The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel How to Bird-Watch

Father and son enjoying bird watching from a distance through binoculars

Southwest Florida is a bird-watchers’ paradise. With great wildlife the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge and the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve and other protected areas full of interesting birds, birding in Fort Myers and Sanibel is really just a matter of waiting and watching closely. Birds will vary seasonally of course, but one of the best times to go birding is late winter and well into spring, when many birds are in their breeding plumage and some will have chicks in spring.

Hundreds of bird species can be seen in the area, but the big attractions for most people are the various wading birds, like egrets, herons, stilt birds and spoonbills. As spectacular as they may be, they are just the tip of the iceberg. Brown pelicans are a common sight and they put on a spectacular show of soaring high in the air then dive-bombing the water and crashing down with a tremendous splash. Anhingas (sometimes called snakebirds or darters) can be seen spearing fish on the end of their sharp beaks. Osprey, red-shouldered hawks, black vultures – the list goes on and on for the magnificent species that can be seen in the area. For more information on the birds you’ll find in Fort Myers, read our 5 Local Birds You’ll Spot on The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel list.


If you’re looking to catch some incredible photos while you’re here, you might want to pack a higher-resolution camera with a zoom lens; a cell phone camera probably won’t cut it. Not only will your photos be better, but also you’ll be able to take them from further away, which can help prevent spooking the birds. In addition to not spooking the birds you’ll also be further away from their habitat, allowing them to behave naturally and keep you and them safe. Some water birds share real estate with alligators, so you really don’t want to go wading out into a marsh to get a better shot. Remember, you’re in their home, so be respectful and always adhere to the American Birding Association Code of Ethics


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