Wood storks frequent the wetlands at Dinner Island Ranch.

Dinner Island's large acreage and mix of wetlands and uplands create outstanding wildlife viewing opportunities. Heron, egret, ibis, roseate spoonbill External Website and wood stork External Website regularly congregate at ditches and wetlands. Crested caracara External Website and Florida sandhill cranes External Website are easy to spot in open pastures and prairies. Watch for the yellow flashes of the eastern meadowlark External Website as it perches in low shrubs in pastures. Power lines and fence posts provide convenient perches for kestrels External Website, loggerhead shrikes External Website, hawks and tree swallows External Website.

Dinner Island Ranch Bird List PDF
Wildlife Viewing Tips

Listen for screech External Website, barred External Website and barn owls External Website in the palm and oak hammocks that also host migratory warblers in the spring and fall. Blue-winged External Website and green-winged teal External Website, Florida mottled duck External Website and wood duck External Website use the wetlands in the winter.

White-tailed deer and wild turkey prefer woodland edges or are attracted to clearings such as the dove fields, which are planted in a mixture of seasonal grasses and seasonal grains. Swallow-tailed kites External Website are a spring and summer specialty usually spotted in flight over open areas. Autumn blooms in wetlands and roadside ditches attract numerous species of butterflies.

Check out other species recorded from Dinner Island WMA, or add observations of your own, by visiting the Dinner Island Ranch WMA Nature Trackers project External Website.

Wildlife Highlight: Eastern Meadowlark

Watch for the Eastern meadowlark in prairies and patures at Dinner Island Ranch.


The eastern meadowlark provides a bright splash of color on Florida's open grassy fields and prairies. Scan fence posts, low bushes or power lines for the adult bird with its yellow throat, breast and belly, and black "V" across the chest. Or listen for the sweet, melodious song: a plaintive, clear, descending whistle.

The eastern meadowlark breeds throughout eastern and central North America and in Mexico and parts of Central America and the Caribbean. This year-round Florida resident is not a lark, as its name suggests, but is in the same family as blackbirds and orioles. In size and shape, a perched meadowlark resembles a starling, but it is quail-like in its explosive take-off from the ground. Insects make up the bulk of the meadowlark's diet, but grass and weed seeds are also consumed.

In Florida, breeding takes place from late March through July. During courtship, the male jumps straight up into the air to display its bright yellow and black markings. Males often have two mates at a time. Females build nests on the ground, weaving fine grasses into surrounding vegetation and often incorporating a domed canopy of grass into the construction. Many nests are destroyed each year when cultivated fields are mowed.

Eastern meadowlarks are common on the prairies and pastures of the Florida peninsula, and are found throughout the state in suitable open habitat, including croplands and golf courses. In general, however, scientists have noted gradual population declines throughout the eastern meadowlark's range, probably due to habitat loss.

FWC Facts:
The oystercatcher is one of the largest and heaviest of Florida's shorebirds. It is striking in appearance: dark brown, black and white, with a bright red bill.

Learn More at AskFWC