Florida Seabirds: Common Sea Birds of Florida

Last Updated on March 22, 2023 by Lily Aldrin

Florida’s coastline stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Keys, then around to the Gulf, then north and west over the panhandle. With so much coastline, it offers a variety of coastal birds.

As a result, we will focus on some of Florida’s most common and attractive beach birds. These birds fly over lakes, swim in the ocean, and rest on seawalls and piers. These birds are most active at dawn and dusk.

Little Blue HeronLittle Blue Heron
Snowy EgretSnowy Egret
Great Blue HeronGreat Blue Heron
Short-billed DowitcherShort-billed Dowitcher
Long-billed DowitcherLong-billed Dowitcher
Roseate SpoonbillRoseate Spoonbill
Tricolored HeronTricolored Heron
Black SkimmerBlack Skimmer
Laughing GullLaughing Gull
Brown pelicanBrown pelican
Royal TernRoyal Tern
Great EgretGreat Egret
White IbisWhite Ibis

Common Sea Birds of Florida

1. Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron

The oddest feature of blue herons is their lovely bluish-purple plumage. They’re plentiful along the beach, although they normally keep to themselves by moving and foraging very quietly.


Look at how Little Blue Herons move when foraging to tell them from their cousins. They forage alongside white herons and egrets most of the time.

They predominantly consume salmon and other invertebrates, but they can also consume insects, tadpoles, and turtles. Egretta caerulea (Little Blue Heron) is a little, bluish-colored heron. The mating birds have exquisite plumes and reddish-buff necks.

Their beak is similarly blue with a black tip on the top of their heads. And, as you might expect, these birds are not quite as large as the Great Blue Heron, with a wingspan of approximately 40 inches, and the approximate length of its body is round about 27-30 inches. 


The Little Blue Heron hunts for fish, amphibians, and crustaceans in not-so-deep waters of inland rivers, lakes, ponds, and marshes.

2. Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

The Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) is a graceful white tropical bird smaller than herons but has a body shape comparable to that of the Great White Heron. This stunning bird has a black beak and stark white feathers with long black limbs, nearly fluorescent yellow feet, and subtle yellow characteristics on the face.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Snowy Egrets were nearly extinct. Their breeding plumes were in high demand as hat decorations for women. 

Habitat & Food

Today, they can be found scouring ponds, lakes, streams, wetlands, swamps, and tidal flats seeking food. Prawns, fishes, crustaceans, crabs, worms, snakes, and tiny frogs are their favorite foods.

Length & Weight

Their length ranges from 56 to 66 cm, and their wingspan is 100cm. these birds weigh up to 370 grams.

3. Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

The Great Blue Heron (Ardea Herodias) is a huge solitary bird with elegant flight. It’s a bluish-grayish heron with a largely white face and yellow beak. They are North America’s biggest heron. The Great Blue Heron is a huge bird with a wingspan of up to 6 and a half feet and a body length of 54 inches.

Habitat & Food

Fish, water invertebrates, and occasionally small mammals such as moles and voles are eaten by the Great Blue Heron. They hunt for food in the shallows, freshwater, lakes, and marshes.


Their length ranges from 97 to 137 cm, and they can weigh up to 2500 grams. Their wingspan is round about 200 cm.

4. Short-billed Dowitcher

Short-billed Dowitcher

Compared to the Large-billed Dowitcher’s bill (Limnodromus griseus), the Short-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus griseus) has a shorter bill. 

A chubby, magnificent red, a golden, and brown shorebird with a long bill, They enjoy marshes, coastal mudflats, flooded farms, and even sewage ponds in Florida.

They explore for food like a sewing machine by thrusting their beak straight up and down.

5. Long-billed Dowitcher

Long-billed Dowitcher
Credits – Wikipedia

The Long-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus), which has the longest bill of the two, pokes and probes the sand in the same manner as the other two. 

However, listening to Dowitchers rather than glancing at their invoices is perhaps a better way to tell them distinct. They can measure up to 29cm, their wingspan length is 49 inches, and they weigh up to 131grams.

