The BIG 5

Big 5 Birds

Over 245 species of birds inhabit the Refuge throughout the year. These five birds attract many birdwatchers to the Refuge. Some are easy to spot while others are not. You will have to stop, look, and listen to find them all. What birds are on your "BIG 5" list?

  • American White Pelican

    White Pelicans

    (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) This Refuge giant is a true Florida snowbird, only visiting late October through April. During the spring and summer, American white pelicans are more likely to be found around lakes and rivers throughout the Great Plains and central Canada. Come watch them fish together off Wildlife Drive, as they work as a team to round up the catch of the day!

  • Mangrove Cuckoo

    Big 5 promo cuckoo

    (Coccyzus minor) This elusive little bird is rare to see but a true Refuge treasure. Ongoing research at the Refuge seeks to unlock the many mysteries surrounding these secretive birds. Southern Florida is the only place in the United States where this rare cuckoo species can be found. Bird enthusiasts from all over the country come to the Refuge with high hopes of catching a glimpse of the mangrove cuckoo.

  • Reddish Egret

    Reddish Egret

    (Egretta rufescens) This bird is well-known for its comical "dancing" as it chases fish in the shallows. Another technique called "canopy feeding". Reddish egrets will spread their wings to create shade. Fish are instinctually attracted to shade thinking it's a safe place to hide, but instead the reddish egret is ready and waiting to catch its next meal.

  • Roseate Spoonbill

    Roseate Spoonbill

    (Platalea ajaja) This native pink bird, commonly mistaken for a flamingo, is a Refuge favorite. While flamingos are known for gaining their pink color from a crustacean-rich diet, roseate spoonbills are naturally pink, which intensifies with age. Spoonbills sweep the unique bill (for which they are named) back and fourth through the water and snap it shut when they feel tasty morsels swim by. 

  • Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

    Yellow Crowned Night Heron

    (Nyctanassa violacea) Born with a perpetual bad hair day, this bird spends its life expertly crabbing along the banks of the estuary. By building their nests over alligator habitats, their hatchlings are protected from other pesky predators like raccoons. Yellow-crowned night-herons are just one of two night-heron species found on the Refuge. Black-crowned night-herons are also found here, though in much fewer numbers and they are more secretive and more nocturnal than their Yellow-crowned cousins.