The birds of Anna Maria Island are just another part of the ecologically diverse paradise that is known for its sugar white, powdery beaches on the Gulf coast of Florida. Bird lovers will experience many sightings along the beach or in the sanctuaries on the island like Grassy Point or Leffis Key and the Robinson and Neal Preserve just over the bridge in Bradenton. There are local and migrating birds with the white pelicans being most visible in the winter months. Some shorebirds like to feed at high tide while others feed at low tide which makes any time during the day a perfect opportunity for bird watching by the water.
Bird Nesting Season
The Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch is also involved in shorebird monitoring. The bird nesting season on the island is a bit different than the turtle season and it runs from March through August. There are a few tips to observe during that time.
- Never touch a shorebird chick, even if it is wandering outside a staked nesting area.
- Teach kids not to chase birds. Bird parents may abandon their nests if they are disturbed.
- Don’t feed birds. It encourages them to fly at people aggressively.
- If birds are screeching or flying at you, you are too close.
- Avoid posted bird nesting areas and use designated walkways to the beach.
- Keep pets away from bird nesting areas. Dogs are not allowed on the beaches of Anna Maria Island.
- Keep the beaches clean. Food scraps attract predators like racoons or crows and litter can entangle birds and other wildlife.
The Manatee County Audubon Society in partnership with Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch is sponsoring a Bird Steward program during the busiest weekends on Anna Maria Island. The information collected on the Memorial Day holiday weekend and July 4th weekend is used to provide information to the beach visitors about the nesting birds and the importance of not disturbing the birds. 2 volunteers are taking 3 hours shift from 8 am to 8 pm. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Wildlife has an Alert hotline at 888-404-FWCC to report people disturbing nesting birds.
Other most common birds seen on Anna Maria Island are below:
Anhinga – The Anhinga, sometimes confused with the cormorant, has a longer, wider tail with a pale brown stripe, and dark wings patched with silver. The neck is extremely long and thin except when expanded to swallow fish caught by the diving bird’s pointed yellow beak.
Brown Pelican – Majestic brown pelicans are often seen perched on channel markers or swooping inches above the rolling waves. An instantly recognizable pouched beak and webbed feet enable this variety of pelican to dive into the water to scoop up food. Mature adults have a white head, dark brown and gray body, and a incredible wingspan of over seven feet.
Great Blue Heron – Standing at up to four feet in height, the regal great blue heron can be spotted wading along the shores of Anna Maria’s waterways and coastlines. Mostly covered in gray, the king of Sarasota’s wading birds is identifiable by the white crown stripe extending from behind its beak. Particular to south Florida and some areas of the Caribbean, the great white heron (not to be confused with the white egret) may also be sighted occasionally.
Roseate Spoonbill – Anna Maria is one of the few places in America where observers can find the roseate spoonbill, a somewhat odd yet elegant pink bird that is often mistaken for a flamingo. While its similar color may confuse visitors. The distinctive spatulate bill and bald crown help to differentiate this bird from its Caribbean cousin.
Snowy Egret – The yellow feet and long black legs help the snowy egret to stalk small fish swimming alongside the edges of Sarasota’s ponds and coastlines. This brilliant white bird is distinguished by its black beak and small yellow accent under the eye. Though smaller than the great egret, the snowy egret’s flight over Sarasota Bay is still a breathtaking sight.
White Ibis – Often seen along Anna Maria’s coastlines, the white ibis sometimes wanders inland to search for food with its curved, orange-red beak. Mostly white in color, this medium-sized bird’s mask and legs are a matching red with black accenting the wing-tips.
Christmas Bird Count
The Audubon Society holds the Christmas Bird Count, a tradition introduced by the ornithologist Frank M. Chapman beginning on Christmas Day 1900. The last count was held December 15,2018 in Bradenton for a 15 mile circle with 149 species registered.
Interested in learning more about the birds of Anna Maria Island? Visit the Anna Maria Turtle Watch volunteers at the weekly Tuesday farmers market at the end of Pine Ave or stop by our office Duncan Real Estate, also on historic Pine Avenue. You can reach us at 941 779 0304 or a send us a quick message.