Pensacola Bay Area: A Birding Enthusiast's Paradise
Grab Your Binoculars and Birding Book and Go on a Treasure Hunt for Birds in the Pensacola Bay Area this Spring
Pensacola, Fla. (December 20, 2017) — It’s almost that time of year when the bird populations are making their migration north again and stopping in the Pensacola Bay Area to fuel up. If you’re a birding enthusiast – you’re not going to want to miss it. So make plans to get to Pensacola this spring and come discover our birding paradise.
Located between two major fly zones, Gulf Islands National Seashore on Pensacola Beach and Perdido Key, the longest stretch of protected seashore in the country, is the first stop for hundreds of migrating birds flying north in the spring.
But even our permanent winged residents will keep you guessing year round, as you never know what might fly over at any time. The Pensacola Bay Area features bays, bayous, beaches, rivers and woodlands, where more than 300 species of birds call home.
Colorful songbirds, birds of prey, waterfowl and coastal birds can all be spotted here if you’re patient and know where to look. That’s really the thrill of birding; it’s always a treasure hunt.
Orioles, towhees, indigo buntings, warblers in hues of greens and yellows, and ruby-throated hummingbirds – all can be found here. Native osprey, known as a fishing eagle, are commonly seen diving for fish in shallow waters at dawn and dusk. They’re high on the list for many European birders. Now making a comeback, the brown pelican has become a symbol of the Gulf Coast and is frequently seen perched on pilings and railings in the bays and bayous. The graceful Blue Heron is often found wading along the shoreline hunting for fish.
If you’re really lucky, you may actually spot a peregrine falcon hunting overhead or a bald eagle perched on a high limb. Both are permanent residents of our coastal city.
The Pensacola Bay Area is filled with ideal birding spots. But keep in mind it does take some patience and luck on timing to up your odds of seeing the birds – so clean the lenses of your binoculars, grab a birding book and check out these spots:
Big Lagoon State Park
Big Lagoon State Park near Perdido Key is the gateway for the Great Florida Birding Trail, a 2,000-mile trail through protected bird habitat in the state. You don’t have to venture far to find birds. With 600-acres along the Intracoastal Waterway, the Big Lagoon park is home to an abundance of shorebirds and wintering ducks; dunlin; redhead, bufflehead and red-breasted mergansers; black-bellied plovers, yellow-billed cuckoos and flickers. The park offers five miles of nature trails and a 40-foot observation tower with stunning views. Its trees are likely to attract migrating songbirds.
Gulf Islands National Seashore
The Seashore is definitely a local hotspot for migratory birds. The miles of undeveloped coastline with oak hammocks, dune vegetation and freshwater sources is like a buffet for migratory birds seeking the fuel and rest they need to make the hundreds of miles flight ahead of them. Magnolia warblers are among the many warblers spotted here, along with tanagers and oriels. Snowy plovers, skimmers, blue heron and least terns are abundant year-round, and ospreys and bald eagle nests are easy to spot.
Tarkiln Bayou Reserve State Park
The 4,200-acre preserve protects rare and endangered plant species such as white-topped pitcher plants, one of two carnivorous plants in the world. The half-mile trail and elevated boardwalk lead to an observation area at the bayou, while the 6.5-mile Perdido Bay Trail leads to the beach. Listen for brown-headed nuthatches, white-eyed vireos, pine warblers and bobwhites.
Edward Ball Nature Trail
This short trail features a boardwalk through a nice ravine and swamp, with warbler-laden cypress trees above and wading egrets below. Songbirds like northern parulas, summer tanagers and great crested flycatchers frequent the area. Swallow-tailed Kites may be seen overhead in spring and summer.
This award-winning coastal habit restoration project attracts huge numbers of coastal birds and is a favorite spot for birders. Spread out along Pensacola’s Bayfront Parkway along Pensacola Bay; it offers a number of viewing sites, including Wayside Park at the foot of the Pensacola Bay Bridge. If you venture west of the bridge across the street from the Veterans Memorial Park, you’ll find a boardwalk to the Hawkshaw Lagoon at Missing Children’s Memorial. That area provides a great viewing spot of tidal marshes, seagrass beds and oyster reefs where brown pelicans, osprey, herons and even a rare Nelson’s sharp-tailed sparrow was spotted.
For a complete list of local birding hotspots, visit the Audubon Francis M. Weston’s chapter “Birding in the Pensacola Bay Area” website. And, check out the chapter’s website on for migrating bird alerts and to report observations.
For more information on traveling to the Pensacola Bay Area in winter, and for travel deals and discounts, log onto Visit Pensacola’s website and contact Nicole Stacey at (850) 434-2142.
About Visit Pensacola
Visit Pensacola is the destination management organization for Escambia County which includes Pensacola, Pensacola Beach and Perdido Key. With over 450 years of rich history and 18 miles of sugar-white sand beaches bordered by the emerald-green waters of the Gulf of Mexico, visitors from all over the world are lured to our pristine shores every year. Visit Pensacola supports the community vision of tourism by serving as the central body responsible for building tourism as an economic engine for our community through leadership, connection, collaboration and communication.