Florida is a great place for family vacations for a lot of reasons. One reason is the great weather that allows people to participate in outdoor activities all year long. People who are trapped indoors for months at a time, whether in classrooms or offices for their jobs, or in their homes due to cold weather, flock to sunny Florida for vacation. An estimated 75,000,000 people visit Florida every year.
Amazingly enough, Florida is home to 524,158 different species of birds. Most of those are fairly common, but there are more than 100 species still in the wilds that are considered rare and exotic. Their rare beauty is one of the many things that makes Florida a prime vacation destination for birdwatchers.
Colorful birds of every shape and size imaginable make Florida their home. Essential to the state’s environment, they help control rodents, bugs, snakes, and other pests without the use of toxic pesticides.Since Florida is surrounded by water on three sides, it is home to many types of aquatic birds. Those birds range from the beautifully elegant, like the snowy egret, to those with names as unlikely as the limpkin, a wading bird that feeds exclusively on snails.
Another species of tropical bird found only in Florida is the Crested Caracara, one type of which has already become extinct. This bird has existed since the last glacial period, which is dated at about 12,500 dates to the last glacial period, which ended around 12,500 years ago. Related to the falcon, this broad-winged bird can be recognized by its striking feather pattern. It feeds on carrion and is aggressive enough to chase vultures away. They enjoy feasting together, and can sometimes be seen in groups of 20 or more.
The Osceola Wild Turkey is also found only in Florida and they are prized by hunters for their relatively small numbers and unique distribution. Only between 80,000 to 100,000 of them are believed to exist within the wild swamp areas of the state. Although they feed on berries and grains, they also reduce the insect population and have been known to eat lizards and frogs as well.
While the Osceola Wild Turkey is relatively rare, it still isn’t on the endangered species list, but there are some rare birds in Florida that may soon be on that list. The rare and beautiful Painted Bunting population has been declining rapidly in recent years. The males of the species have bright blue heads and napes, red throats, breasts and tails, and bright green backs. The females are bright green with yellow breasts. Their songs are considered sweetly musical.
The Southeastern American Kestrel is also becoming endangered. It is the only species of kestrel that breeds in Florida rather than migrating. Their decreasing numbers are largely due to a decrease in their natural habitat. They can be found in pine woods, grasslands, pastures and prairies, many of which have disappeared to make way for human housing developments. Luckily, these kestrels will use nesting boxes provided by humans.
Grassy prairies are also favored by the Florida Burrowing Owl, which is also now threatened. This owl is a small ground-dweller with long legs that hunts both night and day. It’s coloring makes it appear as though it has a white eyebrow over its bright yellow eyes. They are social birds and can often be found in small groups. Some excavate their own burrows, while others use burrows abandoned by tortoises.
Birdwatchers are encouraged to report sightings of these three species of birds to the he Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. That means that not only can you share your photographs of these beautiful rare creatures with your friends on Facebook, but you can help ensure their survival by reporting your sightings.
Florida vacation destinations offer a multitude of outdoor activities besides birdwatching, too. Some consider roasting marshmallows over the campfire after a day of horseback riding the perfect day of vacation. Those looking for a physical challenge might consider a wilderness zip line adventure even more perfect. If you want to escape the traffic and crowds of Orlando and go where there’s an outdoor activity for every member of the family to enjoy, Forever Florida might just be for you.