Florida is well-known for its exotic wildlife, from the famous manatee population to the flamboyant flamingo.
It’s also home to some of the most amazing beaches you’ll find on the planet and, on these beaches, you’ll also find some incredible birds.
But what species of birds can you find on Florida beaches?
Below, we’re going to take a look at 16 types of Florida beach birds. From their identifying features to their diets, we’ll cover it all and give you some pointers on how to find each of them.
Looking for a quick-reference list of all of Florida’s beach birds? We’ve got exactly what you need:
- Herring Gull
- Roseate Spoonbill
- Long-Billed Dowitcher
- Short-Billed Dowitcher
- Royal Tern
- Black Skimmer
- Great White Heron
- Laughing Gull
- Great Blue Heron
- Snowy Egret
- Little Blue Heron
- Ring-Billed Gull
Now, let’s take a closer look at each of these beautiful Floridian beach birds in more detail.
To kick things off, let’s explore one of Florida’s most famous beach birds – the Pelican.
One of the biggest birds you’ll find across Florida’s beaches, the Pelican measures around 45-inches in height and has a massive 78cm average wingspan.
This size isn’t the only thing you can identify them by, though. The Pelican also has a huge, pale yellow bill, a white head and neck, and dark gray-brown feathers across the rest of its body.
At the base of the Pelican’s bill you’ll find a stretchy pouch that is capable of expanding massively.
This evolutionary feature makes it much easier for them to catch fish, creating a bucket-like effect that allows them to take in huge amounts of water (hopefully taking some fish along with it!) as they glide across the water.
While nowhere near as big as the Pelican, the Willet is still one of Florida’s largest beach birds, measuring in at around 15-inches tall and with an average wingspan of 27-inches.
Two long, black legs allow the Willet to wade through shallow sea waters, and it can also be identified by its gray upperparts and underparts, along with black wings barred with white and light gray.
The Willet forages for food along the Florida coastline, searching for small fish and crustaceans to feed on.
They aren’t exclusively found in beaches, however, and the Willet can also be found in marshes and swampy areas of Florida.
They also spend most of their time on the ground and, while they are capable of flying, their long legs allow them to run at a good speed.
They’ll often spread their wings while they run as well, allowing the wind to give them an extra boost of speed!
The Herring Gull is one of the most common birds found on Florida’s beaches. It’s also one of the noisiest, and is famed for its loud, screeching call.
Pretty easy to spot, you can identify the Herring Gull by its pure white underparts, breast, back, and head. It also has dark gray wings barred with white markings, pale pink legs, and a large yellow bill.
One of the largest members of the Gull family, the Herring Gull measures around 24-inches in length and has an average wingspan of 55-inches.
It isn’t a particularly fussy eater either and, while it will hunt for fish and crustaceans along the shore line and in shallow waters, the Herring Gull will also eat trash, food scraps, and anything else that it can get its beak into!
A tiny beach bird, the Sanderling measures around 7.5-inches and has an average wingspan of just 13-inches.
Often referred to as “peeps” because of the high-pitched “peeping” call they make, the Sanderling can be identified by its white underparts and breast, light gray upperparts, short black legs, and pointed black bill.
Its short stature gives the Sanderling a real advantage when it comes to feeding, as they’re able to get really close down in the shallows to feed on small mollusks, insects, marine worms, and sand crabs.
They also give them the power to move very quickly and avoid getting swept as the waves ebb and flow along the shore.
Sanderlings are most commonly found living in huge flocks along Florida’s beaches throughout fall and winter.
Come spring, they’ll take the skies in large numbers and head towards the Arctic Tundra to breed before heading back to Florida the following fall.
Another of Florida’s largest beach birds, the Roseate Spoonbill stands at a 33-inches tall and has an average wingspan of 50-inches.
It is quite commonly mistaken for the Flamingo, and this is due to the bright pink feathers and long, pink legs.
Unlike the Flamingo, however, the Roseate Spoonbill has a long bill with a namesake spoon shape at the end.
