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Before You Go


Do you already have a target list of animals you hope to see? Is there a particular habitat that interests you? Maybe you enjoy coastal areas and the chance to see shorebirds or dolphins, or fresh water marshes with their alligators and wading birds.

The key to successful wildlife viewing is to look in the right places. Every animal has basic needs that include food, water and cover and every habitat meets these needs in different ways. Some animals are quite picky in their selection of a home area. Gopher tortoises prefer dry, sandy areas; limpkins live primarily along river swamps and freshwater marshes. Use the Species Spotlight to help you locate the sites where you'll have a good chance of finding your target species. If you know what part of the state you'll be visiting, pick out viewing locations on the map and go to the site description to see what animals are found there.

In addition to habitat preferences, animals also have seasons when they are most viewable. Scarlet tanagers only pass through Florida during spring and fall migration, but summer tanagers nest here in the summer. Robins and common loons spend the winter months in Florida, while blue jays and cardinals live here year-round. Many state and national parks provide checklists that list species commonly seen during particular seasons. Time of day also influences animal movements. Though dawn and dusk are active times for many animals, owls, flying squirrels and bats are most active at night.

You may only see a few animals on a single visit to a site, but repeated visits to the same site during different seasons will increase your chances of viewing the resident and migratory species associated with it.