The Great Florida Birding Trail
and Wildlife Viewing Opportunities in Brevard
With the change of seasons in Florida, so comes change of wildlife. Sea turtle nesting season winds down at the end of October, but in November begins North American right whale calving season. In addition to calving season, other great opportunities for wildlife viewing occur in the state of Florida. Among them is found on and along the Great Florida Birding Trail.
The GFBT is a 2,000-mile, self-guided highway trail which connects 515 birding and wildlife viewing sites throughout the state of Florida. It is made up of four sections - East, West, Panhandle and South. Each section contains clusters of anywhere from one to 15 sites. There are nine gateway sites throughout the trail. At these gateway locations, there are staffed visitor centers and are hubs for Trail information. Optics can be loaned at the gateways for free with a driver's license or major credit card.
Millions of people visit Florida annually just to visit the Trail, and the best time for birding on the Trail is during the Dry Season (November through April) due to the abundance of migratory and wintering birds. However, you should check the Trail Guides to be sure you're visiting at the right time, depending on which species you are interested in viewing.
Brevard falls under the East Florida Section of the Trail, with many extraordinary opportunities for bird and wildlife viewing. One of the most popular birding sites in the state is located in Brevard. Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, a gateway location, has over 330 documented species in a dozen different types of habitat. The Refuge's roads, trails and boat ramps are open year-round, from sunrise to sunset. The only time the Refuge is closed is during NASA launches. The gateway visitor center is open Mondays through Fridays, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and from 9 to 5 p.m. on weekends. From April to October, however, the visitor center is closed on Sundays.
The Refuge offers a seven-mile wildlife drive (Black Point Wildlife Drive) plus shore- and wading bird viewing opportunities. At any given time you may see a Roseate Spoonbill, a Green-winged Teal duck, Reddish Egrets, and more. Alligator sightings are a common occurrance, too. You may even spot a Bald Eagle or a Cinnamon Teal. With more than 330 documented species, visitors are sure to be dazzled by an array of birds and wildlife.
Adjacent to the Refuge is Canaveral National Seashore, another of Florida's natural treasures. Also part of the Trail, the Canaveral National Seashore at Playalinda Beach offers opportunities to view Roseate Spoonbills, Ospreys, Black-necked Stilt and Bald Eagles, among others. The Seashore is open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. For any weather or NASA-launch related closures, be sure to check their updated web page here. With six different types of habitats ranging from mangrove swamps to beach dunes to forests and more, the Seashore is also a diverse area for wildlife. Plus, at Eddy Creek on the Mosquito Lagoon, you'll find a boat ramp and a boardwalk where you might see herons, egrets, ibises, pelicans and more.
In addition to these two great birding areas in Brevard, there are many more nestled throughout Brevard. Check out the entire East Florida Section list for more information.
Many people also flock to Brevard in January for the annual Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival, which enters its 17th year this coming January. Education opportunities abound with classes and field trips. Plus you'll find a group of nationally and internationally recognized naturalists, biologists, orinthologists, scientists, artists and more, as educators, featured speakers, exhibitors and more. There is also a silent auction and much more.
If you are coming to Brevard and are interested in hitting the Trail, as it were, feel free to contact us with any questions you may have. We'll do our best to supply you with as much information and local insight as you'd like! Call us at (321) 729-8885 (or toll-free at 886-729-8885) or contact us via message.