Winter Migratory Birds of Florida [Images + IDs]

Migration is a crucial aspect of avian life, driven by the necessity to secure sustenance in the face of changing climates. As temperatures drop and food becomes scarce, birds embark on journeys to warmer regions, a phenomenon that unfolds intriguingly in the state of Florida.

Unlike random flights, migratory birds adhere to established flyways, time-tested routes that facilitate swift travel. Florida emerges as a vital destination due to its sub-tropical climate and the slightly warmer coastal areas. The surrounding seas, rich in marine life, coupled with wetlands, mangrove forests, and expansive sandy beaches, make Florida an enticing haven.

Winter Guests in Florida

Florida plays host to a myriad of bird species during the winter months, a temporary respite from colder northern territories. Their arrival, typically in fall, and departure in early spring (between October and April), bring a unique spectacle as they adapt to the state’s environment.


Palm Warbler (Setophaga palmarum)

Breed primarily in Canada, Palm Warblers exhibit a distinctive rusty cap and predominantly yellow bodies. Recognizable by their fluttering tails, revealing a yellow undertail while foraging for insects, they stand out as among the first warblers to return to breeding grounds.

  • Average Length: 13 cm
  • Habitat: Open Woodlands
  • Diet: Insects and berries
  • Conservation: Low concern

Palm Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata)

Florida hosts the Myrtle form of the Yellow-rumped Warbler, distinguished by a yellow rump and abundant presence. Non-breeding colors include mousy brown with a yellow side patch.

  • Average Length: 14 cm
  • Habitat: Open areas with shrubs or scattered trees
  • Diet: Bayberries and Insects
  • Conservation: Low concern

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Black-and-white Warbler (Mniotilta varia)

Known for their black-and-white appearance, these warblers sport heavy black streaks on a white head and body. Non-breeding males are somewhat duller, displaying a pale wash from their bill down to their belly.

  • Average Length: 12 cm
  • Habitat: Forest
  • Diet: Insects, berries, and nectar
  • Conservation: Low concern

Black-and-white Warbler

Orange-crowned Warbler (Leiothlypis celata)

Primarily yellow-olive, the Orange-crowned Warbler conceals an orange crown that is challenging to see. Non-breeding males are slightly duller.

  • Average Length: 19 cm
  • Habitat: Forest with dense shrubbery and low trees
  • Diet: Insects
  • Conservation: Low concern

Orange-crowned Warbler


Anhinga (Grus canadensis)

Belonging to the darter family, the Anhinga spends considerable time underwater, spearfishing prey. Almost black with white secondary coverts, they appear snake-like when gliding on water.

  • Average Length: 89 cm
  • Habitat: Marshes
  • Diet: Fish
  • Conservation: Low concern


These winter guests bring vibrancy to Florida’s natural landscapes, offering bird enthusiasts and nature lovers a unique opportunity to witness their remarkable survival strategies. As they bid adieu to the Sunshine State, their migratory journeys contribute to the aw

Marbled Godwit: Majestic Shore Wanderers

Marbled Godwits (Limosa fedoa) stand as tall, long-legged shorebirds within the expansive Sandpiper family. Towering over their relatives, they boast marbled backs and heads, with a distinct light brown wash underneath. A striking feature is their long, upward-curving bill, presenting a two-tone spectacle of pink with a broad black tip. Even in their non-breeding state, these birds maintain a similar appearance with a paler belly wash in males.

Marbled Godwit

These majestic birds are often spotted probing sandy beaches and mud flats, delving deep, sometimes up to their eyes, in search of aquatic invertebrates, constituting a significant portion of their diet.

  • Average Length: 50 cm
  • Habitat: Mostly marshes
  • Diet: Aquatic Invertebrates
  • Conservation: Declining

Gull-billed Tern: Elegance in Obscurity

The Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica) captivates birders with its stunning black cap extending from the bill to the back. Although challenging to identify out of the breeding season, subtle dark lines from the eye and distinct features like black legs and bill aid in recognition. Renowned for its slightly larger bill, it expands its diet beyond fish, demonstrating versatility by capturing crabs and occasionally preying on other Terns’ chicks.

Gull-billed Tern

  • Average Length: 42 cm
  • Habitat: Shorelines and brushy areas
  • Diet: Insects and amphibians
  • Conservation: Low concern

Ruddy Turnstone: A Coastal Marvel

The distinctive Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) thrives around rocky shores and estuaries, standing out with its stocky build and short orange legs. Its dark plumage, accompanied by two black bibs, a white belly, and intricate patterns on the head, ensures easy recognition. During the non-breeding phase, males adopt a brown head with faint black stripes.

Ruddy Turnstone

  • Average Length: 24 cm
  • Habitat: Shorelines
  • Diet: Aquatic Invertebrates
  • Conservation: Declining

Winter Migrating Ducks: Adapting in Plumage

In the realm of ducks, molting is a pivotal process occurring twice a year. The transition into breeding feathers and the subsequent shedding for drab winter colors aid in camouflage and thermal insulation, essential for survival.

Northern Pintail: 

The male Northern Pintail (Anas acuta) emerges as an elegant dabbling duck during the breeding season, marked by a lengthy central tail feather that defines its name. With a blue bill, chestnut heads, and distinct wing patterns, these ducks are a visual spectacle. The non-breeding phase sees a shift to light brown tones, maintaining upper wing patterns.

