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