Birds of Sanibel

               Birds are Everywhere on  Sanibel Island

You will love the abundance of birds on our islands.  They are attracted to the sub-tropical climate and the natural environment of Sanibel Island.  One of our guests from Europe, who had just visited beaches in another part of Florida, remarked that our beaches “had more life”.   Shorebirds love the 12 miles of beaches and wading birds enjoy the many wetlands here.  Here are several places that you will find birders congregating.

J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is a great place on the islands for watching tall wading birds. A four mile paved road on a dike, built in the 1960s as a mosquito-control structure, traverses the refuge. The dike forms two tidal  reservoirs and these are the areas where wading birds, shorebirds, and waterfowl come to feed.

When the tide is low, fish concentrate in shallow pools, making it easy for wading birds to capture prey and create perfect conditions for bird watching.  (Call Ding Darling at 239.472.1100, ext. 2 for low tide times).

Wading BirdsPhoto: Great blue heron wading on long, thin legs

Snowy egrets and great egrets are among the more active feeders, flying over the pools to snatch fish while in flight or patiently stalking their prey in the water. Tri-colored herons and reddish egrets are the most fun to watch as they prance around to scare fish into revealing themselves. White ibis walk along the edge of the water, their long bent down bills probing for small crustaceans, a bird watchers dream come true.

In winter months, Roseate spoonbills are the waders that most bird watchers want to see. With their bright pink feathers, they are hard to miss, even when many other birds are present. Tactile feeders, they swing their grey-green, spatula like bills back and forth through shallow water, hoping to find prey. Wood storks, also tactile feeders, hold their huge bills open in the water and shuffle their pink feet in the mud to scare fish toward the bill.

Other Birds

Massive white pelicans arrive from the North in the winter months (these are the original Sanibel snowbirds) and can be found waddling on the small mud islands of the refuge.  Formations of gliding brown pelicans may be seen here as well as on the beaches of Sanibel.  Ospreys call to you from their high perches and several America bald eagles nest on the islands.  The island is said to have over 230 kinds of birds.  There are so many ibis on the island that they are referred to as “Florida Chickens”.

Other Places to Go for Bird Watching

On Sanibel Island, there are a number of other places for bird watching. The interior wetlands are lovely places to walk, either early in the day or toward sunset. Center Tract at the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, the Bailey Tract (close to Tarpon Beach and Sand Pointe), and Sanibel Gardens Preserve all have good walking trails for bird watchers. Here, red-shouldered hawks call noisily from overhead. Woodpeckers, most frequently red-bellied, attack decaying tree trunks.

CLICK HERE for a map and description of our walking trails on Sanibel Island.

For pictures of our Sanibel Island feathered residents, got to



Photograph Credit: Jim Mathesen/USFWS

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