The refuge's coastal location, tropical climate, and wide variety of habitat types contribute to its diverse bird population. To date, 357 species have been identified on the refuge.
There are breeding populations of Bald Eagles, Brown Pelicans, Roseate Spoonbills, Reddish Egrets and Mottled Ducks. Spectacular migrations of passerine birds, especially warblers, occur during the spring and fall. Winter peak concentrations of waterfowl often exceed 100,000. Eight species of herons and egrets are commonly observed year-round.
While marshes and shallow impoundments are the most productive birding areas, to find the widest variety of species you should also visit mangrove-rimmed shorelines, cabbage palm and hardwood hammocks, palmetto and pine uplands, oak scrub and the beach. The refuge has roads and trails in each of these habitats in order to enhance bird watching opportunities.
The cool winter months (November-April) are generally the best times of the year for birding. The best time of the day is early morning and late afternoon.