sailing in open calm ocean

Ocean Birds You Might Find While Boating

Nature lovers flock to Madeira Beach, Florida, for the spectacular pelagic birds along the coast.

Florida boasts a self-guided trail of 2,000 miles, connecting 489 locations that promote bird-watching and habitat conservation. Tourists and locals alike see this unique and picturesque paradise as one of their favorite spots.

As an outdoor activity, bird watching ranks second to beach-related activities as a form of recreational activity for all destination visitors. It’s a continuously rising trend; expect to see more binoculars and spotting scopes throughout the Sunshine State.

As your partner in memorable water adventures, Bay Excursions is here with a comprehensive bird watching guide to help you make the most of your beach getaway. You might even spot a bird looking directly at you if you’re lucky.

Feathered Creatures of Madeira Beach, Florida

The memories you make are the best souvenir to take home after a wonderful vacation, not an object. Create some of these memories by searching for a bird looking majestic along Florida’s coast. It’s a hotspot for migrating birds that flock to John’s Pass and Madeira Beach.

Some of the pelagic birds you might come across in your bird-watching activity in Madeira Beach include:

1. Black Skimmers

A black skimmer is an ocean bird commonly found in the coastal areas of Florida. They have black wings, black backs with white edges, white heads, and white bellies paired with red, brightly colored bills. Their distinct physical characteristics make them easy to spot while they hunt in the water or lounge on the shore with other birds.

2. Black-Bellied Plover

Black-bellied plovers have a stunning jet black and snow-white mix. Their feathers are grayish with white spots, and they have black axillary feathers underneath their wings that make them easy to spot from a distance. They also have a distinctive mournful-sounding call.

These seabirds are quick and agile aerialists primarily found in the wetlands and tundras of coastal regions, estuaries, and coasts. Their habitat range stretches from Alaska, the USA, Argentina, Canada, even Russia.

3. Sanderling, Willet, and Dowitcher

Dowitchers, sanderlings, and willets are birds you’ll often find at the shore’s edge, where they dig into the sand with tips of their bills looking for food. They’re shorebirds that run instead of flying when humans approach them.

Sanderlings are one of the smallest Florida seabirds at just six inches. They are easily identifiable by their black bills, jet-black eyes, and swift black legs. You’ll often find them in small groups of up to a dozen, scurrying on their tiny legs ahead of the surging waves.

Willets are one of the largest Florida shorebirds. They are easy to spot, especially when they’re hanging out together with dowitchers and sanderlings. They have grey bodies, long bills, and long legs. They can be seen alone, in small groups, or in pairs.

Dowitchers are also expected at the shoreline. However, they are smaller and less active than sanderlings. They are typically light brown or gray and have a thin, long bill. Sometimes, you’ll find them in large groups of 100 or more.

4. Terns

Terns are pelagic birds that look very much like gulls, but they are a distinct species. They have narrower bodies and wings that give them a lighter flight, allowing them to hover 10 to 30 feet above the water before diving gracefully into the water to catch fish. They also have sharp beaks and forked tails.

The different types of terns you might see are:

  • Caspian Terns that have blood-red bills
  • Royal Terns, the largest of all terns, with distinct orange bills
  • Forster’s Terns, that don black caps and orange-red bills
  • Least Terns, the smallest terns with white foreheads, yellow bills, and black caps

4. Ruddy Turnstone

A Ruddy Turnstone is an oval-shaped, short-legged ocean bird. Its bill is slightly upturned and stout. Breeding males display unique black-and-white markings on their heads and throats and chestnut and black variegated patterns on their backs. The breeding females are paler than the males.

Ruddy Turnstones display a unique color pattern in flight, and they have an orange color that brightens during the breeding season. They have white stripes down their backs, white rumps, white stripes down their wings, and black tail stripes.

5. Ring-Billed Gull

The ring-billed gull is an average-sized ocean bird with a short, thin bill. Its long, straight wings extend far beyond its square-tipped tail when it perches. A ring-billed gull has a gray and motley brown coloration with pink legs and bills during its first two years of life.

Adult ring-billed gulls have a pure gray color on the top portion of their bodies, with a white body, head, and tail. These seabirds have black wingtips adorned with white spots, yellow legs, and yellow bills with a black band.

Boating and Bird Watching: How to Do It?

The best part about boating is observing a bird looking at you while they’re flying; you don’t often get a chance to witness this moment. Shorebirds are excellent examples, and watching them can be a delightful pastime.

It takes very little to observe seabirds from your boat, and there are things you can do to make the experience more enjoyable; it may even spark a new interest for you.

Here are some things you should have with you:

Birding Equipment

Binoculars are a great investment that allows you to look at ocean bird species and observe shorebirds’ behaviors from far away. Make sure your binoculars are water-tight; some binoculars fog up from the inside, even if you don’t drop them.

Bird Identification Guide Books

A good tool for birding is an ID guide. Consider the following when choosing an ID guide:

  • Pictures vs. Illustrations
  • Behavior and Habitat
  • Range Description
  • Similar Species

Watching waterbirds is a great way to see the world in a new light, whether you’re watching them from a boat or up close on the shore. It’s an exciting hobby that helps you become more aware of the environment and increase your respect for wildlife.

Rent a Boat at Bay Excursions

See an ocean bird up close aboard our boat at Bay Excursions.

We’re your best choice for an affordable boat tour in Madeira Beach, FL! We offer various rental packages for boats that seat up to 16 people. Our rentals also come with a skilled and experienced boat captain. We can’t wait to have you with us!

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