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Florida Wildlife Viewing Guide - Where and When to See

Watchable Wildlife in Florida

Florida wildlife viewing - want to know where the best places to see wildlife and nature at their most spectacular?  Florida Wildlife Viewing can help you.

Wildlife Viewing highlights not only where to go but when to go, which is just as important.

What to see and when.

Everything in nature is governed by the seasons and weather. Every month has its wildlife viewing specialties, and some opportunities go on for many weeks or months. Wildlife viewing requires subtlety, time and patience. There are no guarantees animals and nature will abide by their normal internal clocks. But that's part of the challenge, and what makes wildlife and nature viewing even more interesting.  

November Hotspots: Manatees start gathering near warm water springs. Wintering waterfowl make their first appearance.

Florida wildlife

December Hotspots: Birds are the main theme. View wintering waterfowl at close quarters. Or join a Christmas Bird Count with the Audubon Society.

January Hotspots: Tromp though a swamp on a guided tour. See manatees, above or below water.

March Hotspots: See nesting roseate spoonbills in the South or enjoy the amazing display of spring wildflowers.

April Hotspots: 100,000 nesting sooty terns in the Dry Tortugas, nesting brown pelicans on both coasts, ranger-led activities in national parks, nesting roseate spoonbills in Central Florida and more.

May Hotspots: Some of the most colorful birds are nesting this month, including ospreys and red-cockaded woodpeckers. Also, it's time to make reservations for summer turtle walks to view nesting sea turtles.

June Hotspots: Loggerhead turtles are nesting on Florida east coast beaches. The nesting process is one of nature's most amazing sights.

September Hotspots: Start of the fall hawk migration, excellent time to view the tiny Key deer.

October Hotspots: Monarch butterflies stream into Florida and the north starts its color change.

Birds

Florida is a birders paradise. There are nearly 500 native species as well dozens of established exotics like the red-whiskered bulbul and the monk parakeet can be seen in the state.  You can easily see cranes, pelicans, caracara, swallow-tailed kites, tropical seabirds and many other species… just bring your binoculars!

  • Pelicans, Cormorants, and Anhinga
  • Egrets, Storks, Spoonbills and Ibis
  • Waterfowl
  • Birds of prey – Eagles, hawks, vultures
  • Shorebirds
  • Gulls, terns and skimmers
  • Turkey and quail
  • Owls
  • Crows and Jays
  • Woodpeckers
  • Thrushes, Warblers, and Sparrows


Gators / Crocs

Alligators are abundant and can be found basking in the sun on canal banks and besides rivers and lakes.  It would be difficult to leave Florida without seeing an alligator! 

Mammals

If you are in the right place at the right time, Florida has quite a few mammals that are comparatively easy to see.  Otters, opossums, manatees, fox squirrels, raccoons, white-tailed deer, key deer and armadillos are among the more commonly seen mammals.

  • Virginia Opossum
  • Nine-banded Armadillo
  • Bats
  • Raccoon
  • Coyote and foxes
  • Bear
  • Skunk and otter
  • Bobcat
  • Florida Panther
  • Aquatic mammals – manatee, dolphins
  • Pigs and deer
  • Moles and Shrews
  • Rodents – mice, rats, pocket gopher, squirrels.
  • Rabbits

Turtles

 

Turtles and tortoises are a little more difficult to see, but if you go canoeing or kayaking you will almost certainly spot a turtle basking.  You may also see them crossing the highway – but watch for traffic if you try to help one cross the road!

Sea Turtles

  • Leatherback Turtle
  • Green Turtle
  • Loggerhead Turtle
  • Hawksbill Turtle

Turtles and Tortoises

  • Gopher Tortoise
  • Box Turtle
  • Alligator Snapping Turtle
  • Common Snapping Turtle
  • Striped Mud Turtle
  • Softshell Turtle
  • Spiny Softshell Turtle
  • Cooter
  • River Cooter
  • Red-bellied Turtle
  • Yellow-bellied Slider
  • Stinkpot (Common Musk Turtle)
  • Mangrove Terrapin
  • Red-eared Slider

 

Frogs / Toads

Florida has the richest concentration of amphibians of any State in the USA.  Many species are common and easy to see.  Stand beside a pond or lake in the evening with a flashlight, or look around porch and streetlights where abundant flying insects attract toads and geckos.

  • Pig Frog
  • Gopher Frog
  • Bullfrog
  • Southern Leopard Frog
  • Barking Treefrog
  • Green Treefrog
  • Squirrel Treefrog
  • Cuban Treefrog
  • Little Grass Frog
  • Giant (Marine) Toad
  • Southern Toad
  • Eastern Spadefoot Toad
  • Eastern Narrowmouth Toad

 

Snakes

Though many people imagine the tropics to be ‘dripping’ with snakes, in reality, they are amazingly cryptic and difficult to see.  There are 45 species of snakes, but you will have to look hard to see any of them.

