Part of Everglades National Park, Shark Valley offers up-close views of Purple Gallinule, Roseate Spoonbill, and other great birds.
By Shirley L. Ruhe | Published: 10/20/2014
Whenever I walk along the canal at Shark Valley, I don’t know where to look first because there are too many birds to see at once. Sometimes I have to be careful not to step on an alligator sunning on the bank as I rush to get the perfect view of Purple Gallinules chasing each other through the water, an Anhinga sunning itself in a tree, a Great Blue Heron sneaking up on a walking catfish in the canal, or a Wood Stork preening in the shallows. All can be seen in the early morning within a few feet of the main trail.
Even though I don’t usually carry a camera when I’m birding, it’s hard not to take pictures. The birds are so close, presenting wonderful photo ops. Short-tailed Hawk is possible, and keep an eye out for Snail, White-tailed, and Swallow-tailed Kites.
The area’s history, ecosystems, and birds and wildlife are described well aboard the Park Service tram that runs from the visitor center to the observation tower, but I prefer to walk. That way, I can proceed at my own speed and stop whenever I see interesting birds. — Shirley L. Ruhe
Shirley L. Ruhe is a former reporter and an avid birder. She also wrote about Monticello Park, Alexandria, Virginia, Hotspot Near You No. 191.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Sawgrass prairie, canal, hardwood hammock, cypress dome, and other wooded areas.
Flat along main trail. Two short walking trails (one wheelchair-accessible) located off the main trail.
Little Blue, Great Blue, Tricolored, and Green Herons, Black-crowned and Yellow-crowned Night-Herons, Great, Snowy, and Reddish Egrets, Glossy and White Ibis, hawks, owls, Wood Stork, Anhinga, Purple Gallinule, Common Moorhen, Roseate Spoonbill, Double-crested Cormorant. Breeding: Black-necked Stilt, Limpkin, Sandhill Crane, Northern Bobwhite, Snail, Swallow-tailed, and White-tailed Kites, Bald Eagle, Yellow-billed and Mangrove Cuckoos, Clapper and King Rails, Mottled Duck, Barn Swallow, Blue Jay, White-eyed and Black-whiskered Vireos, Common Nighthawk, Boat-tailed Grackle, Eastern Towhee, Killdeer, and Wilson’s Plover. Thirty-nine species of warbler.
When to go
Mid-December through May. Newly hatched chicks typically seen beginning in February.
Visitor center with restrooms, educational displays, short film, water, and snacks. Ranger-led bird walks offered seasonally. Two-hour tram tour narrated by a park naturalist or ranger; reservations recommended (305-221-8455). 60-foot-tall observation tower. Bike rentals.
National park. $10 admission fee valid for seven days. Annual pass $25. Shark Valley Visitor Center open 9:15-5:15; hours subject to change.
Wear a hat and take sunscreen. Trail is shaded in early morning but is in full sun by mid-day. Carry water since it’s not available on trail.
For more info
Big Cypress National Preserve
More than 700,000 acres of swamp located 38 miles west of Shark Valley on Hwy. 41. Sandhill Crane, Wood Stork, Roseate Spoonbill.
Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park
50 miles west of Shark Valley. Red-shouldered Hawk, Barred Owl, Osprey, eagles, and shorebirds.