Skip to primary navigation Skip to content Skip to footer
Back to Blog

The Destin Area is known for its beautiful Emerald Beaches and Clear Kayak Tours, but it is also on the Atlantic Bird Flyway!

a flock of birds flying over a body of water

Florida, often referred to as the “Sunshine State,” boasts beautiful beaches and warm weather and plays host to a remarkable spectacle each year – the arrival of migratory birds. Millions of birds, 196 species, pass through Florida to reach their wintering grounds. With its diverse ecosystems, from wetlands to coastal regions and lush forests, Florida is a critical stopover and wintering destination for countless bird species. Our unique ecosystem will help migratory birds go south to Argentina and north to Alaska.

a large tree in a field

The Great Migration

Migratory birds are remarkable travelers. They embark on epic journeys, covering thousands of miles between their northern breeding grounds and wintering destinations in the south. Florida, situated at the southeastern tip of the United States, is a critical rest stop along these migration routes. Approximately 99% of migratory birds spend time outside of the US.

The Florida Flyway

Florida lies within the Atlantic Flyway, one of North America’s four major bird migration routes. This strategic location makes it a crucial stopover for many species of birds. Here are some of the incredible migratory birds that grace the skies and landscapes of Florida:

  • Sandhill Cranes: These elegant, tall birds can often be spotted in Florida’s wetlands and grassy areas during winter. Known for their distinctive bugling calls, sandhill cranes are a captivating sight as they forage for food.
  •  Roseate Spoonbills: These wading birds are a true Florida treasure with striking pink plumage and distinctive spoon-shaped bills. They can be found in coastal areas, particularly around the Everglades and other wetlands.
  •  Warblers: Florida’s diverse habitats are a hotspot for various warbler species. During the migration season, you might spot the bright and colorful Prothonotary Warbler or the tiny, vibrant Northern Parula in the state’s forests.
  •  Monarch Butterflies and Gulf Fritillary: While not birds, the annual migration of monarch and the Gulf Fritillary butterflies is a spectacular natural event in Florida. These delicate insects travel thousands of miles from Canada to Mexico, passing through Destin, Mary Esther, and Fort Walton Beach.

a flock of seagulls flying over a tree

Rare Bird Sightings October 2023

We have had many rare birding visiting our unique ecosystem this fall, including Gadwell, Green-winged Yellow Rail, Baird’s Sandpiper, Wood Stork, Wilsons Warbler, Nashville Warblers, Brewers Blackbird, and the Scaly-breasted Munia.

How to Reach Remote Nesting Areas and Estuaries

Florida’s role in the annual migration of birds is not only significant but also awe-inspiring. Okaloosa County’s diverse landscapes and habitats provide crucial resources for more than 249 migratory and resident birds. Well-known birding locations, Veterans Park, Okaloosa Holding Ponds, Okaloosa Dump, Gulf Island National Shoreline, Matty Kelly Park, and Vagrant Trail are accessible by driving and walking trials.

Exploring nesting areas only accessible by water provides a unique way to enjoy our feathered friends in their natural environment quietly.  This is especially true of the military-restricted portions of Okaloosa Island in the Santa Rosa Sound.  This area has restricted access, 40-foot dunes, trees, brush, and unspoiled shorelines, providing the perfect safe habitat for coastal breeding shorebirds and seabirds hatchery. Birdwatching is only accessible by watercraft, and the shallows often limit access by motor watercraft.  The ideal way to see this beautiful display is to join a Guided Clear Kayak Eco Tour  . Our experienced guides will search for native and migratory birds through the quiet back estuaries and cast-off uninhabited islands.

a bird flying over a body of water


Nesting Season

Destin/Okaloosa County offers four unique nesting seasons:

  • Winter: December, January, and February with Blue Heron, Osprey, and Brown Pelicans nesting in the late winter beginning in February.
  • Spring: March, April, and May – March 1st begins the official beach bird nesting season
  • Summer: June and July -Roseate terns, Pine Warblers, Sea Gulls
  • Fall: August, September, October, November – American Goldfinch, Bald Eagles, Cardinals

a flock of birds flying over a body of water

It’s easy to be part of this unique experience by visiting Okaloosa County via the Destin-Fort Walton Beach VPS airport.  Are you looking for additional things to do during your trip? Visit to see all we offer for memorable outdoor adventures.

As you explore the beauty of Florida, take a moment to appreciate the feathered travelers passing through and consider how you can contribute to their conservation. The Sunshine State is a tourist paradise and a sanctuary for these remarkable migratory birds.