Did you know that February is National Wild Bird Feeding Month? This month long initiative was created because nationally, February is one of the most difficult months for wild birds to survive due to freezing temperatures and limited food sources. Though cold temperatures are generally not a problem here, February is still a great time to catch many of the some 245 species that call Sanibel Island their home throughout the year.
It is the diverse population of the bird species on Sanibel that makes birding, or birdwatching, a natural hobby for both tourists and year round Sanibel residents. Our favorite spot for birding is the “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, but the Sanibel-Captiva Chamber of Commerce also offers some other great spots for birding on the islands here.
If you’re touring the “Ding” with birdwatching in mind, the best time to come is during the early morning or low tide. This is typically feeding time for many of the birds, bringing them out into the open. Take a quick peek at the Sanibel Tide Chart to plan your visit.
Below are some of the interesting bird species that call Sanibel Island home in the winter months and year-round:
Its French name, nonpareil, means “without equal” – and just one look at this incredible rainbow-feathered bird explains everything! Despite its bright colors and exotic look, the painted bunting is simply a type of finch native to the coastal Southeast and south central United States. The painted bunting is a migratory bird, best seen on Sanibel in the winter in dense, weedy fields foraging for seeds. They are truly a delight to behold!
Pink plumage and red eyes mark the roseate spoonbill, the only spoonbill that can be found in the Americas. Generally, they can be found along shallow waters digging for small crabs and other crustaceans with their spoon-shaped bills. Interestingly, it is actually this source of food that gives the roseate spoonbill its unique coloring; the carotenoids found in many aquatic invertebrates help to give the spoonbill’s feathers their lovely rosy hue!
These majestic white birds breed in fewer that 60 colonies total – and even more interesting, they fly north to to do so! For their non-breeding months these birds can be found in warm areas, like our own Sanibel Island. Defined by their long bill, and white and black wings, these fascinating birds spend a their time both in the air and in lakes and ponds. You’ll often find them with groups of other pelicans, and sometimes even cormorants, teaming up to “herd” fish for easier dining. Even with this strategy, however, pelicans are notorious for stealing food from each other!
This beautiful, colorful rail is another unique find for the Americas. In fact, Florida is the only state in the U.S. where these birds can be commonly found year round! The bright plumage of the purple gallinule is actually made up of many colors, including red, yellow, blue, green, indigo, as well as violet. These birds nest on the water in freshwater wetlands. They especially prefer bodies of water with water lillies, lotus, hydrilla, and other floating plants.
For tips on the hobby of birding, this quick read from Audubon shares some advice for getting started. You may also be interested in this awesome checklist of birds to see at “Ding” Darling provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The checklist contains the full list of 245 birds to watch for all year long in the Sanibel-Captiva Islands.
If you’re a snow bird who’s interested in setting up your a permanent nest in Sanibel, let the Gee Family Team help you find just the right spot! John and Ann Gee are Michigan transplants who have over 40 years of island real estate experience. Call Ann or John at 239-850-0979 or contact us here.