  • Eastern Hognose Snake
  • Rat Snakes
  • Eastern Indigo Snake
  • Black Racer
  • Rough Green Snake
  • Garter Snake
  • Mud Snake
  • Brown Water Snake
  • Pine Snake
  • Salt Marsh Snake
  • Scarlet Snake
  • Striped Crayfish Snake
  • Swamp Snake
  • Pine Woods Snake
  • Ringneck Snake
  • Brown Snake
  • Scarlet Kingsnake
  • Crowned Snake
  • Eastern Coral Snake
  • Cottonmouth (Water Moccasin)
  • Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
  • Canebreak Rattlesnake
  • Dusky Pigmy Rattlesnake
  • Southern Copperhead
  • Burmese Python
  • Brahminy Blind Snake

Lizards


Florida has several lizard species that are easy to find and interesting to watch.  Geckos are so common in buildings in South Florida that they are called ‘house lizards.’  Anoles and skinks are easy to watch in almost any park or garden.

  • Mediterranean Gecko
  • Indo-Pacific Gecko
  • Worm Lizard
  • Green Anole
  • Brown Anole
  • Fence Lizard
  • Scrub Lizard
  • Southeastern Five-lined Skink
  • Ground Skink
  • Mole Skink
  • Sand Skink
  • Broad-headed Skink
  • Six-lined Racerunner
  • Eastern Glass Lizard

NON-NATIVE SPECIES

  • Rainbow Lizard
  • Brown Basilisk
  • Iguana
  • African Rainbow Lizard or African Red-headed Agama

Insects


Insects are not difficult to see – they usually find you, but once you get past the unwanted mosquitoes and deer flies there is a dazzling abundance of insect life in this tropical state. Gloriously colored butterflies and huge tropical moths can be seen almost year around, and exotic-looking walking sticks and giant orange grasshoppers are easy to find. There are a few insects to be careful of but they are easy to avoid.

  • Butterflies and Moths
  • Grasshoppers, mantids and Katydids
  • Cicadas
  • Roaches
  • Beetles
  • Bees
  • Ants
  • Lovebugs
  • Chiggers
  • Ticks
  • Spiders
  • Scorpions

Fish

You can find a good fishing spot almost anywhere you go in Florida but you may need a local guide to find "the big ones". Try one of the freshwater lakes and rivers, explore the tidal flats and bays, or travel far offshore into the Atlantic Gulf Stream or Gulf of Mexico. If you have the right bait and enough time, you are bound to catch something, but you need to check with FWC if you can keep it! If you don't need to catch dinner, you can always put on a mask and snorkel to see some of these fish out in their natural habitat.

Freshwater Fish

  • Largemouth Bass Suwannee Bass
  • Black Crappie
  • Sunfish
  • Channel Cat
  • Brown Bullhead Catfish
  • Pirate Perch
  • Seminole Killifish
  • Gar
  • Golden Shiner
  • Saltwater Fish
  • Drum
  • Spotted Seatrout
  • Silver Perch or Yellowtail
  • Whiting
  • Gulf Flounder
  • Grouper
  • Black Sea Bass
  • Sand Perch
  • Bluefish
  • White Mullet
  • Greater Amberjack
  • Blue Runner
  • Crevalle Jack
  • Spanish Mackerel
  • Pinfish
  • Sheepshead
  • Snapper
  • Bluestriped Grunt
  • Common Snook
  • Leatherjacket
  • Atlantic Needlefish
  • Atlantic Spadefish
  • Orange Filefish
  • Remora or Sharksucker
  • Scrawled Cowfish
  • Pigfish
  • Ladyfish
  • Tarpon
  • Hardhead Catfish
  • Gafftop Sailcat
  • Sardine
  • Bay Anchovy
  • Threadfin Herring
  • Ballyhoo
  • Leatherjacket
  • Killifish
  • Sailfin Molly

Plants

Florida has more tree species than any other state in the continental United States and our subtropical climate supports palms, orchids, and nearly 4,000 species of flowering plants. Visitors from colder parts of North America and Europe are often amazed to see common house plants growing as hedges in southern gardens.

  • Air Plants and Orchids
  • Vines
  • Ferns
  • Grasses
  • Wildflowers
  • Trees and Shrubs
  • Citrus – oranges, grapefruits, and lemons
  • Aquatic Plants

Sharks

More than 50 species of sharks can be found in the waters around Florida, but most of these are deep water species, rarely seen by the average person. However, Florida has the greatest number of unprovoked shark attacks of any state in the U.S.

  • Sand Tiger Shark
  • Blacktip Shark
  • Sandbar Shark
  • Nurse Shark
  • Atlantic Sharpnose Shark