
#8. Double-crested Cormorant
- Gangly water birds with a long tail and neck.
- Completely black except for yellow-orange skin around the base of the bill.
- Long, hooked bill. Eyes are a pretty turquoise color.
Double-crested Cormorants are incredibly unique looking, with many people thinking they appear to be a cross between a loon and goose. These expert divers eat almost exclusively fish, which they catch underwater with their perfectly adapted hooked bill.
Double-crested Cormorant Range Map
One of the BEST ways to find these water birds in Everglades National Park is to look for them on land with their wings spread out. Double-crested Cormorants don’t have waterproof feathers, so after swimming, they have to dry them.
Large colonies of these birds tend to gather in trees near water, where they all build their nests in a small cluster of trees. Unfortunately, there can be so many birds so close together that their poop, I mean guano, ends up killing the trees!
Double-crested Cormorants emit unique deep guttural grunts, which I think sound more like a large walrus than a bird. Listen below!
#9. Red-shouldered Hawk
Distinctly marked, Red-shouldered Hawks have a barred rufous chest, mostly white underwings, a strongly banded tail, and of course, red shoulders that are visible when perched.
While Red-tailed Hawks own large open areas, Red-shouldered Hawks are primarily forest dwellers in the Everglades. Their favorite places are woods with an open upper canopy since this extra space allows them to hunt more efficiently. These raptors are also common in suburban areas where houses have been mixed into woodlands.
Red-shouldered Hawk Range Map
Speaking of food, these hawks primarily eat small mammals but will feast on snakes, lizards, and amphibians when available. When hunting, these raptors drop onto their prey directly from overhead, making their hunting style unique.
It’s common to hear a Red-shouldered Hawk before you see one. Listen for a loud call that sounds like “kee-ahh,” which is often repeated several times.
Even though Ospreys are not hawks, they certainly look similar to one. Many people think they are looking at some species of hawk when they first observe an Osprey. These raptors have also been given nicknames, such as Sea Hawk, River Hawk, and Fish Hawk, which hint at the association between an Osprey and hawk.
Osprey Range Map
When you think of an Osprey, you should think of fish, because that is what these birds eat 99% of the time. Even an Osprey’s talons are perfectly adapted for catching fish. If you take a close look, you will see they are extremely curved and even intersect when fully closed, which makes them perfectly designed for holding onto slippery fish!
Even more interesting, their outer toe is reversible, which allows them to rotate the toe so they can have two in front, and two in back. Only Ospreys and owls have this unique ability, which allows them to be more efficient hunters.
And these guys don’t just skim the surface and grab their prey near the top like an eagle. Ospreys hit the water HARD and plunge right in to assure themselves of a catch. Amazingly, they can then take off while submerged and with a fish in their talons!
Because of their specialized diet, you will almost always find Ospreys living, breeding, and raising their young around bodies of water, which is why they are common in the Everglades. Mating for life, it’s common for them to use human-made nesting platforms. If you live near a large body of water, I recommend installing one to see if you can attract a nesting pair!
When you are in Everglades National Park, make sure to listen for Ospreys. Their alarm call is a series of short high-pitched whistles that descend in pitch. The noise has been compared to a teapot taken off a stove.
Which of these birds have you seen before in Everglades National Park?
Leave a comment below!
To learn more about other birds that live in Everglades National Park, check out these guides!
The range maps above were generously shared with permission from The Birds of The World, published by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I use their site OFTEN to learn new information about birds!