The Amazing Birds of the Dry Tortugas

Debra Hess
Yankee Freedom II Naturalist

One of the many natural wonders of the Dry Tortugas is the unusual nesting birds and the numerous migratory visitors. The proximity of these islands to the Yucatan, the Bahamas, Cuba, the Antilles, Central and South America, combined with wind, rain and storm events, make the Dry Tortugas a refuge for migrating birds.
Brown Noddy Tern
Brown Noddy Tern

Starting in winter and peaking in April and early May, visitors are amazed by the variety of birds that can be seen during spring migration. Birds as small as the Ruby Throated Hummingbird, as secretive as the Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Short Eared Owls, Bitterns and Night Herons can be seen. Birds as swift as the Peregrine Falcon, Merlins, and Kestrels, and birds as beautiful as the Painted Bunting, Scarlet and Summer Tananger, Purple Gallinule, Rose-breasted Grosbeak or the numerous warbler species (more than 20 species) can sometimes be spotted. In fact, close to 300 species of birds have been observed in the Dry Tortugas. Opportunities exist for sightings of rare birds such as Red Footed Boobies, Black Noddy Terns, Roseate Terns and Tropical birds to name but a few. Fall migration is more gradual and less dependent on weather events.

Frigate Birds
Frigate Birds

Novice and expert birders will enjoy the Dry Tortugas. Be sure to visit the fresh water fountain “just for the birds” located on the parade ground of Ft. Jefferson. A Dry Tortugas National Park checklist is available in the bookstore as well.

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