Birding Hotspots in Our Area
St. Johns County is lucky to have many natural areas that are great for birding! Check out some of our favorites below. Locations listed from NORTH to SOUTH. Click on each for more information.
Bird Island Park (Ponte Vedra Beach)
Gourd Island Conservation Area
Guana Lake & River
Six Mile Landing Boat Ramp
Alpine Groves Park (Inland by St. Johns River)
Stokes Landing Conservation Area
St Augustine Alligator Farm
Anastasia State Park
Vaill Point Park
Fort Matanzas National Monument
Faver-Dykes State Park
Princess Place Preserve (Flagler County)
10 Things You Can Do To Help Birds
1. Make your yard bird-friendly with native vegetation
There are many reasons to landscape with native Florida plants. Because they are adapted for our area, they require lower levels of water, fertilizer, and pesticides. They are unlikely to become invasive and degrade nearby habitat by displacing existing vegetation as many nonnative landscaping plants do. Native plants provide your neighborhood's birds, butterflies, and bees with seeds, berries, nectar, and nesting material. While you're at it, make sure your yard offers plenty of shelter from predators with a brush pile or dense bushes, and a water source such as a bird bath. Find Florida-friendly plants here.
2. Participate in the Christmas and Great Backyard Bird Counts
Help your local land managers make informed decisions by participating in nationwide bird surveys organized by Audubon. The Christmas Bird Count is on its 117th year, making it the nation's longest-running citizen science project. The results of the one-day census provide data on the winter ranges of birds. We have several CBC circles in our region, and it's common for members to participate in more than one over the three-week window when the count runs. Learn more about the CBC here.
The Great Backyard Bird Count runs for four days every February and takes only 15 minutes to participate in. Like other bird counts, it seeks to use citizen science data to form a big picture of bird health and abundance. This year is the 20th anniversary of the GBBC, and it runs from February 17-20, 2017. It's easy to sign up, anyone is welcome to participate, and submitting your data is as simple as logging into eBird. Learn more about the GBBC here.
3. Be a Florida Climate Change Messenger
Our area is especially vulnerable to rising sea levels due to climate change. As coastlines erode, beach and saltmarsh habitats are lost, putting hundreds of bird species at risk. Join Audubon Florida in making it clear to Florida's legislators that habitat and wildlife protection is a priority by using this toolkit.
4. Keep your feeders clean
Bird feeders and baths are popular gathering spots for backyard birds, which is why it's so important to make sure they're in clean condition. When feeders are neglected, moldy seed, dried feces, and sick birds can easily spread pathogens and disease, and harm your birds. Nectar feeders especially need to be cleaned regularly to prevent fermentation. Follow these guidelines to keep your feeder setup spic and span.
5. Keep your distance
Whether you're watching a bluebird in your yard or focusing your camera on an owl in the woods, be respectful of the birds first. Keep a safe distance and look closely for sights of stress - if the bird has stopped foraging, sleeping, or moved away, you're too close! When birds are forced to fly, they use up valuable energy that should be spent migrating and breeding. Nesting birds are particularly vulnerable, as they might abandon their nests and leave their young unprotected from predators and the elements. Stay on trails and obey signs telling you to stay out of protected areas.
6. Buy bird-friendly coffee
Your daily cup of Joe could be helping or hurting birds, depending on where it's sourced from. Most coffee is grown in unsustainable monocultures under full sun. These plantations require vast amounts of water, fertilizers, and pesticides, and provide little habitat to native and wintering wildlife. Shade-grown, bird-friendly coffee is grown under the forest canopy, requiring fewer inputs and preserving habitat. Learn more and find bird-friendly retailers here.
7. Keep your cat indoors
Domestic cats are the number-one direct, human-caused threat to birds in our country. Cats are natural predators, and even the most well-fed outdoor cat will instinctively hunt and kill the birds it wanders across. Bells on collars warn adult birds to flee, but do nothing to protect fledgling birds just learning how to fly, and a single paw swipe can be fatal. Outdoor cats are also more likely to be hit by a car, attacked by a predator, or infected with a disease. Spay and neuter your cats, and keep them inside, and you'll be keeping the birds and your pets safe. Learn how to make your outdoor kitty an indoor kitty here.
8. Reduce your plastic use
If you've been to the beach, you've probably seen all the plastic debris brought in by the tides. From bottle caps to drinking straws to empty lighters, plastic piles up fast and takes hundreds of years to decompose. This plastic waste is often mistaken for food by seabirds and other marine life, and can cause strangulation or mutilation when it becomes wrapped around beaks or bodies. Plastic bits easily absorb toxins in the water, concentrating the dosage until they become 'poison pills.' And they disintegrate into microscopic shards as time goes on, making them harder to see, but still damaging the ecosystem from the bottom up.
To reduce your plastic footprint, use reusable shopping bags. Boycott hygiene products with plastic microbeads. Don't release balloons or lanterns. Properly dispose of your fishing line. Drink tap water in a reusable water bottle. Pick up your trash and recycle what you can. Cut your six-pack rings to avoid snaring wildlife.
9. Prevent window collisions
Birds hit windows when they see sky or shelter reflected in the glass and fly towards it. This window collisions will often kill a bird, either instantly or later from internal injuries. To prevent window collisions, put screens up to break up reflections and keep birds away from glass. Keep your feeders and bird baths either within 3 feet of windows, where birds can't reach high enough speeds to cause injury to themselves, or 30 feet away. Use tape, stickers, or decals on the outside of the glass to break up the reflection. Turn off your lights at night. For more suggestions, click here.
10. Purchase a Duck Stamp
You may have heard of the Federal Duck Stamp (formally the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp) if you or someone you know hunts migratory waterfowl. This $25 stamp is a required purchase for waterfowl hunters, but many birders and conservationists purchase it voluntarily. This is because 98% of the purchase prices goes to the conservation of wetlands, Waterfowl Protection Areas, and National Wildlife Refuges. Hunters and waterfowl aren't the only ones who use these protected areas - other birds and certainly other wildlife depend on National Wildlife Refuges for their migration, breeding, and wintering survival. The stamp serves as an annual pass to any of our country's refuges, and many birders show their support for conservation by sticking their stamp directly on their binoculars. To order a duck stamp for yourself, visit this site.