Beautiful Shore Birds in Florida [With Images]

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Welcome to the captivating world of shorebirds along the sun-kissed beaches of Florida! Have you ever been strolling by the shoreline and spotted a bird that piqued your curiosity? Well, you’re in for a treat.

In this blog post, we’re delving into the realm of these elegant coastal avian residents that grace Florida’s seaboard. Identifying shorebirds might seem like a breeze, but with a diverse lineup of different species frequenting the sandy shores, it’s more intriguing than you might think. Let’s dive in and explore the captivating lives of these feathered inhabitants together!

List of Shore Birds in Florida

Black-Necked Stilt:

Birds With Red Legs

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  • Scientific name: Himantopus mexicanus
  • Lifespan: 5-10 years
  • Size: 36-41 centimeters (14-16 inches)
  • Origin: North and South America

Black-necked Stilt sports eye-catching black-and-white plumage complemented by remarkably long reddish-pink legs. In fact, its legs, measuring over 9 inches, are the longest in proportion to its body size among all bird species. This elegant shorebird resides in Florida throughout the year, favoring shallow marshes for breeding, and can also be found along the coastal areas during the winter months.

Sanderling:

  • Scientific name: Calidris alba
  • Lifespan: Approximately 7 years
  • Size: Small; 7-8 inches (18-20 cm) in length, wingspan of 14-16 inches (35-41 cm)
  • Origin: Global distribution; breeds in Arctic regions and migrates to coastal areas worldwide.

Sanderling is a common sight on Florida’s beaches during the colder months from late August to April. During this time, its plumage adopts a predominantly white color, distinguishing it as the lightest small wading bird on the shore. An interesting characteristic is the appearance of a white stripe on its wings only when it takes flight. Sanderlings are known to forage in small groups along the coastline, showcasing surprising speed as they run along the beach in search of small creatures exposed by the breaking waves. Their white wing stripes flash brightly when they take to the skies.

Short-billed dowitcher

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  • Scientific name: Limnodromus griseus
  • Lifespan: Up to 10 years
  • Size: Approximately 26-31 cm (10-12 inches)
  • Native to: North America
  • Beak length: Around 5-6 cm (2-2.4 inches)

Short-billed Dowitcher is a medium-sized wading bird easily distinguishable by its long, straight, dark bill. This species is a year-round resident along the Florida Gulf Coast and can also be spotted in freshwater habitats. During winter, it displays a brownish-gray upper body and a white underside. However, during the breeding season, its throat and chest undergo a striking transformation, turning cinnamon orange. The bird employs its lengthy bill adeptly to probe muddy and sandy areas for small invertebrates.

Long-billed dowitcher

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  • Scientific name: Limnodromus scolopaceus
  • Lifespan: Up to 11 years
  • Size: Approximately 29-32 cm (11-13 inches)
  • Native to: North America
  • Beak length: Around 8-9 cm (3.1-3.5 inches)

Long-billed Dowitcher closely resembles the Short-billed Dowitcher and is sometimes observed together with it. However, there are key distinctions between the two. Unlike the Short-billed Dowitcher, which breeds in Florida, the Long-billed Dowitcher breeds in the Arctic Tundra and only visits the state during the winter. Identifying features include a slightly larger size and a longer bill. These differences become evident when observing mixed flocks that comprise both species of dowagers.

Black-bellied Plover:

  • Scientific name: Pluvialis squatarola
  • Lifespan: Around 10-15 years
  • Size: Medium-sized; 11-12 inches (28-30 cm) in length, wingspan of 26-29 inches (66-74 cm)
  • Origin: Circumpolar distribution; breeds in the Arctic and winters along coastlines spanning North America, Europe, Africa, and South America.

During its breeding season, the Black-bellied Plover boasts a striking appearance with its black belly, breast, flanks, and face. However, outside of the breeding season, its appearance becomes more subdued, exhibiting white underparts and brown upperparts, resembling the coloration of a Sanderling. Nevertheless, the Black-bellied Plover stands out due to its larger size in comparison. This seabird visits Florida beaches during its winter migration, typically from late July until April.

Spotted Sandpiper

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  • Scientific name: Actitis macularius
  • Lifespan: Up to 5 years
  • Size: Approximately 18-20 cm (7-8 inches)
  • Native to: North and Central America
  • Beak length: About 2-3 cm (0.8-1.2 inches)

Spotted Sandpiper is a familiar sight during the winter in Florida. You can find them along the edges of creeks, estuaries, and freshwater habitats. This water bird exhibits a brownish-gray upper body contrasting with a bright white underside. A distinctive feature is its constant bobbing tail, making it easy to identify. While foraging on banksides and muddy areas, it feeds on small insects and invertebrates found on the ground.

