Where to find Florida specialties like Wood Stork, Limpkin, and Purple Gallinule in suburban Palm Beach County.
By Carlos Sanchez | Published: 4/20/2015
Nestled within suburban Palm Beach County, Wakodahatchee Wetlands is an artificially created marsh alive with birds. As part of a forward-thinking wastewater-treatment system, it filters millions of gallons of water every day while also providing wintering and breeding habitat for more than 150 bird species, including Florida specialties like Wood Stork, Limpkin, and Purple Gallinule.
On any given day of the year, I can tally 40 or more species. Most enjoyable for me is late winter through late spring, when the site is bustling with activity. This is the time when herons and egrets are in breeding plumage and wading-bird rookeries are full of youngsters begging for food.
All of the action occurs just yards from a comfortable, well-maintained boardwalk. I always make sure to bring my camera, as the opportunities are too good to pass up. Wakodahatchee also attracts the occasional vagrant. In 2012, a Neotropic Cormorant, a rarity for Florida, appeared in one of the rookeries and has remained ever since.
This is a fun, interesting, and accessible place to enjoy Florida’s wetland birds up close and personal. Don’t miss it. — Carlos Sanchez
Carlos Sanchez is a writer and tour leader in South Florida through his guiding service EcoAvian Tours. He has also surveyed pelagic birds in the Gulf of Mexico and shorebirds and waterfowl along the Gulf coast.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Wetlands, ponds, live oak groves.
Three-quarter-mile wheelchair-accessible boardwalk and flat trail.
About 200 species. Resident: Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Mottled Duck, Wood Stork, Anhinga, Great, Cattle, and Snowy Egrets, Great Blue, Little Blue, Tricolored, and Green Herons, White and Glossy Ibises, Roseate Spoonbill, Osprey, Turkey and Black Vultures, Red-shouldered Hawk, Purple and Common Gallinules, Limpkin, Fish Crow, Monk Parakeet, Red-winged Blackbird, Boat-tailed Grackle. Late winter to early summer: Least Bittern, Black-necked Stilt, Least Tern, Purple Martin. Autumn to spring: Blue-winged Teal, Egyptian Goose, Sora, American Kestrel, Belted Kingfisher, Eastern Phoebe, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Gray Catbird, Palm, Pine, Black-and-white, and Yellow-rumped Warblers, Northern Parula, Common Yellowthroat.
When to go
Interpretive signs and benches along boardwalk. Three gazebos provide shade near prime viewing areas. Restrooms next to parking lot. Tropical Audubon leads occasional bird walks.
County wastewater-treatment facility. No fees. Open daily 7-7.
Bring plenty of water and a hat, as it can be very hot and humid.
For more info
Green Cay Wetlands
Two miles northwest of Wakodahatchee on Hagen Ranch Rd. Cypress swamp and other habitats accessible from a 1.5-mile elevated boardwalk.
Five miles west of Wakodahatchee. More than 220-square-mile remnant of the northern Everglades. Good for Snail Kite and Limpkin.