TOP 9 BIRDING DESTINATIONS IN NAPLES
With nearly 80% Collier County’s 2,305 square miles set aside as preserve lands, even a bird brain could guess that the Naples area is a comfortable avian wintering spot. It’s fine weather for our fine-feathered friends here in one of the world’s most active flyways.
Naples and Collier County are in the direct path of hundreds of migratory birds (the beloved snowbird among them) and is part of the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail. In fact, we have a dozen hotspots listed on the trail.
In the City of Naples alone, the count of unique bird species is up to 172. Less than 9 miles southeast along Highway 41 at Eagle Lakes Community Park, some 209 species have been identified, and 20 miles south of Naples at Marco Island’s Tiger Tail Beach 185 different species have been spotted.
The specialty birds of our area include:
Limpkin Purple Gallinule
Smithsonian.com named Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, as one of the top seven best places in the country to witness fall bird migrations. The Corkscrew sanctuary, consisting of 13,000 acres of sensitive wetlands, is home to the world’s largest old-growth bald cypress forest. A 2.25-mile boardwalk stretches through pinelands, wet prairies, hammocks, and cypress ponds.
1) Rookery Bay
Rookery Bay National Estuarine, which occupies about 110,000 acres 36 minutes south of Naples, is home to bald eagles, hawks, owls, great egrets, and yellow-crowned night herons, among many others. Guided walks and kayak tours, workshops, research information, campfire programs, and more are available. Rookery Bay is home to the Southwest Florida Birding Festival for the last 11 years. This season’s festival will be held January 16-18, 2015, and will offer nearly 40 guided field trips to 20 hotspots around Southwest Florida. Partners include Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Big Cypress National Preserve, and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.
300 Tower Rd, Naples, FL 34113
2) Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
Best birding in Collier County. The sanctuary is a breeding ground for about 100,000 wood storks, and year-round residents include white ibis and red-bellied woodpeckers. Rent binoculars at the center or find one of the telescopes positioned by staff. A 2.25-mile boardwalk loops through 5 habitats. Birding and photography workshops as well as kayak and boat tours are available.
375 Sanctuary Rd. W., Naples, FL 34120
3) The Conservancy in Naples
The Conservancy Nature Center, listed on the Great Florida Birding Trail, consists of 21 acres including a wildlife rehabilitation center and is a sophisticated, comprehensive opportunity to connect with conservation efforts locally and across Southwest Florida.
Electric boat and kayak rentals are available on site. Off-site excursions are available.
1495 Smith Preserve Way, Naples, Florida 34102
4) Big Cypress National Preserve
This national preserve, 45 minutes south of Naples, spans over 729,000 acres of a freshwater swamp ecosystem and is some of the most rugged terrains in Florida. 180 different species of birds winter at the preserve. Two year-round residents are the cormorant and anhinga, which both swim and dive for fish.
33000 Tamiami Trail East., Ochopee, Florida 34141
5) Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park
Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park is one of the best chances at observing a large number of various shorebirds (sandpipers, least terns, plovers, willets, and sanderlings). Habitats within this popular, yet pristine barrier island park include the beach, marina and bay, hardwoods and mixed forest, and mangrove swamp. Gain the advantage by climbing the north end viewing tower, great for long-range views of the beach as well as the pass. You might spot osprey, bald eagle, pileated woodpecker, frigatebirds, or pelicans.
11135 Gulfshore Dr., Naples, Florida 34108
6) Cocohatchee River
Just north of Delnor-Wiggins is the Cocohatchee watershed. The Cocohatchee Nature Center rents kayaks and canoes, but there are also private boat rental shops there. This wild waterway is home to brown pelicans, ospreys, snowy egrets, great egrets, bald eagles, roseate spoonbills, among others. The Cocohatchee River Park has more capacity than other boat launches with many parking spaces and four boat launching lanes.
Vanderbilt Drive between 111th Ave. & Bonita Beach Rd.
7) Barefoot Beach
Barefoot Beach Preserve is a 342 acre Collier County park and Florida State Preserve containing a nationally recognized beach. In addition to excellent birding opportunities, the preserve offers a butterfly and cactus garden and is one of the largest gopher tortoise preserves in Southwest Florida.
503 Barefoot Beach Blvd., North Naples, FL 34134
8) Tigertail Beach – Marco Island
Tigertail is one of the best all-around birding spots in Southwest Florida. Along the shoreline, you might find several varieties of plovers, roseate spoonbills, red knots, peregrine falcons, osprey, pelicans, seagulls, egrets. The beach at Big Marco Pass is a nesting spot for Florida-listed species the piping plover, the least tern, and the black skimmer.
Hernando Drive on Marco Island
9) Bird Garden of Naples
For a “wild” experience, check out the Bird Garden of Naples at Corkscrew Swamp, a sanctuary for some 300 parrots. Here you can interact with parrots from around the world, including the endearing macaw. 2-hour walking tours are available Thursday through Sunday by appointment. No fee, but donations are appreciated to support the nonprofit’s outreach and placement program for parrots abandoned or abused.
1060 Purple Martin Dr., Naples, Florida 34120