In every season, Sanibel Island bird watching can set even the most experienced birder’s heart racing. The abundance of species is almost overwhelming. Even year-round residents such as herons, egrets, pelicans, cormorants, ospreys, spoonbills, storks, moorhens, bald eagles, yellowlegs, dowitchers, plovers and oystercatchers represent a tongue-twisting dream-list of sightings for most birders. But, just like the people who vacation here, many of the bird watchers’ favorite Sanibel birds are just visiting.
During their seasonal migrations, birds from all over South and North America follow migration routes that make southwest Florida a pivotal stopover before and after their long routes over the Gulf of Mexico. This confluence of species rushing north and south at different times means Sanibel bird watchers see the Sora and the Red-breasted Merganser in winter and early spring, but not the Black-whiskered Vireo, which is only around in the summer. Robins, which northern bird enthusiasts watch hopping around their yards all summer long, are a relative exotic for Sanibel Island, stopping by only once in the deep of winter. Want to spot a Blue Grosbeak or an Indigo Bunting? Better come in the spring!
In all, nearly 180 varieties of birds routinely make Sanibel Island their home during at least one season. This concentration of resident and migratory birds keeps watchers coming at all points on the calendar too. With the abundant natural spaces on Sanibel and Captiva, birders find fruitful vantage points all over the island – the beach, the interior, near resorts and even in town. Serious bird-watchers gravitate toward the undeveloped areas – particularly the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. With its extreme diversity of ecological spaces – salt marsh, freshwater marsh, grassland, forest and tidal flats among them – birds of every variety can find just what they are looking for in terms of habitat and food, making the refuge a bird-watcher’s paradise.
Island Inn is dedicated to the preservation of bird habitat on Sanibel Island. You may even see signs on our property occasionally, asking our guests and visitors to not disturb a nest (suggested by our resident Osprey, “Ozzie”). After all, we’ve been on the island since 1895, but the birds were here first!