Living in Central Florida and saw some big birds but are not sure which ones they were?
Florida is known for its wildlife, and according to the Florida Ornithological Society Records Committee (FOSRC), there are over 500 species of birds there.
Examples of birds of Central Florida include the Northern mockingbird (state bird), house wren, tree swallow, blue jay, Florida scrub-jay, bald eagle, wood stork, barred owl, and many others.
Songbirds like the black-and-white warbler and loggerhead shrike, raptors like the crested caracara and the swallow-tailed kite, woodpeckers like the northern flicker, ducks like the mottled duck, and other birds are also very common in central parts of Florida.
Some of these birds, like the northern mockingbird and the wood stork, can be seen year-round in the state, while others, like the house wren, will only spend winters there.
Here are their photos and some fun facts.
Central Florida Birds
Scientific name: Mimus polyglottos
Lifespan: up to 8 years
Wingspan: 12-15 in
The northern mockingbird has been the state bird of Florida since 1927.
This medium-sized songbird is a permanent resident of Central Florida and can be seen there throughout the year.
Northern mockingbirds are widespread and can be seen in habitats ranging from open country to suburbs.
You will easily identify them by their gray plumage with whitish underparts and long tails. In case you see one while it’s flying, you will notice the large white patches on its black wings and tail.
Those white patches help them to show off during the mating season and to flash them when defending territory against some snakes and hawks.
The Latin name of this bird translates to “many-tongued mimic,” and for a reason – a northern mockingbird can imitate chirps of up to 35 species and learn over 200 different songs in its lifetime.
Northern mockingbirds can mimic sounds of rusty hinges, whistling, cackling hens, and dog barks; they can mimic so well that it’s very hard to tell a difference even with an electronic analysis.
They are the only species out of 16 with the name “mockingbird” that are native to the US.
Northern mockingbirds are territorial birds that can be extremely good at breeding – scientists once recorded a female that managed to lay 27 eggs in a single season!
Northern mockingbirds are omnivores that feed on fruit, seeds, berries, and small insects.
Scientific name: Mniotilta varia
Lifespan: up to 11 years
Wingspan: 7-9 in
Black-and-white warblers are common in Central Florida during winter. They are among the first to arrive in the fall, as early as August, and among the first to leave the state in the spring. Look for them around woods and in urban areas.
If you are a beginner birder, this bird is a good choice, as black-and-white warblers are easy to see and recognize.
These small songbirds have fairly long, slightly downcurved beaks and short tails.
You will also recognize black-and-white-warblers by their black and white striped plumage that is white below. They also have black wings with two wide white wing bars.
These birds can be very territorial and aggressive during their breeding season, like all warblers – they’ll attack and fight with other species that enter their territory.
Black-and-white warblers are insectivores (carnivores) that mostly feed on insects, caterpillars, beetles, ants, flies, bugs, and some spiders.
Scientific name: Polioptila caerulea
Lifespan: 3-4 years
Wingspan: 6 in
Common in central parts of Florida year-round, the blue-gray gnatcatcher is one of the angriest-looking birds in the state.
When the breeding season comes, males will develop dark, V-shaped “eyebrow markings” that make them look like they are constantly annoyed.
Male blue-gray gnatcatchers are easy to identify by the pale blue-gray heads and upperparts and white underparts. Females are less blue, while juveniles are greenish-gray. If you look closer, you will notice a white ring around the eyes.
Look for blue-gray gnatcatchers around open woods, oaks, pines, thickets, and urban areas. Despite being permanent residents in the state, blue-gray gnatcatchers are much easier to spot in Central Florida during the cooler months.
Native to North America, these small songbirds are the most common of the four species of gnatcatchers on the continent.
Blue-gray gnatcatchers are monogamous and stay with their partners for life. Males can be particularly aggressive and will chase larger birds away from feeding areas or their nesting territory.
They nest in trees and both partners participate in construction. Blue-gray gnatcatchers will use grass, weeds, plant fibers, and strips of bark as the basic material and spider web to bind it all together.
