Kite Tales October 2018

ISSUE NUMBER 24 • October 2018

gfbwt logo

Kite Tales

The monthly newsletter of the

Great Florida Birding & Wildlife Trail

Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail Directional Sign
Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail Sign

Have you seen this sign?

When you see a Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail sign, what do you think about? Is it something you recognize easily or don’t notice as you are driving down a country road? With about 1,500 GFBWT signs scattered throughout Florida, you probably have encountered one while driving through the state. But what do these signs represent?

To me, when I see one of these signs, I think of the adventures to come. In my short time in Florida, I have visited over 60 birding trail sites and enjoyed every minute of it. Each birding trail site is different. From Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park in Key West that has white-crowned pigeons flying around and attracts a variety of migrating birds to Huguenot Memorial Park in Jacksonville that hosts a breeding royal tern colony. No matter where you are, there’s a birding trail site with something amazing to observe.

But how do sites become part of the birding trail? A nomination period is opened every few years, and anyone can submit a site for consideration. The nominated sites then are surveyed by birding trail staff and volunteers for their birds, wildlife and amenities. This is done to be sure we add only the best sites for wildlife viewing and visitor experiences to the birding trail.

So, when you see those brown and white signs as you are riding around Florida, you should know now what they represent: a nearby place to go wildlife watching and a great place to explore. If you just follow the arrows and open yourself to nature, you undoubtedly will have an incredible experience!


Birding Dictionary

Every hobby and activity has its own terminology or jargon. Birding is no different. Out in the field you may hear terms like “twitching,” “dipped” and “vagrants.” Here are a few commonly used birding terms that should make you sound like an avian pro!

Lifer (noun): the first time a bird species has been seen by a birder.

Spark bird (noun): a bird species that sparked the someone’s interest in birding.

  • Example: My spark bird was a red-winged blackbird because it was the first one that I knew the name of.

Dipped (verb): missing out on a bird you are seeking.

  • Example: I spent the weekend at A. D. Barnes Park looking for the Townsend’s warbler, but I dipped!
Short-tailed Hawk
Short-tailed Hawk

Short-tailed Hawk

Many people experience great joy watching hawks and eagles soar in the thermals. Short-tailed hawks are a particularly exciting hawk to observe but can be difficult to find. They fly high to get a good vantage point and not spook their prey as they search for and feed on small birds.

Short-tailed hawks are small tropical hawks considered “very uncommon” in Florida. Yet this is the only state that has consistent sightings of these hawks year-round. They have two distinct color phases: light and dark. These coloration differences are not indicative of gender, and they will interbreed.

Look for these hawks in pines, wood edges, cypress swamps and mangroves. They prefer habitats near open country next to woodlands. Short-tailed hawks rarely perch in the open and are usually seen soaring up high. There are lots of good places along the GFBWT to spot these hawks, including: Fort De Soto Park, Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Deering Estate, Frog Pond WMA – Lucky Hammock and Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park.

Orlando Wetlands Park

Trail Site of the Month

The Orlando Wetlands Park is in the east section of the Birding Trail. It is in the town of Christmas, Florida, outside of Orlando in Orange County. With over 220 bird species and 63 butterfly species at this park, it is a “must visit” for birders and wildlife viewers.

This park is an unusual birding location as it is primarily a wastewater treatment wetland. The aquatic plants in the wetlands are the last filtration step before the water is discharged into the St. Johns River. This provides the perfect habitat for a variety of birds, which can be viewed from exposed dikes that form the trails. There are approximately 1,200 acres of this man-made wetland.

The park is open daily from sunrise to sunset and does not require a fee. On Fridays and Saturdays, Friends of the Orlando Wetlands offers tram tours from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. This is a great way to see the park and have a vantage point from which to spot alligators and wading birds. Guests also may walk the dikes and a couple of trails to explore the park at their own pace. Some amazing species that can be sighted here include: snail kite, limpkin, black-bellied whistling-duck and many more. In the summer, you may see lots of purple gallinule chicks foraging alongside their parents in the impoundments and speckled juvenile white ibis feeding in the shallows.

The Orlando Wetlands Park is not to be missed if you are in the area. Make sure to take the tram tour if you visit on the appropriate days. Take plenty of water and bug repellent, wear comfortable shoes and grab a trail map. You will be set for a great day of exploring!

Site Address: 25155 Wheeler Road, Christmas, Florida 32709
Contact: (407) 568-1706
Site Hours, Daily: sunrise to sunset 

Check out the eBird list for this park.

Upcoming Events

October 11-14 – Florida Birding and Nature Festival (Tampa, FL)
October 11 – Shorebird Walks at Matanzas Inlet (St. Augustine, FL)
October 12-14 – Festival of Flight and Flowers (Eustis, FL)
October 12 – Washington Oaks Gardens State Park (Palm Coast, FL)
October 12 – Preschoolers in the Park (Ponce Inlet, FL)
October 13 – Largo Central Park Nature Preserve (Largo, FL)
October 13 – Bayard Conservation Area Field Trip (Green Cove Springs, FL)
October 13 – San Felasco Hammock (Millhopper) Bird Walk (Gainesville, FL)
October 13 – Explore the Outdoors Festival (Freeport, FL)
October 14-20 – “Ding” Darling Days (Sanibel, FL)
October 14 – Bolen Bluff Trail Bird Walk (Micanopy, FL) 

These are just a few events listed on our calendar. Check out the event page for more!

Do you know about other bird or wildlife-related events going on in Florida? Help spread the word by letting us know! Send in the times, dates, locations and contacts to for posting on the GFBWT website.

Events must be related to birds or other wildlife and open to the public. Examples include interpretive programming, summer camps and family programs.


  • Have you seen this sign?
  • Birding Dictionary
  • Short-tailed Hawk
  • Trail Site of the Month
  • Upcoming Events


The Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail (GFBWT) is a network of 510 sites spread throughout the state. The Trail is a program of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, supported in part by the Florida Department of Transportation and the Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida. The Trail is possible thanks to dozens of federal, state, and local government agencies, non-governmental organizations and private landowners. Continued, broad-based support and grassroots community investment will continue to make the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail a success for Florida and for our feathered friends.



Visit our website