This, along with their long legs, serves an important role in helping them feed. Their legs allow them to safely wade into deeper waters.
They then sweep their unique spoon-shaped bill through the water in a sweeping motion, filtering out mud and water as they do and snatching up small crustaceans, insects, and fish as they do.
You’ll often spot a Roseate Spoonbill along Florida’s beach as well as estuaries, swamps, ponds, and marshes.
They are also frequently spotted living alongside Flamingos so, given that they look so similar, you’ll need a keen eye to spot the Roseate Spoonbill among the pink crowd!
The Long-Billed Dowitcher can be identified by its light gray underparts, dark gray upperparts, wings, and head.
Its namesake bill allows the Long-Billed Dowitcher to poke deep into the sand in search of marine worms, small fish, and crustaceans to feed on.
Its longer legs also ensure that the rest of the Long-Billed Dowitcher’s body is kept dry while it wades through the shallow waters in search of its prey.
The Long-Billed Dowitcher’s cousin, the Short-Billed Dowitcher is almost identical in appearance and has the same gray markings, black legs, and black bill.
It does, however, have a much shorter bill from which it takes its name and is slightly shorter in stature, measuring around 10-inches in length and with an average wingspan of 18-inches.
Much like its long-billed counterpart, the Long-Billed Dowitcher wades through the shallow waters of Florida’s beaches in search of small fish, crustaceans, and marine insects to feed on.
It doesn’t live exclusively on beaches, however, and has also been spotted in flooded fields, mudflats, and wetlands searching for something tasty to snack on!
The Ibis is another of Florida’s most famous beach birds. It’s also one of the largest, measuring around 26-inches tall and with an average wingspan of 37-inches.
This size, along with iIts markings, make it really easy to spot and you can identify the Ibis by the pure white feathers that cover its entire body. It also has two long, pink legs and a long, curved, pink bill.
You’re most likely to spot an Ibis wading through deeper seawater, using its long legs to keep it dry and dipping its long bill into the seabed in search of fish and crustaceans to feed on.
It implements the same hunting technique as both the Long-Billed and Short-Billed Dowitcher, poking its beak in and out of the silt in a sewing-machine like pattern.
Male Ibis are known to be extremely territorial, so be careful when observing them and never get too close.
They have been known to chase and attack humans who they feel have gotten a little too close for comfort, and they’re equally as protective of both territory and mates.
At first glance, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Royal Tern is a member of the Gull family.
However, this isn’t the case. They are, as their name suggests, a member of the Tern family and are, in fact, one of 12 Terns you can find throughout Florida.
Standing at 17-inches tall and with an average wingspan of 40-inches, they are a relatively small bird.
The Royal Tern is most easily identified by its bright orange bill and black crest, along with its light gray upperparts, white underparts, and black legs.
Unlike many of the beach birds on our list, the Royal Tern prefers to hunt in deeper water and, as such, it doesn’t have very long legs.
They fly close to the surface of the water and, when they spot a fish or crustacean to feed on, they’ll dive down and snatch it up in the powerful bill.
The Royal Tern is also capable of hovering above the surface of the water, holding its position for as long as 30 seconds.
Another member of the Tern family, the Black Skimmer can be identified by its bright red bill that is tipped with black, its white underparts, and jet black upperparts and wings.
It measures around 18.5-inches in length and has an average wingspan of 43-inches.
While the color of the Black Skimmer’s red and black bill is a clear identifier, the shape of its bill will also help you determine what it is.
The lower part of the bill extends further out than the top half, and this is an evolutionary design that helps them skim the water with their bill as they glide across the surface.
In doing so, the Black Skimmer is able to snatch up fish that are swimming close to the surface.
They also have another incredible evolutionary feature of narrow, slitted, vertical pupils.
This ensures that they are able to retain perfect vision while hunting, without any of the sun’s glare reflecting off the water and blinding them!
Great White Heron
As you may have guessed from its name, the Great White Heron can be identified by the dazzling, pure white feathers that cover its entire body.
These feathers are also much longer on the wings, giving an almost hair-like appearance.
