As a kid, my parents would drive down to the Florida Keys from Miami every few weeks so we could enjoy the ocean. My sisters and I were really born mermaids because we spent so much time out in the ocean, whether in Haulover Beach, Biscayne National Park, or the Florida Keys. However, one of my favorite things to do when down in the Florida Keys was visit the Wild Bird Center in Tavernier. It’s a small sanctuary for injured birds but it had a huge impact on me since you got to see a wide variety of birds up close. The last time I actually visited the center was over ten years ago so I decided to take advantage of my winter break and visit again. If you can appreciate wild birds such as hawks, owls, egrets, pelicans, song birds, and even seagulls than this is definitely the place for you.
Most of the birds in the center cannot be returned back into the wild such as their resident Blue Jays, Flip & Flop, which were extremely friendly! However, many other birds are simply recovering and regaining strength to be released back in their natural habitat. This aviary was filled with all types of song birds such as Doves, Blue Jays, Mocking Birds, and even the beautiful White-Crowned Pigeon who’s northern most habitat is the South Florida, mainly the Florida Keys.
My personal favorite part of the sanctuary is the variety of birds of prey they have such as this Short-Tailed Hawk. The sanctuary also features Red-Shouldered Hawks, Cooper’s Hawks, Great Horned Owls, Barred Owls, and even a Barn Owl. Most of these birds are permanent residents. As an animal lover, it can be heart breaking to see such incredible animals in these small aviaries when compared to the large open spaces they could be flying out in the wild. At the same time, one must understand that these birds were either hit by cars, shot by some asshole, or found entangled in fishing line/trash but was thankfully found and taken in by this wonderful center! (Don’t be that asshole and pick up your trash, fishing line INCLUDED!)
As someone who has loved wildlife and nature all her life, I can say that this place is a haven for most birds. Many of these birds are becoming threatened due to habitat loss and pesticide use. Pictured above is a Cooper’s Hawk, which can often be seen flying in suburban areas. Personally, there is one that often flies around my neighborhood looking for a nice meal. Next time you’re taking your dog for a walk, I encourage you to look up and see if you can spot one! (THEY’RE AWESOME, LOOK AT THOSE EYES!)
Once you travel towards the back of the sanctuary, you’ll see a Vulture aviary and a larger aviary filled with aquatic birds such as Pelicans, Seagulls, Cormorants, Limpkins, and Egrets. The boardwalk will also take you towards the Bay where many Pelicans will be waiting for your arrival. You’ll also be able to see a beautiful wetland filled with Black Mangroves and fish.
Next time you decide to travel down to the Florida Keys, I definitely recommend visiting this wonderful place. It’s a short visit and I’m sure you’ll leave inspired to look for these awesome birds in your neighborhood! The center is also completely donation based and is always in need of items such as pet carriers, wire cages, towels, sheets, baby blankets, heatings pads, gauze, cotton swabs, and the list goes on and on. You can visit their website http://www.keepthemflying.org for more information.
I hope you enjoyed reading all about this awesome place! Now get off your phone and go outside.