The State of Florida is highly diverse with vast stretches of coastline, freshwater glades, swamps, and forests, as well as highland areas with rolling hills and prairies. It also has a varying climate with the south of the region swaying towards tropical and the north being subtropical. With all these varying environments it is no surprise that it has an abundant array of wildlife.
From mammals to birds, reptiles, and amphibians, wildlife encounters are an everyday occurrence here in Florida. It’s not unusual to see pelicans on the beach or deer on your lawn.
Here’s a short guide to some of Florida’s most common, wild animals.
From back garden birds to birds found on the coast and the birds that visit freshwater areas, Florida has a plethora of avian delights.
Northern Cardinal – these charismatic songbirds are found in a variety of habitats within Southern Florida. From backyards and built-up areas, as well as forests and woods they are a common and welcomed sight. The male’s bright red plumage (females have a lighter brown) makes them an easy spot and their distinctive songs are a great indication of their whereabouts.
Pelicans – there are two species of pelican that can be found within Florida. The first, the brown pelican, is a resident in the state all year round. This small, grey, brown bird with its long bill and impressive feeding pouch can be found on beaches, mangroves, and even docks, usually plunging into the water to catch fish. The second pelican species is the American white pelican, which is much larger than the brown and startling white in color, but still with an impressive feeding pouch, as well as an enormous nine-and-a-half-foot wingspan. Often seen flying high together in a V formation, they are winter visitors to the Florida coasts.
Bald Eagles – according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida has one of the “densest concentrations of nesting bald eagles in the lower 48 states”. A large raptor, the bald eagle is famous for its white head and immense wingspan. Typically nesting inland, around lakes, and in forested areas with shallow water for fishing. They aren’t fussy either, happily feasting on freshwater or salt-water fish as well as roadkill and other mammals.
There are mammals roaming both the land and the sea within the state of Florida:
Raccoons – this masked mammal thrives throughout Florida where it uses its cunning and intelligence to seek out food sources. Raccoons are nuisance animals that will just as happily rummage through a trash can in search of a tasty treat, just as it would feast on berries, small animals, eggs, and pretty much whatever else it can get its paws on. Often seen in the evening and through the night, they will venture out in the day if feeding opportunities arise.
White-tailed Deer – fond of habitats with low grass and an area of cover, white-tailed deer might even be a visitor to backyards – especially if there are some tasty flowers present. A subspecies of these deer, Key deer, is the smallest of the species and only found throughout the Florida Keys, they are capable of swimming between the islands.
Dolphins – a variety of dolphin species can be seen in Florida waters but the most common of them is the bottle-nosed dolphin. Almost an everyday occurrence, these athletic marine mammals can be seen putting on a quite the show, with playful leaps, flips, and dives seen from the shores of certain beaches.
Florida Manatee – another of Florida’s sea-dwelling mammals, the Florida manatee is a distant relative to the West Indian manatee and is entirely native to Florida. They can grow up to around 13 feet long and weigh a whopping 3,500 pounds. Florida’s ‘sea-cows’ are under threat though, especially as their fondness for shallow waters greatly increases the risk of collisions with boats and other watercrafts.
Those fresh-water habitats, the slow-flowing rivers of the Everglades and swamps give a home to Florida’s reptile species, including these notable residents:
American Alligator – these large, freshwater loving, reptiles are incredible swimmers and will hunt for prey such as turtles, fish, small mammals, and birds. When they aren’t swimming, they can be found basking in the sun so as to regulate their temperatures – sometimes those basking spots just so happen to be by the water hazards on golf courses! There are also crocodiles present within Florida, usually found deep in the Everglades, but the alligator is the more common of the two.
It’s clear to see that there’s no shortage of wildlife within the state of Florida. For example, the Big Cypress National Preserve is home to a diversity of wildlife, including the elusive Florida panther. Florida's varying habitats from coastal to swampland offer up plenty of refuge for all. Even its commonest animals are a joy to see, from the majestic bald eagle to the gentle manatee and everything in-between.
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