Bird Watching in Key West
September 15, 2019
Community Event: Fall Migration Mania
The Lower Florida Keys have long been recognized as an area rich in both migratory and resident bird life. Native Americans, seafarers, and early explorers in the Keys often harvested birds, eggs, and plumage for use as food and trade items.
Famed 19th century naturalist and painter John James Audubon spent 6 months exploring Florida’s eastern coastline and the Keys from November 1831 through the spring of 1832, including a stay in Key West with Dr. Benjamin Strobel in a house on the property now occupied by the Audubon House. Audubon noted the incredible abundance and diversity of bird life in the Keys, and birds observed and painted in Florida were presented in 22 of the original 435 hand-colored, life-size prints in Audubon’s famous folio book, The Birds of America.
Even though human development, habitat destruction, and invasive species have taken a toll on local avian life, Key West is still an exciting place for serious birders. Hundreds of species of seabirds, shorebirds, songbirds, and raptors pass through the region every year, and many interesting resident species inhabit the scrub and mangrove forests of the lower Keys.
Explore the Natural Side of Key West
On Saturday, September 21, the amazing Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden will host the second day of the 11th annual Lower Keys Fall Migration Mania Birding & Nature Adventures.
The historic Botanical Garden is a lush, 15-acre patch of urban wilderness that contains tropical hardwood hammock and the only fresh water ponds on Key West and Stock Island. Each year, the Botanical Garden partners with the National Key Deer Refuge to offer glimpses into the world of Key West’s real snowbirds along with chances to learn more about our interesting year-round feathered residents.
Experience the wild side of our island city with early bird walks, guided bird and butterfly ID tours with expert naturalists, and a presentation on Lower Keys’ avian biology and conservation by Dr. Kenneth D. Meyer, Executive Director of the Avian Research & Conservation Institute.
For a fun day trip out of town, travel to Big Pine Key on Friday, September 20 to visit the National Key Deer Refuge where you can enjoy a morning birding tour followed by an evening presentation on the ecology of two of the Florida Keys’ rarest breeding birds – the Magnificent Frigatebird and the Reddish Egret.
A Fun and Educational Weekend Activity
The Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden is a beautiful slice of Key West history. It was initially founded as the Key West Botanical Garden in 1934 during the hard times of the Great Depression. Seeking to revive the Key West tourist trade, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration supported the Key West Department of Parks and Recreation in acquiring an initial six acres of dense hardwood hammock on Stock Island and starting the garden.
The Garden was first developed and supported by volunteers, and volunteer efforts have kept it going through the many years and changes since the 1930s. Now, it is overseen by the Key West Botanical Garden Society as a non-profit effort to preserve a bit of Keys’ natural history amidst the dense development of Key West.
Paths and boardwalks through the Garden allow visitors to observe and enjoy exotic plants, various bird species, small animals, and the peace of Key West’s only tropical forest. A Saturday of Key West bird watching in the Botanical Garden makes for a fun, educational, and relaxing activity for the whole family.