This park is a great spot to look for Red-masked Parakeet, Chestnut-fronted Macaw, and other exotic bird species from around the world, as well as White-crowned Pigeon, a South Florida specialty.
By Neil Losin | Published: 2/24/2012
South Miami’s Matheson Hammock Park is a small piece of tropical nature that has tropical birds to match.
East of Old Cutler Rd., the street that cuts through the park, lie dense mangroves and a manicured beach. The western section of the park has more to offer birders, including relict stands of native hardwood hammock habitat (where you should keep an eye out for beautiful Liguus tree snails) and woodlands with a mix of native and non-native vegetation.
The park hosts migrant warblers, vireos, and Swallow-tailed Kite in spring. White-crowned Pigeon, a South Florida specialty, is conspicuous in summer, when it feeds on the ripe berries of poisonwood trees.
The park’s most unique attraction is its diverse assemblage of exotic bird species from all over the world. Red-masked Parakeets raise their young in old woodpecker nest cavities, Common Hill Mynas fill the air with their melodious calls, and Indian Peafowl strut through the understory. It’s as close as you can get to a tropical birding experience without leaving the continental U.S. — Neil Losin
Neil Losin wrote about Burrowing Owls in our February 2011 issue. He also wrote about Malibu Lagoon State Beach, Malibu, California, Hotspots Near You No. 64, and Franklin Canyon Park, Beverly Hills, California, No. 90. He is pursuing a Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology at UCLA.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Mangrove, hardwood hammocks, landscaped fields, and woodlands.
Flat. Some trails wheelchair-accessible.
Natives: Brown Pelican, Little Blue and Tricolored Herons, Swallow-tailed Kite, Osprey, Red-shouldered and Short-tailed Hawks, Merlin, Great Horned Owl, Spotted Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, Royal Tern, White-crowned Pigeon, Chuck-will’s-widow, Belted Kingfisher, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, White-eyed and Blue-headed Vireos, Ovenbird, Worm-eating, Cape May, Black-throated Blue, and other warblers, and Indigo and Painted Buntings. Exotics: Chestnut-fronted and Blue-and-yellow Macaws, Orange-winged Amazon, Red-masked, White-winged, Mitred, and Yellow-chevroned Parakeets, Common Hill Myna, Red-whiskered Bulbul, Nutmeg Mannikin, Indian Peafowl.
When to go
Fall through spring. Most rewarding in March and April, when migrant songbirds pass through and resident birds are breeding.
Several well-maintained trails lead through hardwood hammocks, mangroves, and woodlands. No facilities west of Old Cutler Rd. Park’s eastern section has a full-service marina, snack bar, restaurant, and picnic facilities.
County park. Open year-round, sunrise to sunset. Office hours 8-5. No entrance or parking fees in park’s western section. Parking near the beach is $5 on weekdays, $6 on weekends.
Bring bug repellant in summer, especially in the densely wooded hardwood hammocks.
For more info
Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park
Hotspot Near You No. 4. Located at the southern tip of Key Biscayne. Nightjars, flycatchers, vireos, warblers, and other migrants in spring and fall.
More exotic hotspots
Read about more places to find peacocks, parrots, mynas, and other out-of-place birds in the article Exotic Miami by Mark Hedden.