Northern Pintail

  • Average Length: 28 cm
  • Habitat: Marshes
  • Diet: Winter, mostly plant life
  • Conservation: Low concern

Explore the Northern Pintail

Greater Scaup: 

Greater Scaups (Aythya marila) exhibit exceptional diving prowess, plunging beneath the water’s surface and staying submerged for almost 20 seconds. The male showcases a distinctive dark head and neck, complemented by a white underbelly and striking yellow eyes. Often referred to as “bluebill,” these ducks are characterized by their blue bills and a white speculum.

Greater Scaup

Even in their non-breeding colors, Greater Scaup males maintain a nearly identical appearance, with buffy grey replacing the paler hues.

  • Average Length: 55 cm
  • Habitat: Lakes and ponds
  • Diet: Aquatic Invertebrates
  • Conservation: Common birds face a steep decline

Red-breasted Merganser:  

The vibrant Red-breasted Mergansers (Mergus serrator) earn their name from the cinnamon-colored breast that sets them apart. Featuring a mesmerizing blend of colors, these birds exhibit a white ring around their neck, a black head, red eyes, and a uniquely untidy crest. This distinctive species stands out with a long, red, serrated, saw-like bill, ideal for gripping fish once caught.

Red-breasted Merganser

Red-breasted Mergansers dive underwater for their meals and display the rare behavior of migrating from clear water lakes to seawater in sunny Florida.

  • Average Length: 64 cm
  • Habitat: Lakes and ponds
  • Diet: Fish
  • Conservation: Low concern

Northern Shoveler: 

Northern Shovelers (Spatula clypeata) are distinguished dabbling ducks equipped with spade-like bills, aiding them in filtering crustaceans. The males showcase green heads, yellow eyes, white chests, brown bellies, and distinctive green scapula. In their non-breeding phase, males adopt a brown head with a lighter body and coarse brown markings.

Northern Shoveler

  • Average Length: 48 cm
  • Habitat: Marshes
  • Diet: Omnivores
  • Conservation: Low concern


Redheads (Aythya americana) grace the waters as diving ducks with distinctive features. The males exhibit reddish heads, steep foreheads, yellow eyes, black breasts, and greyish bodies. In their non-breeding state, males sport lighter heads with a soft brown hue throughout their bodies. Females are known for laying eggs in the nests of other species, showcasing brood parasitism.


  • Average Length: 18 cm
  • Habitat: Lakes and ponds
  • Diet: Plants
  • Conservation: Low concern

Ring-necked Duck:  

Ring-necked Ducks (Aythya collaris) with their distinctive black heads, slight tufts, thin brown neck rings, and black bills with two rings, present an elegant monochrome appearance. Their bodies are white beneath, and the black back adds to their striking features. Non-breeding males display lighter heads with grey-brown sides and a single white ring near the bill’s tip.

Ring-necked Duck

These ducks frequent shallow waters and ponds, creating a picturesque sight for birders.

  • Average Length: 18 cm
  • Habitat: Lakes and ponds
  • Diet: Plants
  • Conservation: Low concern

Blue-winged Teal:  

Blue-winged Teals (Spatula discors) showcase remarkable migratory prowess, being among the first to leave and the last to return to their breeding grounds. These potent fliers traverse oceans in search of suitable habitats. Their striking features include black faces, a crescent-shaped white stripe in front of their eyes, light brown bodies with blackish dots, black backs, green speculums, and blue wing coverts.

Blue-winged Teal

Non-breeding males adopt golden-brown tones with a slight dark stripe through their eyes. Similar to other species, females engage in brood parasitism.

  • Average Length: 40 cm
  • Habitat: Lakes and ponds
  • Diet: Plants
  • Conservation: Low concern

American Wigeon:  

The American Wigeon (Mareca americana) stands out with its fashionable appearance, sporting a green eye patch, a white crown, and a short blue bill with black tips. Its brown sides and white belly, complemented by brown and black wings, create a striking look. In flight, the distinctive white upper wing patch and green secondaries, along with white stripes under their wings, become apparent.

American Wigeon

During non-breeding periods, the male American Wigeon adopts reddish-brown bodies with darker heads and smudges around their eyes. The white patch and green secondaries, though not always visible, maintain their allure.

  • Average Length: 59 cm
  • Habitat: Lakes and Ponds
  • Diet: Plants
  • Conservation: Low concern

Green-winged Teal:  

The Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca), a petite dabbling duck, charms with its distinctive features. A captivating green eyepatch extends toward its back, accompanied by a cinnamon-colored cap flowing around the eyes and cheeks. Notably smaller than other ducks, it boasts a vertical stripe on the side of its chest and exhibits grey sides and wings with a pale-yellow rear end. The green speculum adds to its visual appeal.

Green-winged Teal

Even in non-breeding plumage, the males maintain a touch of elegance with a small stripe at the back, though subdued in drab brown.

  • Average Length: 39 cm
  • Habitat: Marshes
  • Diet: Seeds
  • Conservation: Low concern

Navigating Migration Challenges

Migration presents a complex challenge for these avian species, especially in today’s ever-changing climate. The intricacies of their migratory paths and the factors influencing their journey still warrant thorough investigation. Facing immense challenges, including shifts in weather patterns, these birds exemplify the resilience and adaptability inherent in nature.

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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