Willet:

  • Scientific name: Tringa semipalmata
  • Lifespan: About 5-7 years
  • Size: Medium-sized; 14-16 inches (36-41 cm) in length, wingspan of 26-29 inches (66-74 cm)
  • Origin: Native to the Americas; breeds in North America and undertakes migrations to Central and South America.

Willet is a common presence along Florida’s coast during the winter months and breeds year-round in northern parts of the state. This medium-sized wading bird has a brown upper body and a white underside, exclusively inhabiting saltwater habitats along the beach. In flight, its black-and-white wing markings become conspicuous. The Willet skillfully forages small insects, worms, crabs, and other invertebrates along the ocean shore.

American oystercatcher

  • Scientific name: Haematopus palliatus
  • Lifespan: 10-15 years
  • Size: 43-50 centimeters (17-20 inches)
  • Origin: North and South America

American Oystercatcher is a stunning beach bird, recognizable by its captivating coloration. With a jet-black head and neck, contrasting with a bright white belly and a long, heavy red bill, it’s a remarkable sight. This bird thrives on tidal flats, following the ebb and flow of tides to feed on shellfish during low tide. Its robust bill comes in handy for prying open mollusk shells and hammering them until they shatter. The American Oystercatcher is a year-round resident, predominantly found on the tidal flats and beaches of Florida’s coast.

Great Egret

Birds with Long Legs

  • Scientific name: Ardea alba
  • Lifespan: 15 years
  • Size: 3 feet
  • Native to: Asia, Africa, the Americas, and southern Europe

Great Egret boasts an extensive global range, inhabiting almost all continents. This heron is an impressive, all-white bird, distinguished by its long black legs and feet and a thick, yellow bill. During the breeding seasons of spring and summer, it grows a plume extending from its back to the tip of its tail. It is adaptable to both saltwater and freshwater habitats, often forming large colonies on the banks of marshes, lakes, and rivers for nesting. Great Egrets forage in various shallow water bodies, including ponds, lakes, rivers, estuaries, and flooded areas. They are particularly abundant in the eastern and central regions of Florida during the summer, and while less common outside the breeding season, they may be spotted in large flocks where present.

Snowy Egret

Birds with Long Legs

  • Scientific name: Egretta thula
  • Lifespan: 16 years
  • Size: 20-27 inches
  • Native to: United States and southern Canada, south through Central America, the West Indies, South America, and Argentina

Snowy Egret has become a more prevalent breeding bird all across Florida, thanks to aggressive conservation efforts. In the past, this egret species faced systematic hunting, prompting the need for protection. This little white heron stands out with its slim black bill and the bright area between its eyes and nostrils. Notably, its long legs and yellow feet distinguish it from other herons. Adult Snowy Egrets display brilliant golden yellow feet and completely black legs, likely attracting small fish and prey. Juvenile birds have a predominant greenish-yellow color on their legs, with some black areas on the front. The Snowy Egret thrives in various wetland environments, ranging from small ponds to saltwater habitats, making it a versatile inhabitant of Florida. During the summer, it is relatively rare to see as a breeding bird, but during the winter, it becomes much more common, and large numbers can be observed in Florida’s coastal areas.

Little Blue Heron

white birds in florida

  • Scientific name: Ardea alba
  • Lifespan: 15 years
  • Size: 3 feet
  • Native to: Asia, Africa, the Americas, and southern Europe

Little Blue Heron exhibits a fascinating change in appearance between its juvenile and adult stages. While adults are slate blue, young birds appear entirely white during their first year. These juveniles can be distinguished from other white herons by their dark bill and green legs. These small herons are common breeding birds in Florida and can be observed year-round. During the winter, their numbers increase due to migratory birds arriving from further north to spend the winter months in Florida. The Little Blue Heron’s diet mainly consists of small fish, mollusks, and crustaceans, with crayfish being a significant part of their food source. They prefer an aquatic habitat and are rarely seen far from water, hunting skillfully in the shallows.

Great Blue Heron

  • Scientific name: Ardea alba
  • Lifespan: 15 years
  • Size: 3 feet
  • Native to: Asia, Africa, the Americas, and southern Europe

Great Blue Heron is one of the most abundant heron species in Florida, where it can be spotted throughout the year. This majestic heron is exceptionally large, boasting a wingspan of up to 6 feet. Its coloration is predominantly blue-gray, except for a white throat and eye stripe, along with dark gray wing feathers. This impressive bird is often seen hunting for small fish in the shallows of estuaries, mud flats, and marshes along the seaboard. It employs a patient approach, waiting for the opportune moment to snatch a suitably sized fish with its long, yellow bill. The Great White Heron, once considered a subspecies of the Great Blue Heron, is an all-white seabird that breeds in Florida Bay. However, recent evidence suggests it is a distinct species of its own.