Scientific name: Lanius ludovicianus
Lifespan: 7-8 years
Wingspan: 13 in
The loggerhead shrike is a songbird with a raptor’s habits. This bird looks similar to the northern shrike and can be found in farms, fields, and urban areas of Central Florida throughout the year.
The main difference between the northern and loggerhead shrike is the loggerhead’s smaller size, darker gray plumage, and larger black face mask that covers the eye completely.
Of those two species of shrike in North America, they are the only ones present in the state.
Loggerhead shrikes have been nicknamed “butcherbirds” due to their carnivorous tendencies. They are known for hunting down and impaling their prey on thorns or barbed wire. Instead of talons, these birds have tomial tooth that helps them kill and tear prey.
Loggerhead shrikes have a remarkable vision and can spot an insect that is over 50 yards away.
They mostly feed on large insects, rodents, and small birds, sometimes killing prey larger than themselves.
Scientific name: Troglodytes aedon
Lifespan: up to 7 years
Wingspan: 6 in
House wrens are common backyard birds of Central Florida and can be seen there from fall to spring. They arrive in the state around October and stay there until May.
You will identify these small songbirds by their flat heads, curved beaks, pinkish or gray legs, and short tails that are usually held cocked.
House wrens usually have subdued brown plumage with blackish barrings on their wings and tails.
They got their name due to their tendency to nest around human homes and in birdhouses.
One part of their scientific name, aedon, comes from a Greek queen who tried to kill her nephew but ended up killing her only son instead. To punish her, Zeus turned her into a nightingale.
There are 32 subspecies of house wrens in total.
Look for them around weedy areas, fields, and brush piles, and listen for their rush-and-jumble songs. House wrens will often make different harsh sounds: churrs, chatters, rattles, and scolds.
They might never visit your bird feeder but house wrens might fly through your backyard hunting insects. If you want to attract house wrens to your yard, all you need to do is to add a bird house.
Among other places, these birds are also common in Northern California.
Scientific name: Cardinalis cardinalis
Lifespan: 3 years
Wingspan: 10-12 in
Northern Cardinals are permanent residents of Central Florida and can be seen year-round in woodlands, brushy fields, parks, and backyards.
Extremely territorial, these medium-sized birds have orange-red beaks and prominent head crests in both sexes. They are a sexually dimorphic species though; males are completely red and have reddish beaks, while females are pale brown with clear orange beaks.
They are also known as redbirds and they get their red color from the food they eat – if there are not enough carotenoids in their food, they become brownish.
Northern cardinals are omnivores and feed on seeds, fruit, and insects.
If you live in Central Florida, you can easily attract northern cardinals to your bird feeder, especially if you add some sunflower seeds, peanut hearts, millet, or milo.
In case you notice male cardinals with baldness problems – it’s a sign they’re in the middle of a late summer molt.
These birds are very aggressive – northern cardinals will often try to ferociously attack their reflections in the mirrors and windows. These songbirds are also monogamous and mate for life.
Read More: 25+ songbirds in Florida
Scientific name: Tachycineta bicolor
Lifespan: 3 years
Wingspan: 12-14 in
In Central Florida, tree swallows can be seen mostly during winter. They arrive as early as late August and stay through May, before departing to northern US states and Canada.
Tree swallows prefer to fly during the day and roost in large flocks at night.
Look for these small migratory songbirds in wet habitats like marshes, fields, farms, and woods. They are cavity nesters that might even use man-made nest boxes.
You will notice long, pointed wings and short, squared, or slightly notched tails. These birds have almost metallic greenish-blue backs and heads, together with white throats, breasts, and bellies.
Tree swallows are omnivores that feed on insects, mollusks, spiders, and occasionally on fruit, berries, and seeds.
Scientific name: Quiscalus quiscula
Lifespan: 17-22 years
Wingspan: 14-18 in
Common grackles are one of the more widespread blackbirds with blue head colors. Look for them in central parts of Florida throughout the year, around woods, fields, farms, and urban areas.
