When brush is high along levees, opportunities for wildlife viewing may be limited, except for visitors with airboats and tracked vehicles. Wading birds and raptors are common on the area. The best time to see birds is in February near recreational areas along I-75. The endangered snail kite as well as many other birds can be seen year-round from Tamiami Trail at the Miccosukee Restaurant (L67) and at 40-mile bend. Although not a common resident, the endangered Florida panther is occasionally found on the area.
Randy Kautz - wading bird rookery
The area hosts one of the top 10 wading bird rookeries in the nation and usually supports 10-20 pairs of roseate spoonbills and 90-100 nesting pairs of the wood stork. In general, wading birds can be found throughout the area. However, in the spring months, they tend to concentrate around the last remaining pools of water.
Wildlife Spotlight: Snail Kite
Endangered Snail Kite
The snail kite, also called the Everglades kite, feeds almost exclusively on freshwater apple snails, extracting them from their shells with its slender, curved bill. This raptor is common in many parts of South and Central America, Mexico, and Cuba and once ranged throughout Florida. Today the snail kite's North American distribution is limited to freshwater marshes of central and south Florida and is listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
By the 1960s decades of draining the snail kite's marsh habitat reduced the Florida population to no more than 25 individuals. The snail kite population has rebounded since, and in the 1990s numbered approximately 700 individuals.
The snail kite is also a good indicator of an area's water quality. Increased nutrients, especially phosphorus from agricultural runoff, result in growth of dense stands of cattails and water hyacinth. Snail kites require relatively open water to see the apple snails and are unable to forage successfully in dense vegetation. Increased nutrients may also have detrimental effects on the apple snails themselves by decreasing oxygen levels in the water.