Birdwatchers’ 15 favorite birding destinations in the U.S. and Canada

4. Everglades National Park, Florida

While the Everglades — once a river of grass 50 miles wide and six inches deep — have felt the pressure of development for decades, the place is still a birder’s mecca. The Everglades are memorable not only for great birds and unbelievable vistas, but for the close association of the Everglades to the history of birdwatching. Bird protection was one of the reasons the Everglades became a national park in 1947. More than 400 species have been recorded there, including South Florida specialties such as Snail Kites, Smooth-billed Anis, and White-crowned Pigeons.

Bob Showler, a long-time National Park Service employee now stationed at Zion National Park in Utah, spent many years living in Flamingo, near the southern edge of the Everglades. “Our backyard extended for 30 miles to the Florida Keys,” he says. “We’d sit on our porch and marvel at a melee of life, the ‘gift of the Everglades.’ Fish flopped, leaped, and churned in the bay’s waters.

“But the birds provided my greatest Everglades memories. Endless flocks of shorebirds whirred past our apartment, headed toward rich mudflats on nearby Snake Bight. A Great Blue Heron, along with its Caribbean white-phased counterpart, stalked side by side over the shallows. White-crowned Pigeons flapped noisily in a giant strangler fig tree, gulping down its abundant fruit.”

Location: The southern tip of Florida • Best time to visit: December through April • Birds: Limpkin, Snail Kite, Short-tailed Hawk, Mangrove Cuckoo, Greater Flamingo • Contact: Everglades National Park: (305) 242-7700; Audubon Society of the Everglades: (561) 588-6908

“Early mornings in the Everglades are full of surprises. … Slowly, still-darkened skies fill with flocks of ibises, egrets, and Roseate Spoonbills, their wings flapping in distinct rhythms, distinguishing them even from great distances.” — “Lurking in the Lagoon” by Myra Yellin Goldfarb, Birder’s World, December 1989, pp. 10-13

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Matt Mendenhall

Matt Mendenhall

Matt Mendenhall is the editor of BirdWatching magazine and BirdWatchingDaily.com. He joined the staff of BirdWatching (formerly Birder’s World) in 2000 and has worn many hats over the years: reporter, story wrangler, photo editor, managing editor, and now editor. Originally from Omaha, he lives with his wife and two daughters in Milwaukee and holds a Bachelor’s in journalism from Marquette University. You can reach Matt at (617) 706-9098 and [email protected].

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