Great Florida Birding Trail Adds More Sites

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The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) announces the expansion of the east section of the Great Florida Birding Trail to include new sites in 15 counties.

Both novice and expert birdwatchers will enjoy the newly-added sites, including such famed birding destinations as Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge near Vero Beach, and Viera Wetlands near Cocoa, as well as little-known gems like Vaill Point Park in St. Augustine and North Sebastian Conservation Area in Sebastian.

“Many new sites feature species highly prized by birders, including snail kite, Florida scrub-jay, limpkin, crested caracara, red-cockaded woodpecker, painted bunting, and roseate spoonbill,” said Mark Kiser, FWC’s coordinator of the birding trail.

The 2,000-mile, self-guided highway trail is a network of 489 bird-watching sites across the state. The east section, which opened in 2000, was the first of the four Great Florida Birding Trail sections to be completed and is the first to undergo expansion.

In keeping with the Great Florida Birding Trail tradition, the 46 new sites offer a wide diversity of experiences, providing something of interest for all ages, mobility and skill levels, Kiser said. Beginning birders, families and those who require paved or hard-surface trails will find Chain of Lakes Recreation Complex in Titusville, Kissimmee Lakefront Park in Kissimmee and Alpine Groves Park in Switzerland to their liking. Viera Wetlands offers outstanding birding by car, as well as by foot or bicycle. Intrepid hikers will be challenged by Platt Branch Wildlife and Environmental Area in Palmdale and the new Colt Creek State Park near Lakeland. Machaba Balu Preserve in Jacksonville, Makinson Island Nature Preserve in Kissimmee and Rainbow Springs State Park in Dunnellon all provide exceptional “birding by boat” opportunities.

Florida is one of the most popular birding destinations in North America. With 501 recorded bird species, the Sunshine State has the greatest bird diversity east of the Mississippi River.
Wildlife viewing, of which birding is a major component, generates $3 billion to Florida’s economy annually, according to a new report titled “The 2006 Economic Benefits of Wildlife-Viewing Recreation in Florida.”

The FWC is working on a new guide booklet for the east section of the Great Florida Birding Trail, which will be available by December 2008. For more information, please visit


– Contact: Mark Kiser, 850-488-9478 –