Florida is a head-spinning place to go birding. One day you’re chasing a flock of Roseate Spoonbills across 140,000 acres of pristine wetlands, and the next you’re watching Purple Gallinules forage in a ditch a short jaunt from a Starbucks.
A few weeks ago, we tracked Endangered Red-cockaded Woodpeckers through a state park without meeting another soul. On nearby Interstate 95, two Sandhill Cranes grazed on the grassy shoulder as traffic whizzed by a few feet away.
The Florida peninsula has a rich avian landscape, home to more than 500 species, found from the mangroves in the Keys to the Panhandle’s oak hammocks. An impressive 10 million acres of parks, refuges, and other protected areas are managed for conservation.
But Florida is on a collision course with its birds. People and birds tend to like to live in the same places here, and with 21 million residents, Florida now ranks as the third-most-populated state.
It’s fascinating, so Florida became the first stop on our five-month road trip around the country — a birding safari of sorts. In January, we packed up our Airstream trailer, gathered binoculars and cameras, and headed south from our home in North Carolina.