Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
Southeast Region
Merritt Island NWR is known for its abundant birdlife and is a major destination for birders from throughout the world.  Over 320 species have been documented so no matter what season you visit, you are likely to see a variety of birds.  The peak season for birding is the cooler months between October and April with optimum conditions occurring from December to February.  During these periods, hundreds of thousands of migratory birds use the refuge as a temporary rest stop or spend the entire winter season loafing in refuge impoundments which creates excellent birding opportunities.  During warmer months, after the migratory birds have returned to their northern breeding grounds, resident wading birds, shore birds, songbirds and raptors forage in refuge marshes, open waters, and forested uplands to feed their young. 

Birders observing birds with scopes on tripods
Birding - Photo by Joel Reynolds

The most productive birding spots are the refuge impoundments.  The refuge manages more than 70 impoundments and the perimeter dike road is open and maintained around many of them.  These dike roads provide an excellent place to view wildlife.  Not all birds use marshes so a series of trails are routed through the major habitats of the refuge.  Two trails (Scrub Ridge and Pine Flatwoods) provide the best place to see Florida scrub jays, a species found only in Florida.  The Hammock Trails (Oak and Palm) provide great birding locations for a variety of songbirds and raptors.  Two hiking trails found along Black Point Wildlife Drive (Cruickshank and Wild Birds Trail) provide wildlife viewing platforms and blinds to enhance wildlife viewing and photography.  

The Refuge Visitor Center maintains a recent sightings list – so if you are looking for a particular bird, you may want to check the list.

 

Two Reddish Egrets standing on or near roots potruding from the water
Reddish Egrets - Photo by Joel Reynolds

 

Great Florida Birding Trail
The refuge provides one of two Visitor Centers in the northeast region where visitors can obtain information on the Great Florida Birding Trail.  Hundreds of the best birding sites in Florida are identified in the state-wide trail network. Regional brochures provide maps and detailed information on each site.

 

Impoundment with birds wading, swimming, and flying around
Impoundment - Photo by Bill Powell

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