Bird Watching on Marco Island
Marco Island’s beautiful birds are one of the island’s greatest assets. Bird watching on Marco Island is especially rewarding. There are many species native to the island.
I photographed this osprey posing on Tigertail Beach. Although these majestic birds are not normally people friendly, this one seems to enjoy the attention!! If you are like me, it is special to capture a beautiful photo to use in your home. What a precious vacation memory! This osprey’s picture is now in Sea Mar Condo for our guests to enjoy!
There are many birds which are native to Marco Island and the southern Florida area. Some birds that are more common on Marco Island include the white egret, osprey, pelican, bald eagle and burrowing owl.
The Great Florida Birding Trail
Tigertail Beach Park is located on the Great Florida Birding Trail. It is a nice place to see and photograph many species of birds. There are also other bird watching sites around Marco Island. They include Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Briggs Nature Center, Frank E. Mackle Jr. Community Park, Eagle Lakes Community Park and Sugden Regional Park. A short 40 minute drive to Big Cypress Welcome Center and Turner Loop Road near Everglades City are also great birding sites.
Burrowing Owls on Marco Island
Marco Island has been recognized by the Audubon Society for their efforts to increase the numbers of burrowing owls. The small owls are protected by both the state of Florida and the city of Marco Island. Many island residents have volunteered to adopt and offer protective housing (borrows) for these beautiful birds. For the last three years, a family of burrowing owls have made their nest on Resident’s Beach, a private beach for residents on the island. The owls are given a wide roped off space, but are yet visible to beachgoers. Hint: They tend to pose for pics in the morning and late afternoon hours.
Osprey on the Island
Anytime you are on the water around Marco Island, you will likely see large osprey nests built of sticks on channel markers. Ospreys have a large brown back and a white underside. Visitors to Marco Island see these birds soaring around condo buildings and over the Gulf waters. They are very large with wingspans of between 4-5 feet. Ospreys soar above the shallow water along the beach, then hover briefly before diving feet first to grab a fish. The bird then takes off with its fish to carry it back to its nest or perch. It is not uncommon to see ospreys perched on a building or along the beach on driftwood in the Tigertail area.
Lots of Pelicans on Marco Island
This is my favorite bird to watch on Marco Island! What fun it is to see these impressive divers circling high above the Gulf waters before diving headfirst in search of the perfect feast. Often you will see the brown pelicans fly in group formation in a V-shape along the water. Pelicans are plentiful on Marco. It is common to be in the water and see one swoop within a few feet. Watch the pelican as it expands its throat pouch (gullet) to trap fish, filling it with over 2 gallons of water, then enjoying a tasty meal! A friend of mine took the picture to the left as we left on a Marco Island Princess dinner cruise. This picture is also in Sea Mar Condo for our guests to enjoy! See our full article on The Brown Pelican at https://seamarcondo.com/marco-island-wildlifethe-brown-pelican.
More rare to spot on Marco Island are white pelicans. They arrive in the area in late fall and stay until the early spring. The white pelican has white feathers and a pink-tangerine colored bill. Isolated areas like mangrove islands are preferred habitats since these birds are shy and less social. Your chances of seeing a white pelican are better during a boat tour of the 10,000 islands with binoculars. White pelicans work as a team to herd their food prey, fluffing their wings to assemble and gather the fish.
Bald Eagles on Marco Island
Marco Island Nature Preserve is home to the island’s nesting American Bald Eagles during nesting season. The preserve is located at 665 Tigertail Court, Marco Island, FL. This organization works alongside volunteers of Marco Island to guarantee the safety of active Bald Eagle nests. Visitors may visit during nesting season between November and May.
The Marco Island Nature Preserve & Bird Sanctuary also has a Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/MarcoIslandNaturePreserve. The page has lots of great information on these majestic birds and their activity.
Birdwatching on Marco Island is more exciting with color! Another of my favorite birds around Marco and the 10,000 island area is the roseate spoonbill. The spoonbill is a beautiful pink wading bird. Although rare to see on Marco, they are sometimes spotted near Tigertail Lagoon. Visitors taking eco tours of the 10,000 islands commonly get to see the roseate spoonbill. Besides Tigertail Lagoon, my sightings include one on a boat tour a few years ago and again on a drive along Turner Loop Road in the Everglades.