Common grackles are medium-sized backyard songbirds that have long, keel-shaped tails, dark beaks, and yellow eyes.
They have an estimated population of over 73 million individuals.
Common grackles are omnivores and feed on insects, minnows, frogs, eggs, berries, seeds, and grain.
They will let ants crawl up their bodies and clean them from parasites. If no ants are available, grackles will use lemons, walnut juice, and mothballs for that purpose.
Read More: Examples of pink-colored Florida birds
Scientific name: Aphelocoma coerulescens
Lifespan: up to 15 years
Wingspan: 13-14 in
Florida scrub-jays are the only bird species endemic to Florida. They are mostly found in central Florida and can be seen there year-round.
According to some 2019 estimates, the largest 3 populations of these birds can be found at Ocala National Forest in Marion County, Brevard County, and Highlands County.
Florida scrub-jays are common in the Florida scrub habitat, an ecosystem that exists only in central parts of the state.
Look for large and sturdy birds with gray on the center of their backs, blue tails, wings, and heads, and gray underparts. Florida scrub-jays also have whitish foreheads and throats and have no crests.
These blue-winged birds are cooperative breeders – fledglings will stay with their parents for several years, help rear the young, watch for predators, and defend territory. Such families can include from two to eight birds.
Florida scrub-jays are listed as a threatened state species with some estimates claiming that around 4,000 individuals are left in the wild. The International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies them as vulnerable to extinction.
Florida scrub-jays are omnivores and feed on acorns, seeds, peanuts, insects, tree frogs, turtles, snakes, lizards, and young mice.
Scientific name: Cyanocitta cristata
Lifespan: 7 years
Wingspan: 13-17 in
Blue jays are commonly found in forests, woods, parks, and other urban areas of Central Florida. These rather large and nonmigratory birds can be seen in the state year-round.
Blue jays’ nesting season in the state begins in March and lasts until September.
Males and females look the same.
Blue jays are blue above and gray below. They have crests and black collars, and white color on their tails and throats. They also have bright blue wings with white spots.
Despite not being a state bird in any US state, blue jays are the mascot of a Major League Baseball team called the Toronto Blue Jays.
These songbirds are highly intelligent and can use tools and imitate the sounds of predators. Blue jays will often mimic hawk sounds when approaching a feeding site to drive away other birds.
They are very noisy birds that mate for life and work together to build a nest for their young.
When the female is sitting on the eggs, the male will feed and take care of her.
Blue jays are omnivores that mostly feed on seeds, berries, nuts, and occasionally insects. They will also store food and eat it later.
Blue jays belong to the same family (Corvidae) as the similar-looking Florida scrub-jays, together with crows, ravens, rooks, jackdaws, magpies, and others.
Scientific name: Archilochus colubris
Lifespan: 3-5 years
Wingspan: 3.1-4.3 in
These beautiful birds with brilliant iridescent red throats can be seen in Central Florida from spring until fall. Ruby-throated hummingbirds are the most commonly found hummingbirds in the state.
The first ruby-throated hummingbirds that arrive in Florida at the beginning of March will be males and both sexes will be gone from the state by end of October and mid-November.
Males and females look different.
Males have metallic emerald green upperparts, grayish-white underparts, black wings, and a gorget (throat patch) of iridescent ruby red. Their tails are forked.
Females are larger than males, have slightly shorter beaks, and have white throats.
Ruby-throated hummingbirds move very quickly, around 25 mph, and will beat their wing over 50 times per second.
They only have about 940 feathers on average which is the smallest number of any bird.
These birds are mostly solitary, except during the breeding season which lasts only for a few days.
Ruby-throated hummingbirds are present in various habitats, including open woodlands, meadows, forest edges, grasslands, parks, gardens, and backyards.
To attract these hummingbirds with red necks to your backyard, you can set up hummingbird feeders or plant tubular flowers. They are quite bold and might even feed at hanging plants and feeders on your porch or next to your windows!
