Seasons of Wildlife

kw seasons

Even though the Florida Keys are located in a subtropical environment, we are still influenced by seasonal changes that affect most of the country. Depending on the season, you'll be able to witness a wide diverse variety of wildlife species that are seasonal residents or are migrating through the area. We ask that you consider the health and welfare of the wildlife as you are observing them, and use binoculars or telephoto lens to get up close.

  • January and February

    seasons jan

    Winter bird residents are found throughout the Keys. White pelicans fish in salt ponds and in surrounding shallow saltwater. Brown pelicans are everywhere. Wading birds like great egrets, tricolored herons, snowy egrets, reddish egrets, roseate spoonbill and ibis congregate to fish in shallow salt ponds. A variety of shorebirds are present, including a few wintering piping plovers. Wintering resident raptors include broad winged and short-tailed hawks. Some birds actually nest in the winter, including osprey, bald eagles, and red-shouldered hawks. Blue- winged teal overwinter in Lower Keys lakes and ponds. Florida Manatees are rare visitors to the shallow Florida Keys waters while Atlantic bottlenose dolphins are present year-round.

  • March and April


    This is peak neotropical northbound bird migration season. If stormy weather causes fallout of migrants, this can be epic birdwatching. If it’s smooth sailing for birds heading north, sometimes just a few will stop and rest. Most years it's average, with a variety of migrants but not the diversity you get on epic years. Birds that have overwintered in the Keys head north, including brown and white pelicans, osprey, blue-winged teal, many shorebirds and wading birds. 

    Sea turtle nesting season starts in April. Greens and loggerheads nest on beaches throughout the Florida Keys. It is also peak wading bird nesting (reddish egrets, great white herons, Wurdemann’s heron, black-necked stilt). Cuban yellow warblers and prairie warblers are also looking for mates, building nests and raising young along mangrove shorelines and islands.


  • May and June


    Ongoing green and loggerhead sea turtle nesting. Magnificent frigatebird roosting by the hundreds on some backcountry islands. Brown pelicans nest in Key West NWR. Mangrove cuckoos return to the Florida Keys refuges from their wintering grounds. Tarpon fishing season hits its peak as large tarpon move back into the area channels and flats. Red-bellied woodpeckers, American cardinal, black-whiskered vireo, gray kingbird, white-eyed vireo are among the common resident breeding landbirds.

  • July and August

    july aug

    White-crowned pigeons are nesting by the thousands on backcountry islands. They fly inland to hardwood hammock and pine rockland to feed on fruits of poisonwood, blolly, seagrape, pigeon plum and other tree species. Swallow-tailed kites start the bird migration season early, passing through the Keys on their way to South America. Amphibians like southern leopard frog and narrow-mouthed toad are laying eggs in seasonal pools of freshwater, you may see their tadpoles in shallow water and hear them singing at night. Sea turtle eggs are beginning to hatch.

  • September and October


    Peak Fall Southbound Bird Migration Season; including world record numbers of migrating Peregrine Falcons. You’ll see plenty of our local birds that include great white heron, reddish egrets, magnificent frigatebirds, white-crowned pigeon, gray kingbird, white-eyed vireo, blue-gray gnatcatcher as well as a large diversity of migrating songbirds, shorebirds and hawks, eagles, ospreys and falcons. We are uniquely situated as the last rest stop for many southbound migrants who stop over for a few days to rest and refuel. We have recorded over 250 bird species in the Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges.

    Sea turtle eggs are hatching in the evening hours and young sea turtles are making their way across the beaches and out to sea.

  • November and December


    Most of the winter bird residents are arriving. American kestral and belted kingfishers are some of our most vocal neighbors. Turkey vultures arrive by the hundreds and can be seen soaring overhead with hawks, falcons and eagles. Late southbound migrants like Swainson’s hawks still passing through.