White Ibis

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  • Scientific name: Eudocimus albus
  • Lifespan: 25 to 27 years
  • Size: 21 to 28 inches
  • Native to: Virginia via the Gulf Coast of the United States

White Ibis is easily identifiable by its entirely white plumage and long, curved, orange beak. While its black wing tips are not prominent until it takes flight, young White Ibises have a chocolate brown body with light streaks and a pale orange beak during their first two years of life. Although commonly found in coastal areas, they prefer foraging in freshwater habitats. Their diet includes fish, insects, crayfish, and other crustaceans, with crayfish being a significant part of their food source where available. These social birds nest in large colonies in forested areas near wetlands, and they typically forage in groups of 20 birds or more, seldom seen alone.

Laughing Gull

white birds in florida

  • Scientific name: Leucophaeus atricilla
  • Lifespan: 22 years old
  • Size: 14–16 in
  • Native to: North and South America

Laughing Gull is a frequent sight along Florida’s entire coastline, characterized by its black head and a distinctive call that resembles human laughter. Adult Laughing Gulls in summer display largely white plumage with a black head and gray upperparts, while their bill and legs are dark red. Juvenile birds appear pale gray-brown. These gulls are commonly found near mud flats and sandy beaches, but they also forage over open water. They are year-round residents in Florida, occasionally venturing further inland during the non-breeding season, appearing at lakes and reservoirs.

Ring-billed Gull

white birds in florida

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  • Scientific name: Larus delawarensis
  • Lifespan: 3 to 10 years.
  • Size: 50 cm
  • Native to: Canada and the northern United States

Ring-billed Gull is a common winter visitor throughout Florida. While it does not nest in the state, a few birds can be seen during the summer as well. Adult Ring-billed Gulls have mostly white plumage with light gray upperparts, a black wingtip, and a bright yellow bill. Juvenile birds have a more mottled appearance with a mix of brown and gray. Commonly found near inland bodies of water, they forage on parks, landfills, and golf courses, and are especially prevalent at large reservoirs. These gulls start arriving in Florida in September and most of them leave by March, with large flocks sometimes congregating in garbage dumps.

Forster’s Tern

white birds in florida

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  • Scientific name: Sterna forsteri
  • Lifespan: 10 Years
  • Size: 13–14 in
  • Native to: North America

Forster’s Tern is a medium-sized seabird and a common breeding species along Florida’s coast. Adults exhibit mostly white plumage with a gray mantle and black cap, and they have an orange beak with a black tip. In their non-breeding plumage, they lose most of their black cap, but a distinctive comma-shaped black eye patch remains. Forster’s Terns primarily breed in shallow seaside waters, including bays, inlets, and tidal flats. Additionally, they may breed in various freshwater settings, most frequently at lakes and reservoirs. Outside of the breeding season, they become rare winter visitors to reservoirs throughout the state.

Caspian Tern

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  • Scientific name: Hydroprogne caspia
  • Lifespan: 12 years
  • Size: 19–24 in
  • Native to: North America (including the Great Lakes), and locally in Europe (mainly around the Baltic Sea and Black Sea), Asia, Africa, and Australasia (Australia and New Zealand).

Caspian Tern holds the distinction of being the largest tern species globally and is a rare winter visitor to Florida. Although resembling the Forster’s Tern at first glance, it is much larger, featuring a thicker bill, broader wings, and a less forked tail. Unlike Forster’s Tern, the Caspian Tern retains a streaked, dark crown during winter, while the latter’s cap becomes completely white. A skilled hunter, the Caspian Tern exhibits astonishing precision while diving into the water to catch fish. It is also known for its food-stealing behavior from other terns and gulls. Breeding in freshwater habitats in Canada and northern USA, the Caspian Tern winters in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico.

Spoonbill Roseate

Birds with Long Legs

  • Scientific name: Platalea ajaja
  • Lifespan: 10 years
  • Size: 24 inches
  • Native to: southern Florida, coastal Texas, and southwestern Louisiana

Roseate Spoonbill belongs to the medium-sized wading bird family, resembling storks but smaller in size. Adult spoonbills have white backs, necks, and faces, while the rest of their plumage is vibrant pink, making them the most common pink birds in Florida. Interestingly, the shade of pink can vary depending on their diet. Consuming more shrimp, which contains carotenoid substances, intensifies the pink hue of their plumage. Often mistaken for flamingos due to their similar appearance, keen ornithologists can differentiate them by their long, spatulate bill with a broad “spoon” at the end. The Everglades is an excellent place to observe these stunning birds, with more than 200 breeding pairs residing there.