Scientific name: Megaceryle alcyon
Lifespan: 6-14 years
Wingspan: 19-23 in
Although some populations only winter in southern parts of the state, belted kingfishers are permanent residents of Central Florida.
These large and conspicuous water kingfishers are native to North America with some 600,000-years-old fossils being discovered in several states, including Florida.
Belted kingfishers are easy to recognize by their large heads, shaggy crests on the top and back of the heads, and straight, thick, pointed beaks.
They have a blue-gray plumage above that is white below.
Belted kingfishers are very territorial and males will often chase intruders away. If you go looking for belter kingfishers, visit lakes, ponds, marshes, and shorelines.
You will often hear them before you see them – listen for their distinct and loud rattling or chattering call.
Belted Kingfishers have two fused toes which can also help distinguish these blue-winged birds from others.
They are carnivores that dive to catch fish and crayfish with their heavy beaks. They will also eat mollusks, crustaceans, amphibians, and lizards.
Because they can’t digest bones, belted kingfishers will, like the owls, regurgitate the undigested pieces as pellets.
Scientific name: Colaptes auratus
Lifespan: up to 9 years
Wingspan: 16.5-20 in
Central Florida is home to the northern flicker, a large brown woodpecker that is common around woods and urban areas of the state.
Despite being one of the few woodpecker species that migrate, northern flickers are present year-round in Florida.
Adults are easy to recognize by the brown plumage with black bars on the back and wings. During the flight, this bird will flash its yellow color under the wings and tail.
There are 9 subspecies of the northern flicker. One subspecies, the southern yellow-shafted flickers have very bright yellow undersides of their tail feathers.
The Northern flicker is a state bird of Alabama. It is also known by its other name, the Yellowhammer.
Although they eat fruits, berries, seeds, and nuts, northern flickers’ primary food is insects, with ants making almost 50% of their diet. Scientists once discovered over 5,000 ants in one flicker’s stomach.
The oldest ever recorded northern flicker was over 9 years old when discovered in Florida.
Scientific name: Strix varia
Lifespan: 10 years
Wingspan: 38-49 in
This owl is known by many names, including the northern barred owl, striped owl, or more informally, the hoot owl.
The barred owl can be seen throughout the year in central parts of Florida, mostly around woods and swamps.
You will recognize it by the mottled brown plumage, yellow beak, dark eyes, and the absence of ear tufts.
Barred owls are also known for their calls that can be heard almost half a mile away. Listen for their accented hoots that sound like “who cooks for you, who cooks for you all.”
Barred owls have a sedentary nature, they do not like to migrate much. In Florida, they usually breed from late January to March.
Barred owls mate for life. They are carnivores that mostly hunt at night and feed on some insects, small mammals, and even crayfish and crabs.
Scientific name: Caracara cheriway
Lifespan: up to 30 years
Wingspan: 47-52 in
Crested caracaras are birds of prey found in Central Florida throughout the year, particularly in the Kissimmee River Valley. They are common around cattle ranches, farms, and fields and have a dark brown overall color with white necks and heads.
Crested caracaras also have black caps on their heads, orange facial skin, blue-grey hooked beaks, and long yellow legs.
Males and females look similar; females are slightly larger.
With a length of up to 26 in, a wingspan of up to 52 in, and a weight of up to 3.5 pounds, crested caracaras are the second-largest species of falcon in the world, smaller only than the gyrfalcon.
Crested caracaras are opportunistic feeders that eat carcasses, food of other raptors, insects, and some fruit. They will often chase away black and turkey vultures from roadkills.
Some Florida counties where they can be currently found are the Highlands, DeSoto, Okeechobee, Glades, Hendry, and Osceola.
Scientific name: Coragyps atratus
Lifespan: 10 years in the wild
Wingspan: 52-66 in
The black vulture is a large raptor that is common in open areas and the woods of Central Florida.
It is a permanent resident in the state and you will recognize it by a sooty black plumage, a bare black head, and white tips of the wings.
People often mistake it for the turkey vulture – the black vulture is a bit smaller, has shorter wings and tail, and has white color patches on its wings.
