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 reportedly over 470 bird species, Florida has the third largest number of different species of all US states.
Amelia Island is the gateway to the east section of the Great Florida Birding Trail, part of the 2,000-mile-long trail developed by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, along with the Audubon of Florida, the Florida Parks Service, and Visit Florida. Sites along the Great Florida Birding Trail were selected for their “excellent bird watching or bird education opportunities.”
Pictured above, one of the favorite birds seen on Amelia Island is the male Painted Bunting, said to be North America’s most colorful songbird (read related article about Painted Buntings in Fernandina Beach). The gorgeous Painted Buntings can sometimes be spotted in public park areas such as Fort Clinch State Park and Egans Greenway, but they also frequent some backyard bird feeders around the island.
Amelia Island attracts Roseate Spoonbills, large pink wading birds that often are seen by the marsh, enjoying the warmer months here around Egans Creek and Egans Greenway in Fernandina Beach.
Egans Greenway Preserve on Amelia Island, is another excellent place to catch glimpses of many bird species. It’s a favorite spot for various wading birds — herons, egrets and the endangered American Wood Stork. The city of Fernandina Beach built a restroom facility at the entry/exit to the north side of Egans Greenway (behind the Atlantic Avenue Recreation Center). There also are picnic tables here for a resting place (the “Pirate’s Playground” was built at this spot near the Greenway entrance/exit).
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 has been seen during December and January at Fort Clinch’s jetty and fishing pier. The park has a birding kiosk with information near the fishing pier. Birding trail maps can be picked up at Fort Clinch as well as other Florida parks, nature centers, and tourist development councils throughout the state. The birding trail maps describe which species to look for at each site along the trail, as well as regional information about local bird watching programs and calendar of events.
Located on the southend of the island, Amelia Island State Park (904)251-2320 is a favorite spot of shore fishermen and the nesting grounds for shore birds at certain times of the year (note signs and restricted areas, stay clear during nesting season). Bald Eagles can sometimes be spotted within Amelia Island State Park (they have nested nearby on the southend of the island).
Just over Amelia Island’s southend bridge (crossing the Nassau Sound), sits Spoonbill Pond (pictured is a White Pelican at this location). Birdwatchers should definitely stop by this excellent spot to view large wading birds such as the endangered American Wood Stork, herons, egrets, and Roseate Spoonbills.
Just off the southend of Amelia Island, the Great Florida Birding Trail continues nearby with sites on Big Talbot and Little Talbot Island. Both undeveloped barrier islands are Florida State Parks with Little Talbot an especially wonderful birding destination, offering lovely beachfront (and a campground, too).
Continue south on Heckscher Drive about ten minutes to Huguenot Memorial Park (Jacksonville), another excellent spot along Great Florida Birding Trail (a critical shorebird nesting area).
For more about bird watching in Florida, also visit www.floridabirdingtrail.com (you can download the Northeast Florida birding guide from this site.)