Top Spots for Bird Watching on the Space Coast
Fowl play done right.
Fall has officially arrived which means some favorites are making their annual return to the Florida’s Space Coast. The smell of pumpkin spice and everything nice fills the air, the introduction of cooler days and nights giving the area a much needed break from the summer heat, and the migration of wildlife start to make their appearance to escape the colder months; all making this time of the year a favorite among many. The beauty of the Space Coast is that year-round there are incredible ways to have new experiences and with the increased amount of time indoors due the pandemic of 2020, it has never been more important to take time to get outside, explore, and find pleasure in doing so while making it a fun learning opportunity, no matter the age.
One of the many ways the Florida’s Space Coast offers a unique outdoor adventure is providing plenty of trails and hidden spots to go bird watching. October kicks off the influx of migrating birds that start to make their appearance here, bringing new life and color to the area for the next several months. The Space Coast hosts an annual birding and wildlife festival which features world-renown photographers, interactive experiences, workshops and so much more. Although the next festival is not until 2022, that shouldn’t stop you from creating your own festival of sorts to see why this area is your launch pad to bird watching and other outdoor nature-based adventures.
So how do you get an up close and “almost” personal look of these beautiful birds? There are many places throughout the Space Coast that provide the perfect spot for bird watching and plenty of photo opportunities. So hit the trails and explore the wonderful world of birding.
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
State Highway 402
Titusville, FL 32796
Located in the northern part of the area, the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is one of the most diverse estuaries in Northern America and birdwatchers from all over the world travel to this spot to see all the magnificent birds that land here during the colder months, like the painted buntings. With hundreds of species of birds, like the Florida scrub jays, Wood Storks, White Pelicans, and other wildlife located throughout this refuge, you will be awestruck as you walk the trails and watch these birds soar through the sky and weave through the trees. Stop in the visitor information center located on site which gives you all the latest and greatest info on what birds to see, exhibits, and educational movies.
1899 S. Courtenay Parkway
Merritt Island, FL 32952
This hidden gem, located on the barrier island aptly named Merritt Island, is worth the visit if you want an up-close look of some of the many fall migratory birds landing on the Space Coast. Stroll along the boardwalk, shaded by hammocks trees, and have your camera ready to photograph Gray-cheeked Thrush, White-eyed Vireo, Northern Parula, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and many more. Plan to spend time in the nature center for interactive and educational displays, exhibits, and workshops to add an extra bit of fun to your birding adventure.
Ritch Grissom Memorial “Viera” Wetlands
10001 North Wickham Road
Melbourne, FL 32940
Centrally located on the Space Coast, Viera Wetlands has become an attraction of its own for ecotourists, birders, and photographers. With the beauty of the natural habitat and wildlife surrounding you, enjoy the wetlands by foot or from the comfort of your own car. Some favorites to keep your eye out for are the great blue herons, egrets, ibis, various ducks, and sandhill cranes. Educational tours, workshops and plenty of photo opportunities are available to round out your bird watching experience.
St. Sebastian River Buffer Preserve
1000 Buffer Preserve Drive
Fellsmere, FL 32948
Toward the southern-most part of the Space Coast, St. Sebastian River Buffer Preserve is an open grassy forest of pine flatwoods, cypress domes, and sand hills providing the perfect habitat for native plants and animals which includes over fifty protected species. During this time of the year, you’ll get to see Swallow-tailed kite, various songbirds, hawks, hummingbirds, and robins, to name a few, but you’ll want to pick up a bird checklist to see what birds to look for depending on when you’re here. This Preserve is part of the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail and considered one of the top birding spots in the United States. This popular spot can be traveled on by foot, bicycle, and even horseback.
T.M. Goodwin Waterfowl Marsh
3200 T.M. Goodwin Road
Fellsmere, FL 32948
Also located in the southern part of the Space Coast, if you’re looking for a truly exclusive bird watching experience, heading over to the T.M. Goodwin Waterfowl Marsh. This marshland gives you a birds-eye view from the three-tiered tower where you can catch a glimpse of a variety of duck species that range from the Mottled duck, Gadwall, Blue-winged Teal, and the Whistling duck that arrive late fall through the winter. Other birds that you’ll get to see are the Northern bobwhite and Crested Caracara. This marshland is also part of the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail. Check in or call ahead to see when duck hunting season is happening so you time your visit when it is not off limits.
These are just a few of the top spots on the Space Coast where you can easily do some bird watching, whether this is your first time heading out or you’re an experienced enthusiast. If you’re looking for more trails and locations throughout the area, check out these other locations and make a bird-watching tour of your own while you’re here.