Both species can be seen in the state – black vultures are not as numerous as turkey vultures though.
Black vultures are monogamous and pairs are believed to mate for life – both the male and female will take turns incubating their eggs.
They can be very aggressive which makes other vulture species avoid them.
Black vultures are carnivores that feed on carrion but may also hunt and eat small reptiles, birds, and mammals.
To escape from danger, these large birds of Central Florida might regurgitate partially digested food to distract the attacker and become lighter before flying away.
The black vulture is protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and you can’t kill it without a permit.
Scientific name: Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Lifespan: 20-30 years in the wild
Wingspan: 70.8-90.5 in
Florida has one of the densest concentrations of bald eagles in the US with an estimated 1,500 nesting pairs.
Bald eagles are the US national bird and one of the largest raptors of Central Florida. In these parts of the state, these magnificent birds can be seen year-round.
Bald eagles are common around mountain lakes, rivers, and some rangelands and coastal wetlands.
They breed from October to May in the state and build the largest nests of any North American bird that can be up to 13 ft deep and 8.2 ft wide.
You will recognize them by their commanding presence, white heads and tails, brown color, and bright yellow bills. Bald eagles are hard to miss as they soar through the air with their 7.5-foot-wide wingspan.
They are carnivores and opportunistic feeders that mostly consume fish, which they snatch from the water with their sharp talons.
Scientific name: Elanoides forficatus
Lifespan: 6 years
Wingspan: 54 in
The swallow-tailed kite is also known as the American swallow-tailed kite.
This medium-sized broad-winged (pernine) species of raptors is common around marshes, fields, farms, wooded, and urban areas of Florida. The swallow-tailed kite can be seen in the state from spring to fall.
Look for these Central Florida birds arriving around February/March to breed and departing around August/September.
You will recognize them by their white bodies and heads, black and white wings, and unmistakable long and black tails.
With their long wings, deeply forked tail, and bold black-and-white plumage, swallow-tailed kites are very easy to recognize in flight.
They are omnivorous and feed on snakes, lizards, frogs, large insects, small birds, eggs, small mammals, and even some fruit.
Scientific name: Mycteria americana
Lifespan: up to 27 years
Wingspan: 55–71 in
Wood stork might not bring babies, but it is still one of the bigger birds found in Florida.
It is also one of the largest wading birds in Central Florida and the only stork regularly found in the United States.
Common around freshwater marshes, lakes, ponds, and canals, you will find wood storks throughout the year in the state.
Wood storks breed in Florida during the late winter dry season. You will easily recognize them by their white plumage with black edges on the back side of the wings, naked dark gray heads and necks, long legs, and long, slightly curved black beaks.
Wood storks are listed as threatened in the US. After a three-decade-long conservation and recovery efforts, the species moved from endangered to threatened species in June 2014.
They are very social birds that feed in flocks and nest in large rookeries – sometimes with several pairs on a single tree.
They build large stick nests in the trees, the female will lay two to five eggs, and both of the parents will take turns incubating them for about one month. To keep their nestlings cool, wood storks will regurgitate water over them.
American White Pelican
Scientific name: Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
Lifespan: 16-30 years
Wingspan: 95-120 in
This large aquatic bird lives in inland shallow freshwater lakes, wet prairies, and marshes in the summer, and on coastal lagoons in the winter. American white pelican is common in Central Florida from fall to spring.
Look for them arriving in the state from early September to late November. Around March, white pelicans will move north to breed in the northern part of the Western USA and Canada.
You will recognize them by the all-white plumage and black flight feathers visible only when the wings are spread. American pelicans also have vivid yellow-orange bills and legs.
They have the largest beak of any other North American waterbird that can measure over 15 inches in males and over 14 inches in females.
With a wingspan of up to 10 ft and a weight of up to 30 pounds, American white pelicans are the largest birds in Florida.
Slightly smaller brown pelicans are year-round Florida residents in coastal parts.
Their diet mostly consists of fish, but also some crayfish and salamanders.
