Central Florida is a bird-watcher’s paradise, but don’t worry – you don’t have to be an expert warbler-spotter to enjoy the incredible bird-life that abounds here. For one thing, some of our most common and beautiful birds are very tall (how does four feet tall sound to you?), making them stand out pretty easily! If you’re vacationing with us at Summer Bay Orlando by Exploria Resorts, you could spot any of these birds during your stay, sometimes right outside your window!
Egrets, Herons, and Anhingas:
A Great Blue Heron arrives near two Snowy Egrets. Photo: Emilie Chen on Flickr (Creative Commons license)
These are three of Florida’s most common water-bird species, but they’re all distinctively different. The tall white birds with long legs wading through the lily-pads, peering into the water, are Great Egrets. Their smaller cousins with brilliant yellow feet and beaks are Snowy Egrets. Both sport long flowing plumes for breeding season in early spring. You’ll also spot a taller, dark blue-and-grey wading bird. This is the Great Blue Heron, the tallest heron in the western hemisphere. Alongside smaller cousins like the Reddish Egret and the Tricolored Heron, these birds make our lake shores a vibrant, living place.
Anhinga drying its wings. Photo: Adrigu on Flickr (Creative Commons license)
But what’s that in the water, just a long snake-like neck and beak? You’ve just spotted an Anhinga in between deep-sea dives for fish. The Anhinga fishes underwater, but this swimming bird doesn’t float – or dry off quickly. Watch for these tall, dark-brown birds to hop up on a dock, tree limb, or just along the shore-line to stretch out their wet, creamy-colored wings, waiting for them to dry in the sun.
White Ibis and Cattle Egrets: These smaller birds look like waders, but spend most of their time on land, hunting insects. White Ibis are particularly distinctive, with red legs and a long, curving red bill. Since they move in flocks, you’ll see them roaming across lawns and hanging out in trees, watching for hand-outs from picnickers. Cattle Egrets are the country cousins of the grand Great Egret; these small white egrets got their name from their habit of standing on cattle’s backs, waiting for bugs. Here they graze their way across grassy areas. In spring, watch for the brown feathers that streak across their crests – even their breeding plumage is simple compared to their glamorous relatives wading in the nearby lake.
Birds of Prey: Our birds of prey love both land and sea. You’ll see grey-and-white Ospreys swooping over the lakes, and maybe even diving at the water for a fresh catch. Look for their massive nests on top of high-transmission lines and athletic field lights. On land, the Red-tailed Hawk likes to hang out on fence-posts, in trees, and on top of street light poles, keeping an eye on grassy areas for small prey. Both have a high-pitched cry that might help you spot them in the air.
In winter, Central Florida welcomes the symbol of the United States, when Bald Eagles return to the pine forests. Although still rare, Bald Eagles are making a comeback and you might just spot one in an unexpected place – we’ve seen them hanging out on interstate signs and even at Disney theme parks! Watch for their massive wing-span as they go soaring over the resort on their way home to nearby forests.
The symbol of the Great Florida Birding Trail, the Swallow-tailed Kite sails and swoops on gorgeously aerodynamic wings which rarely seem to move at all. It’s unlikely you’ll see this beautiful bird of prey anywhere else in North America, so if you’re lucky enough to spot one, pause and enjoy the grace of its flight. They seem to enjoy our forests as well as our grasslands, and can often be seen from the road while you’re driving in the vicinity of Summer Bay Orlando.
Sandhill Cranes: These magnificent cranes stand as tall as four feet, but they don’t move very fast – our resident cranes here at Summer Bay Orlando tend to parade at a stately slow walk around our lakes and lawns, looking for insects. Sandhill Cranes are equally impressive when they take flight, with a wingspan of up to seven feet. They travel in families and return to the same territory year after year, so if you hear their trumpeting call, look up – you’ll likely see a small flock of these regal cranes soaring over Summer Bay Orlando.
Wild Turkeys: If you’re like Ben Franklin and think the majestic Wild Turkey should’ve been our national symbol, you’ll love spotting Central Florida’s goliath-sized turkeys. Turkeys enjoy acorns, and Florida’s oak forests make an ideal habitat for them. Watch for turkeys in open grasslands, foraging for insects. This includes golf courses – like most birds, turkeys make no distinction between Florida’s natural prairies and its newer, more manicured lawns!
Of course, these are just some of central Florida’s largest and most impressive birds. You’ll also find a variety of small birds hopping around the resort, from shrill Mockingbirds who live here year-round, to sweet-singing songbirds just here for the winter. On quiet evenings, listen for the distinctive call of the Whip-Poor-Will, a night-bird who sounds just like his name. In the mornings, you might hear the wistful cooing of the Mourning Dove.
Come with your camera ready and your eyes wide open! Florida’s amazing birds are part of the natural attractions that brought visitors to our state long before theme parks and roller coasters arrived. Enjoy our natural wildlife while you’re with us at Summer Bay Orlando.
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