We are so lucky to live here in this part of the world. Many things make that so, but among them are the birds and wildlife and the natural areas that host them and give us an opportunity to see them!
Florida sits between North American and the Caribbean, so we have plants and animals from both continents here! This includes Roseate Spoonbills and the herons and egrets of the southlands. Wood Storks and alligators. Pileated Woodpeckers and migrating ducks.
Plus Florida was formerly connected to the west by a Gulf land-bridge, so we have western desert species, including Florida Scrub-Jays, gopher tortoises, and Crested Caracaras!
We are on the Atlantic Flyway! In the fall and spring, billions of birds of hundreds of species slide through Florida, migrating northward to take advantage of prey abundances for nesting, and then southward to safe over-wintering sites with their specific food resource needs.
And due to our wetlands – 7,700 lakes and 10,000 miles of rivers and stream - and a massive 1,300 miles of coastline, more than any other state except Alaska, we have birds in abundance.
To the south, lie the Everglades, the largest wetland system in North America, and the Florida Keys’ coral reefs and Florida Bay and to the east of us, Florida’s sandy central spine and Lake Wales Ridge with its rare plant and animal life. Just north are the rolling hills, pinelands, and live oaks of temperate North America.
All this habitat and these special unique features mean that the Florida Ornithological Society has identified 536 species of birds as part of our natural heritage. Read the bird list here. It’s a lot of birds!
Natural areas have been preserved by federal, state, county, city, and private entities, starting with President Theodore Roosevelt setting aside Pelican Island Federal Bird Reservation (now National Wildlife Refuge) in 1905. In our own county, the Jan K. Platt Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program has purchased 63,000 acres
We have state parks, federal refuges, county nature parks, Audubon refuges, and other lands for wildland conservation. Once we connect these better, they will offer wildlife safer habitats.
So - we are blessed with lots of birds and wildlife here and we have good sites to find them. We are so lucky. Now, let’s get out there, on field trips or with our friends and family, and enjoy them. And let’s work together to make them connected and help them to be well managed. For us, and our future.
Ann Paul, President, Tampa Audubon Society