A group of pelicans is called a “brief” and a “squadron”.
Scientific name: Anhinga anhinga
Lifespan: 12 years
Wingspan: 43 in
The anhinga, also known as snakebird, darter, or water turkey, is a large and slender waterbird found in lakes, freshwater marshes, ponds, and canals in central parts of Florida. It is a permanent resident there and can be seen year-round.
The name anhinga comes from the Brazilian Tupi language and means “devil bird” or “snake bird”.
Male anhingas have black plumage with white spots on their wings and back while the females look similar but have brownish necks and heads.
Anhingas do not have waterproof wings as other birds do and can be often seen drying their feathers in the sun.
While swimming, only their necks appear above water, making them look like snakes, hence the name snakebird.
Anhingas are carnivores that feed on fish, insects, shrimp, crayfish, and sometimes even young alligators and snakes.
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Little Blue Heron
Scientific name: Egretta caerulea
Lifespan: up to 7 years
Wingspan: 39-41 in
Commonly found around shorelines, lakes, ponds, and marshes, little blue herons can be seen year-round in Central Florida.
These medium-sized birds are small for herons and have mostly blue-gray plumage, bluish beaks, and greenish legs. Immature birds are all-white.
Little blue herons have a row of “teeth” along their middle toes that they use to scratch their heads, necks, and throats.
They nest in colonies, often around other species of herons, egrets, and wading birds.
Little blue herons usually forage alone, stalking their prey methodically in shallow water.
They are carnivores that feed on fish, frogs, lizards, snakes, turtles, spiders, crustaceans, small rodents, and insects.
Scientific name: Anas fulvigula
Lifespan: 5 years in the wild
Wingspan: 32-34 in
Mottled ducks are commonly found around freshwater marshes and ponds in central parts of Florida.
Both sexes look similar and resemble female mallards – mottled ducks have overall mottled brown plumage. Males and females have a shiny green-blue wing patch.
The main difference is the beak; males have bright yellow, while females have deep to pale orange beaks.
Mottled ducks do not migrate. They feed on plants, but might also eat some mollusks and aquatic insects.
One subspecies of mottled ducks, the Florida mottled ducks, occurs south of Tampa and has a lighter color and less heavily marked plumage than other subspecies.
Florida mottled ducks nest in the state from February to July.
Scientific name: Recurvirostra americana
Lifespan: up to 9 years
Wingspan: 27-30 in
American avocets are large and slender shorebirds. They are common around shorelines, mudflats, and ponds.
You will recognize them by their buffy heads and necks, long upward curved beaks, and bluish-gray legs.
American avocets have a plumage that is black above and white below with large white wing patches and long upward curved beaks.
During winter, which is when they are present in Central Florida, American avocets are white overall, with black wings that have broad white wing stripes and bluish-gray legs.
After hatching, their chicks can swim and feed themselves.
To catch aquatic insects, avocets will put their beaks underwater and move them side to side to stir the water.
American avocets are monogamous birds and omnivores that feed on fish, aquatic insects, seeds, and crustaceans.
Scientific name: Phalacrocorax auritus
Lifespan: 6-17 years
Wingspan: 45-50 in
Double-crested cormorants are large waterbirds commonly found around the bays, lakes, ponds, canals, and marshes of Central Florida. They are permanent residents in the state.
Double-crested cormorants are the most widespread cormorant species in North America. They have small heads, long necks, and thin, strongly hooked orange beaks.
When the breeding season starts, bushy white eyebrows (feathery tufts) will appear on a male cormorant’s head.
Despite being excellent swimmers and divers, double-crested cormorants do not have fully waterproof feathers and can be seen standing on the shore, with their wings spread to dry.
The oldest documented wild double-crested cormorant lived to be almost 18 years old.
This concludes our list of birds in Central Florida.
There are many types of birds inhabiting central parts of Florida, including several songbirds, raptors, woodpeckers, owls, ducks, hummingbirds, and many others.
Next time you see any of these birds in person, you should be able to recognize them with ease!