Birding in Biscayne National Park: Tips and Ethics
Biscayne Bay, including Biscayne National Park, has been designated an Important Bird Area for its significant populations of protected species, its significant numbers of wading birds, and its natural habitats for avian feeding, migratory stopover, and nesting. We hope that you enjoy viewing the beautiful birds and will follow the tips below for a great birding experience and to ensure that future generations also have a great birding experience.
To make birding more fun and challenging, the park now offers the Biscayne Birding Trail certificate-earning program. This program is a partnership effort between the Tropical Audubon Society and the park.
Birding 1 2 3's
If you are new to birding, consider that successful birdwatching will involve using your sense of sight as well as your sense of hearing. You will learn that color, special markings, calls, silhouettes, posture, flight pattern, size, and habitat will all help in identifying the species you are observing.
The best way to get started is to focus on a particular group of related birds (such as gulls, terns, warblers etc) and learn the similar traits that define that group of birds. Next, start examining the unique traits or field marks, which are colored or patterned areas on the bird. Keep in mind that a bird's feathers (or plumage) can vary with gender, age, or breeding stage. Most good birding books will show examples of the different types of plumage you may observe.
The items you will need for a successful bird-watching trip are binoculars, a field guide, and a pocket notebook. Practice using the binoculars beforehand so that you are not scanning wildly when you do see a bird you would like to identify. It also pays to become familiar with your field guide and learn the terminology it contains. Use your notebook to records your observations (such as species, date, time, location, observers) and any pertinent information such as behavior and/or weather conditions. Wearing neutral-colored clothes and keeping quiet will make you less likely to scare off the birds you are trying to observe. Also, a spotting scope can be an expensive investment, but will allow you to identify birds from farther away.
One of the most important factors for identifying birds is to really listen closely to all the sounds around you. A bird's call pattern can be among the best ways to identify a bird in the field. Expert birders can identify thousands of songs, which can be rather elaborate and are used to attract a mate, defend territories, locate family members, or announce the approach of a predator. As with any other skill or hobby, your abilities to idenitify birds visually or by their calls will improve greatly the more you practice.
E-mail noteworthy bird sightings (species, number seen, date and time, location, noteworthy behavior) here.
Responsible Birding in Biscayne
Biscayne National Park's scientists ask that you respect and help protect Biscayne's birds by following these rules when birding in order to avoid a negative impact on the park's birds.
1. Do not use any audio or mechanical device (recorded calls, etc.) to attract birds and other wildlife. The use of such devices may induce stress and disrupt mating/nesting activities of wildlife. The energy birds use to respond to these artificial stresses could be used instead for foraging or raising young. (Code of Federal Regulations)
2. Do not view birds or other wildlife with a flashlight or spotlight or laser light. This could molest the birds. (Code of Federal Regulations)
3. Do not divulge locations of any special status species or nests observed in the park. Be particularly cautious about spreading such information over the Internet.
Note: The National Park Service is authorized to withhold information about endangered, threatened, and rare species in order to protect the species and their habitats from harm (National Parks Omnibus Management Act).
4. Be quiet near birds, especially nesting birds or places with nesting colonies. Birds need to stay on their nests to protect their eggs or young from overheating or cold. Also, a bird flying off a nest could accidentally crush its eggs or young, and if it stays away too long the eggs or young could die from overheating or cold. An additional benefit of quiet observation is that you'll have greater success of viewing the birds if you don't frighten them off.
5. Maintain a distance of 100 meters (about 300 feet) from colonies of birds. This is the recommended set-back distance to minimize human disturbance to birds. This distance is maintained by the ranger-led kayak tours near bird colonies.
6. Please note: If you observe a bird (or any other wildlife) in distress, please provide details about the species involved, the location, date, and time to the nearest park ranger. Do not attempt to get involved in the situation since wild animals can react unpredictably when in distress. Wild animals should never be handled by untrained individuals lacking proper gear and protective equipment .
Violation of federal regulations may result in a fine of up to $5,000 and/or up to six months in jail.
To view a list of species that have been observed in Biscayne by other birders, click here.
For suggested birding locations, please visit our Biscayne Birding Trail Locations page.
For information on accessing segments of the Biscayne Birding trail, click here.