This park at the southern tip of Key Biscayne is an essential stop for fall and spring migrants.
By Robin Diaz | Published: 8/19/2006
Hurricanes are a constant concern at 430-acre Cape Florida, which lies at the southern end of Key Biscayne. Its 1825 lighthouse is the oldest standing structure in Miami-Dade County. After Andrew destroyed 99 percent of the park in 1992, the Florida Park Service launched a native-plant restoration project.
When the cape’s birds caught my attention in 1995, the re-vegetation project, still ongoing, was in its early stages, so the park wasn’t pretty in the conventional sense. But now Cape Florida is an island of greenery within the urbanized coastline of southeastern Florida. Its location and fruiting native vegetation make it an essential stop for fall and spring migrants, as well as Caribbean strays.
In 2002 a banding station was established so park biologist Elizabeth Golden could document how fall migrants use the restored vegetation during their stopovers. As a park volunteer, a bander-in-training, and the official “bird lady,” I feel like the proud parent of a gangly youth who has developed into a handsome young adult. — Robin Diaz
Robin Diaz, a part-time resident of Key Biscayne, Florida, is a volunteer and bander-in-training at Cape Florida State Park.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park
1200 S. Crandon Blvd.
Key Biscayne, FL 33149
Sand beach/dunes, coastal grassland, maritime hammock (hardwood forest), tidal wetlands (mangrove forest), freshwater ponds (seasonal).
All trails, including a dirt nature trail and a paved bike path, are flat. Bike path and parking areas wheelchair-accessible.
Common migrants: raptors (including Swallow-tailed Kite), doves and pigeons (White-crowned), cuckoos, nightjars, flycatchers, vireos (Black-whiskered and Yellow-throated), swallows, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, thrushes (fall), 38 species of warbler (29 regulars, 9 seen less frequently), grosbeaks, buntings, orioles, and Bobolink. Rare migrants: Mangrove Cuckoo, Zenaida Dove, Key West Quail-Dove, La Sagra’s Flycatcher, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, Northern Wheatear, Thick-billed Vireo, Townsend’s Warbler, Western Spindalis.
When to go
Fall migration (mid-August until end of October), spring migration (late March until mid-May), and winter (mixed flocks).
Restrooms and two food concessions. Tropical Audubon Society conducts bird walks during fall and spring migration.
State park. Admission $5/vehicle, $3/single-occupant vehicle, $1/bicycle or walk-in. Open daily, 8 a.m. to sunset. Metrobus B stops at park entrance, half a mile from first birdy area: Miami-Dade Transit Service
Bring sunscreen, water, insect repellent.