Birding in Key West

An egret hanging out at the beach at Fort Zachary Taylor.
An egret hanging out at the beach at Fort Zachary Taylor.

Have you ever seen the movie The Big Year with Steven Martin, Owen Wilson, and Jack Black based on the non-fiction book by Mark Obmascik called The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature and Fowl Obsession?  It is a comedy about an annual birding competition, and you are probably wondering why I mention this movie. Well, one of the scenes had one of the characters travel to Key West to find a particular species of bird to check off their list. And it dawned on me that Key West is indeed a great birding destination. Even knowing that when John Audubon visited in 1832 he left Key West having sighted and drawn 22 new birds for his publication “Birds of America” I never thought of Key West as a birders paradise. I guess us non-birding folks just don’t realize that we have more than just chickens running around the island! But there are many, many more species of birds to observe here!

You can typically find complete bird lists at the state and national parks. But other spots may not have a list for you to use. There are many checklists to be found online as well, such as this one from the Florida Keys Audubon Society. To get you started, here are a few of the spots on the island notorious for spotting rare birds and some of the species that you may see.  When I visit these places now I am on the lookout for all different types of birds, and I have found that it is actually quite fun!

The Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden – Located on Stock Island, this hardwood hammock with the only freshwater ponds in Key West are home to many birds. Highlighted species seen here include: White-crowned Pigeon, Gray Kingbird, Black-whiskered Vireo, migrant songbirds, Caribbean vagrants, and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers.

Indigenous Park – To get here, turn left onto South Roosevelt Boulevard. Drive 2 miles to Bertha Street. Turn right, then left onto Atlantic Avenue. Continue 0.5 miles to White Street. Turn right into the parking area. Access to the park is via Wildlife Rescue of the Florida Keys, a wildlife rehabilitation center. This is a great place for viewing migrant songbirds and Caribbean vagrants.

Fort Zachary Taylor State Park – This park has so many opportunities for bird viewing on the beach as well as on the trails. Highlights include the Magnificent Frigate-bird, Roseate Tern, White-crownes Pigeon, Gray Kingbird, “Antillean” Short-eared Owl, migrant songbirds, and Caribbean Vagrants.

Fran Ford White Crown Pigeons Preserve – During the summer months, White Crowned Pigeons and Northern Cardinal are often spotted. Ospreys, Bald Eagles, and Peregrine Falcons can be seen perched on towers at the far end of Government Road, while the pond at the south end play home to ducks, coots, wading birds, and shorebirds during the winter months.

A woodpecker that I came across while hiking at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park.
A woodpecker that I came across while hiking at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park.

Dry Tortugas National Park –  Seventy miles west of Key West, you can get here via seaplane or ferry. Each spring and fall thousands of migrating birds rest and recuperate here. Highlighted species include: Brown Booby (on national park channel markers), Masked Booby, Red-footed Booby, Magnificent Frigatebird, White-tailed Tropicbird, Audubon’s Shearwater, Roseate Tern (on national park channel markers), Sooty Tern, Bridled Tern, Brown Noddy, Black Noddy, “Antillean” Short-eared Owl, Antillean Nighthawk, Gray Kingbird, migrant songbirds and Caribbean vagrants. Other notes of interest; the islands are home to the only nesting colony of Magnificent Frigate Birds in North America. The are also home to the largest Sooty Tern colony in the Northern Hemisphere.

 For more information about the fun side of Key West… things to do and see in our island city, go to our Key West Web Site. To see what is happening on Key West during your visit, check out our Key West Events Calendar to see other upcoming special events.

And before deciding where you are going to eat while visiting Key West, be sure to read my other restaurant reviews; check out our restaurant review section of this blog as well as our previous restaurant reviews.

Feel free to Email Me if you have any questions about Key West!!

Island Genn
Key West Concierge



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