Florida Pelagic Birding

Florida Pelagic Birding out of Miami produces many great birds!


Florida Pelagic Birding is Free, dynamic, boundless, beautiful, and wild.  These are just some of the words that come to mind when I think of the ocean environment and the many creatures that depend on it.  Unlike land birding where birds are usually confined to habitats that have defined borders, and in most cases that have greatly decreased in size due to our actions, pelagic birds depend on one habitat: the ocean. Many species cover vast distances in their travels and spend months without ever coming to land.  One species of albatross spends the first 5-7 years of its life completely over the water!  It is this fact that makes pelagic birding so exciting.  The possibility that a bird from a far-off ocean can end up almost anywhere is always out there.  There are also some well-established migration patterns that help us predict, with some certainty, when and where certain species will pass our coasts.  This combination of known patterns and unpredictability is what makes pelagic birding such an exciting prospect.  This can be said about birding anywhere, but the added element of open ocean makes pelagic birding that much more dynamic.

Since 2005, I have made over 50 pelagic birding trips off the Miami area, most just half day trips.  This means we have spent less than 1% of the last 10 years birding our offshore waters.  Could you imagine if the best migrant traps were only visited 1% of the time, how many great birds would be missed.  Also, due to limitations because of the size of my old boat, many of these trips were limited to fair weather days, which are usually not ideal for many pelagic species.  Despite such an extremely limited effort, I have seen the following species off Miami:

Fea’s Petrel

Black-capped Petrel

Cory’s Shearwater

Great Shearwater

Sooty Shearwater

Manx Shearwater

Audubon’s Shearwater

Wilson’s Storm-Petrel

Leach’s Storm-Petrel

Band-rumped Storm-Petrel

White-tailed Tropicbird

Red-billed Tropicbird

Brown Booby

Masked Booby

Red-footed Booby

Northern Gannet

Magnificent Frigatebird

Red-necked Phalarope

Red Phalarope

Long-tailed Jaeger

Pomarine Jaeger

Parasitic Jaeger

Brown Noddy

Sooty Tern

Bridled Tern

Arctic Tern

Roseate Tern

White-winged Scoter

Black Scoter

Surf Scoter


Other species seen near here, and that should be found with some effort include Black-legged Kittiwake, Sabine’s Gull and South Polar Skua.  Most of my effort so far has been during summer, which is a great time for shearwaters, tropicbirds, and storm-petrels, but winter may hold even more species that are yet to be found.  With the new XENIA V, more year-round effort will be possible.  The last 10 years have been but a scouting effort.  From this point forward is when the real discovery of our pelagic realm begins!

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