The Amelia Island area is a wonderful place for exploring bird life, whether you’re a seasoned bird watcher or a novice interested in a new hobby, Florida has been called a “birder’s paradise.” With over 470 bird species, Florida reportedly has the third largest number of different species of all the US states.
One of the stars seen on Amelia Island is the male Painted Bunting, North America’s most colorful songbird (read related article and see video of Painted Buntings in Fernandina Beach).
Right here on Amelia Island, you’ll discover the “gateway” of the East Florida Birding Trail, part of a 2,000 mile trail that extends throughout the state. Amelia Island’s Fort Clinch State Park (904)277-7274 is the gateway to the birding trail on Florida’s east coast.
If you see a large pink bird flying in the distance, you may at first think it’s a Flamingo, but it’s actually a Roseate Spoonbill. The large pink birds often arrive in flocks and seem to enjoy spending time in Egans Greenway on Amelia Island (the section of the Greenway located between Jasmine Street and Atlantic Avenue in Fernandina Beach.)
Florida Birding Trail has been developed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, along with the Audubon of Florida, the Florida Parks Service, and Visit Florida. Sites along the Birding Trail were selected for their “excellent bird watching or bird education opportunities,” according to a press release from Visit Florida.
Birding trail maps can be picked up at Fort Clinch as well as other Florida state parks, nature centers, and tourist development councils throughout the state. The birding trail maps describe which species to expect to find at each site along the trail, as well as regional information about local bird watching programs and calendar of events.
Fort Clinch, located on Amelia Island’s northern tip, offers various habitats attracting many bird species, with its beaches, dunes, maritime hammock, salt marshes and rock jetty. We’ve learned it’s one of the best locations in Florida for the Purple Sandpiper, which reportedly has been seen during December and January at Fort Clinch’s jetty from the fishing pier. The gorgeous Painted Buntings, North America’s most colorful songbird, can also be spotted in Fort Clinch State Park (and frequent some backyard birdfeeders in Fernandina Beach, read article and watch Painted Bunting video).
Our feathered friends abound on Amelia Island, and thrive in the area’s salt marshes. You’ll also have the opportunity to sight lots of other bird life around Amelia Island such as roseate spoonbills, white egrets, red-shouldered hawks, downy woodpeckers, purple martins, wood ducks, turkey vultures, belted kingfishers, Carolina wrens, red cardinals, blue jays, brown pelicans, wood storks, and owls.
Egans Greenway Preserve on Amelia Island, with access points from Atlantic Avenue near the Fernandina Beach Rec Center, as well as access from Jasmine Street (between Citrona Avenue and South Fletcher), is another excellent place to catch glimpses of many coastal birds. It’s a beautiful, peaceful place where folks like to take nature hikes, ride bicycles, and take photos. In fact, professional photographers seem to be there fairly often, with their massive lenses. (Back in 2006, Abercrombie & Fitch did a photo shoot with a young male model in Egans Greenway, so the scenery was especially interesting that day.) The city of Fernandina Beach has built a new restroom facility at the entry way to the Greenway behind the Atlantic Avenue Recreation Center, for the convenience of visitors to the Greenway. They’ve also placed some picnic tables there for a resting place.
Egans Greenway is a good place to see egrets, Roseate Spoonbills, and osprey, to mention a few. Amelia Island (and the rest of Florida) had some record-breaking cold winter days this year, and in January 2010, hundreds of birds huddled in the narrow area of Egans Creek that runs parallel to Jasmine Street — there was actually some ice on the edges of the creek bank! (The abnormally cold temps appeared to bring more birds to congregate in a small area of Egans Greenway near the Jasmine entrance.)
Located on the southend of the island, Amelia Island State Park (904)251-2320 is the nesting grounds for a variety of shore birds, and offers a natural, peaceful setting for observation. Watch the numerous bird species that feed in the area. With over 200 acres of wilderness along the southern tip of Amelia Island, enjoy a beautiful setting. (Some may be interested to know that Amelia Island State Park is the only state park in Florida to offer horseback riding on the beach — a 45-minute horseback riding tour through the forest and along the Atlantic Coast right on the beach.)
Another Amelia Island site on the Florida Birding Trail is Amelia Island Plantation’s Nature Center (call 904-321-5082 for further information).
For more about birdwatching in Florida, also try visiting www.floridabirdingtrail.com (you can download the Northeast Florida birding guide from this site.)
Just off the southend of Amelia Island, the Great Florida Birding Trail continues nearby with sites on Big Talbot and Little Talbot Islands. Both barrier islands are Florida State Parks.
Amelia Island Living