American Flamingo

  • Scientific name: Phoeniconaias minor
  • Length: 90 cm
  • Wingspan: 1 m
  • Weight: 2-3 Kg

American Flamingo is a member of the flamingo family, Phoenicopteridae, found in North and South America. While closely associated with the culture of Florida, it is not native to the state. Populations of American Flamingos in Florida are believed to have descended from birds that escaped from parks and zoos. They can be found along the coasts of the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, and northern parts of South America. Although stereotypically linked with Miami, they are commonly seen in the Everglades and other areas with salt flats in Florida.

Double Crested Cormorants

  • Scientific name: Phalacrocorax auritus
  • Lifespan: up to 20 years
  • Size: 30 inches
  • Native to: North America, from the Aleutian Islands in Alaska down to Florida and Mexico

Double-crested Cormorant is a sizeable dark waterbird characterized by its long neck and blue eyes. As a year-round resident in Florida, it is commonly spotted on coastal waters. These cormorants prefer forming large flocks that roost on trees near water bodies. They are skilled divers, using their large hooked bills to hunt for fish. When flying together, they often adopt a V-shaped formation, which can be observed during the evening when they return to their roosting spots.

Royal Tern

  • Scientific name: Thalasseus maximus
  • Lifespan: Typically 15-20 years
  • Size: Medium-sized; 17-20 inches (43-50 cm) in length, wingspan of 30-32 inches (76-81 cm)
  • Origin: Native to the Americas; inhabits coastlines of North, Central, and South America.

Royal Tern breeds in southern Florida, specifically in Tampa Bay and Banana River. During winter, their population increases as migratory birds from the north fly down to Florida. Throughout the cold months, these elegant birds can be seen along the entire Florida coastline, plunging head-first into the water to catch small fish.

Herring Gull

  • Scientific name: Larus argentatus
  • Lifespan: Up to 30 years or more
  • Size: Large; 22-26 inches (56-66 cm) in length, wingspan of 49-60 inches (124-152 cm)
  • Origin: Native to North America, Europe, and Asia; thrives in coastal and inland regions near water bodies.

Herring Gull is a common winter visitor along the entire Florida coastline. Known for its scavenging habits, it frequents landfills and garbage dumps. This large gull displays a white head and underparts, a pale gray mantle, and black wingtips. During winter, it features gray speckles on its neck and head. Besides scavenging, the Herring Gull feeds on fish, mollusks, and crustaceans. Its intelligence is evident as it drops shellfish from a height to crack their shells open and consume the soft interior.

Tricolored heron

Birds with Long Necks

  • Scientific name: Egretta tricolor
  • Lifespan: 17 years
  • Size: 24-26 inches
  • Native to: Northeastern United States, south along the coast, through the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, to northern South America as far south as Brazil

Tricolored Heron is a medium-sized heron with a blue-gray upper body and chest, along with a white belly. It breeds in Florida, primarily found in estuaries and saltwater marshes. Nesting in colonies, it sometimes forms colonies with other heron species. This shorebird is adept at hunting fish and invertebrates in shallow waters, employing a patient approach until its prey comes within reach.

Black Skimmer

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  • Scientific name: Rynchops niger
  • Lifespan: 10-15 years
  • Size: 43-50 centimeters (17-20 inches)
  • Origin: North and South America

Black Skimmer is a remarkable shore bird easily distinguishable by its appearance and behavior. Its black upper body contrasts with a bright white underside, complemented by a long, bright red bill. Interestingly, the lower part of the bill is significantly longer than the upper part. The Black Skimmer catches fish by gracefully flying along the water surface and dragging its lower bill through the water. Upon encountering a fish, the bill swiftly snaps shut to catch its prey. This bird breeds along the Gulf Coast and the Florida East Coast and can also be observed as a winter visitor in more southern regions.

Brown Pelicans

birds with blue eyes

  • Scientific name: Pelecanus occidentalis
  • Lifespan: 30 years
  • Size:45 inches
  • Native to: U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and the southeastern coast

Brown Pelican is a familiar sight along Florida’s seashore, easily recognizable by its massive bill. Adult Brown Pelicans have grayish-brown plumage with a dark belly. They hunt fish by dramatically plunging head-first into the water. Once endangered due to pesticide poisoning, this species has made a significant recovery and is now a common breeding bird and year-round resident in Florida.

Most Common Florida Beach Birds: The most common beach birds in Florida are Sanderlings, small wading birds often seen running along the beach’s edge near breaking waves. Their predominantly white and light brown plumage makes them easily distinguishable from other birds.

Further Readings

I'm Nauman Afridi, the bird enthusiast behind Birdsology.com. My lifelong passion for birds has led me to create a space where fellow bird lovers can find valuable insights and tips on caring for our feathered friends.Professionally, I'm a brand strategist and digital marketing consultant, bringing a unique perspective to the world of bird care. Whether you're a novice or an experienced bird owner, Birdsology.com is designed to be a welcoming community for all.Feel free to explore, and reach out if you have any questions or just want to chat about birds.
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