The roseate spoonbill has bright pink feathers and red eyes with a giant spoon-shaped bill. These birds are especially beautiful in flight flying with their outstretched necks. A couple of neat facts about the spoonbill: They bald as they mature by losing feathers from the top of their head. And, their pink color comes from the crustaceans they eat, which contain pigments called carotenoids that turn their feathers pink.
Least Terns Nesting on Marco Island
The least tern is the smallest of the American terns. They grow to a length of 8 1/2 to 9 inches with a wingspan of 21-23 inches. Tigertail Beach on Marco Island is one of the largest nesting areas in Southwest Florida for the least tern. This bird has a gray back, black wings, a yellow beak and a white belly. It also has pointed wings and a forked tail. Least terns nest in colonies and stay on sandy beaches with a path to the water. They are also a threatened species. Visitors to the island can walk along the north tip of Tigertail Beach during nesting season (April-August) and see large colonies of 200 or more least terns nesting. Roped areas protect the nests. Signs give warnings to keep a distance from nesting birds.
Black Skimmers on Marco
Black skimmers are on Marco Island year round. The island has the largest black skimmer colony in the state of Florida. Many black skimmers on Marco are banded to track movements, lifespans, and survival rate. Black skimmers nest in large colonies around April-August on Tigertail Beach. Visitors to Big Marco Pass during nesting season can see colonies of 400 or more black skimmers. Roped areas keep visitors a safe distance from nesting birds. Although normally a calm bird, the black skimmer will dive bomb anything getting close to a nest of newly hatched chicks. During the winter months, visitors to the island will see black skimmers resting on the beach in front of the Marriott.
The black skimmer has a wingspan of around 45 inches. They have a black back, white belly, orange-red legs, and a black-and-red bill. Orange color on their bill and legs make them easy to spot. Black skimmers fly very low above the water.
Snowy Egrets Along the Beach
It’s not often you walk along Marco Island’s beautiful beaches without one of these guys joining you! Known for their “strut” and “ruffled feathers” the snowy egret can become quite comical in their appearance. (Makes for a great photo!) The snowy egret is a water bird that is around 26″ tall with white feathers and a black bill. It has black legs and bright yellow feet. In spring, the egret has “fancy” lace-like feathers on its head and along its back for its showy displays of courtship. Marco’s snowy egrets are very used to people and will virtually “walk the beach” with you!
Great Blue Heron
The great blue heron is the tallest of the wading birds. It is slate blue in color with a white head, a black stripe above the eye, and a yellow bill. This bird has a wing span of 65-79 inches. Blue herons are solitary birds that are normally seen standing motionless in shallow water. Tigertail Lagoon is a good place to look for this bird. Taking an eco tour or a drive to the Everglades along Turner Road is also a great way to see a great blue heron.
Anhinga (Piano Bird)
The Anhinga is a most unusual bird. It swims with its webbed feet. They also dive under water, and spear food by rapidly stretching out the neck. Anhinga’s feathers are not waterproof as other types of water birds. Their feathers get soaked when they are submerged in water, thus they cannot stay in the water for long periods of time.
The bird stands with it’s feathers fanned out to dry. Anhingas also pridefully sit in trees with outstretched wings once they are dry enough to fly. The male anhinga is glossy black with white tail feathers. When outstretched, the bottom of the male’s wings have white strips that resemble piano keys and they are sometimes called “piano birds”. The female is pale gray in color or light brown. I took the picture of this bird at the Big Cypress Welcome Center along the boardwalk.
Sea Mar Condo is the Perfect Place to Stay for Bird Watching on Marco Island
Sea Mar Condo is located on the south end of Tigertail Beach and the north end of Marco Island’s South (Crescent Beach). Our 19th floor penthouse condo overlooks South Beach with beautiful views of the beach and Gulf waters. We are a short 40 minute drive to Big Cypress National Preserve and Everglades City. There are many guided eco tours of the 10,000 islands from a short 5 minute drive to Caxambus Park or Rose Marina. All of these areas are perfect for bird watching on Marco Island (and surrounding areas). Visit our website https://seamarcondo.com for more information on Marco Island and Sea Mar Condo. We would love to have you as our guests!