The Great White Heron also has a long, bright yellow bill and two long, black legs.
One of Florida’s tallest beach birds, the Great White Heron stands at 41-inches tall and boasts a massive 67-inch wingspan.
Often mistaken for the White Egret, the Great White Heron uses its long legs to wade through shallow water in search of fish and crustaceans to feed on.
Not only found on beaches, the Great White Heron often frequents rivers, estuaries, and ponds in search of food.
You’re far most likely to hear a Laughing Gull before you see one. As their name suggests, they have a very unique call that sounds like a high-pitched laugh.
They can carry on this laugh for a good amount of time as well, often “laughing” for up to 30 seconds at a time.
Once you’ve located exactly where the laugh is coming from, you can identify the Laughing Gull by its appearance.
It has a white breast and underparts, slate-gray upperparts, a black tail, and a black and white mottled head.
The Laughing Gull also stands on two black legs with webbed feet.
Like most members of the Gull family, the Laughing Gull isn’t a fussy eater and will happily eat anything it can find.
Fresh fish are its preferred food source, but trash and food scraps left behind by humans also make it onto the menu!
Great Blue Heron
The Great Blue Heron is the largest Floridian beach bird on our list, standing at around 52-inches tall and with a huge wingspan of up to 79-inches.
While not blue in color, the Great Blue Heron takes its name from the slate-gray feathers that cover its entire body.
It also has long, gray and pink legs, a white face with a black eye stripe, and a long orange bill.
As with the Great White Heron, the Great Blue Heron is most commonly found wading in shallow waters in search of fish and crustaceans to feed on.
It also lives in freshwater environments and, as well as aquatic creatures, the Great Blue Heron has also been known to feed on small rodents including voles and mice.
Often mistaken for the Great White Heron, the Snowy Egret has white feathers across its entire body as well as two long, yellow legs and a long, black bill.
It’s the color of the bill that makes it easier to differentiate between the two.
The Snowy Egret is also much smaller than the Great White Heron, standing at 26-inches tall and with an average wingspan of 39-inches.
You’re most likely to spot a Snowy Egret wading through the shallow waters of beaches, rivers, swamps, marshes, and ponds.
Here, they search through the water and silt for small fish, crustaceans, and amphibians to feed on. They have also been known to eat small snakes!
Sadly, the Snowy Egret was close to extinction in the early 1900s. But, thanks to the Migratory Bird Treaty of 1918, they became a protected species and have bounced back really quickly.
Little Blue Heron
Unlike its Great Blue cousin, the Little Blue Heron is a relatively small seaboard that stands at around 25-inches tall and has an average wingspan of 40-inches.
It doesn’t have the same long, hair-like feathers either. Instead, the Little Blue Heron can be identified by the shorter, blue-gray feathers that cover its upperparts and wings, and its two long, black legs.
It also has a purple neck and head, and long, gray bill tipped with black.
Like all members of the Heron family, the Little Blue Heron hunts for food by wading through the shallow waters in search of fish, crustaceans, and amphibians to feed on.
It will also occasionally stray out of the water, searching through longer grass for amphibians and insects to snack on.
The final entry on our list of Florida’s beach birds is another member of the Gull family; the Ring-Billed Gull.
You can identify the Ring-Billed Gull by its white underparts, breast, and head along with its light gray upperparts and black tail feathers.
It also has bright yellow legs and a yellow beak with a black ring around the tip, from which it takes its name.
Often mistaken for the Herring Gull, the Ring-Billed Gull is slightly shorter and measures around 18-inches in length and has an average wingspan of 43-inches.
Like all members of the Gull family, the Ring-Billed Gull will feed on anything it can find including fish, crustaceans, and even trash!
It has also been known to snatch food straight out of human hands, whether invited to or not!
There you have it – 16 types of beach birds you can find in Florida. Each of these is very common, so you shouldn’t have any issues spotting them and checking them off your bird watching list.
Just make sure, however, that you stay at a fair distance not to disturb them too much and, in the case of the Ibis, to protect yourself!