6. Sanderling


Sanderlings are little sandpipers with a penchant for chasing waves. They’re frequently seen along the beach, digging back and forth, searching for little food. The bills and legs of sanderlings are distinctively black.

 Their tail and back have black stripes, and their plumage is light white and brown. Sanderlings are among the most common seabirds seen along the beach in Florida. Sanderlings eat insects, worms, and algae, among other things. On the other hand, Sanderlings cruise the beach in search of beach crabs or other delicious crustaceans.

You may catch a marvelous low display flight during the breeding season as the male Sanderling tries to impress his potential partner. The male lets out sharp chirring calls and waits till the female glides to the ground. Then, he’ll approach her with ruffled feathers and a hunched-down head.

During the mating season, the male Sanderling may do a spectacular low demonstration fly to impress his probable spouse. The male makes sharp chirping calls while waiting for the female to glide to the ground. Then, it will approach her with his disarranged feathers and a bent head.

Sanderlings, sometimes known as “peeps,” are seabirds with black bills, dark eyes, and short, black legs. You’ll know who they are when you spot them along the water’s edge, probing around in the damp sand for food.

7. Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbills may now be seen in Texas, and FloridaRoseate Spoonbills are undeniably strange when seen up close. They have a partially hairless head and vivid pink plumage.

Roseate Spoonbills, like humans, go through balding when they lose all of the feathers on a portion of their heads as they get older. Roseate Spoonbills forage similarly to Black Skimmers. They swim in shallow water, skimming the surface with their lower mandible.

They grab their prey primarily using their sense of touch; however, they utilize their eyesight occasionally.

Next to the Flamingo, the Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja) is among the gorgeous coast and marsh birds you’ll encounter in Florida. Because of their beautiful pink plumage, they are sometimes mistaken for Flamingos. 


The lengthy wandering bird in lakes, marshes, intercostal waterways, estuaries, and ponds. They move back and forth in a sweeping manner, and if a fish or bug is caught between their strong mandibles, it will clamp their bill shut, and the fish or bug is swallowed.

8. Tricolored Heron

Tricolored Heron

Tricolored Herons have long necks, beaks, and legs, and their bodies are quite slim. It has an exquisite plume, a blend of lavender, white and blue-gray. This makes them look a lot like Little Blue Herons.


They will sometimes stay immobile and watch for the target to approach them. When foraging, a Tricolored Heron may be identified because it starts churning the sediments with one of its feet. While hunting from the skies, they’re more active, darting into the water to seek schools of fish.

Forages alone or towards the edge of diverse wading bird flocks. Gently stalks fish or pirouettes, stopping and turning with fluttering wings. Flies with their heads tucked in and their feet were trailing behind them.

9. Black Skimmer

Black Skimmer

Black Skimmers are among the most stunning birds to be seen along Florida’s coast. They’re only found along the coasts of North America, and they’re very popular in Florida. Black Skimmers may be seen in flocks on the seashore, flapping their wings.

With a black-and-red beak and orange-red legs, it is completely black above it and white below. Juveniles have pale-edged wings and covert feathers and are brownish above.

Their food consists primarily of fish, with some crustaceans thrown in. Black Simmers do not dive for fish as terns do. Instead, they hover near the water’s edge and sink their lower jaw.

Black Simmers snap their upper jaw to capture a fish as soon as caught. What’s fascinating about them is that they can catch fish using their sense of smell rather than their eyesight.

Skimmers have a peculiar flight style in which they fly low to the ground, using lengthy upstrokes but quick down strokes to keep out of the water. The flight takes on a distinct ranging style as a result of this.

10. Laughing Gull

Laughing Gull

These birds have a distinctive sound that reminds me of Florida summers. This Gull has a sharp blackhead, grayish-black wings, and a grayish-black back. Diving, wading, flying, or strolling, Laughing Gulls forage. Fish, beetles, and crustaceans are among their favorite foods. They’ve also been observed eating the eggs of other birds, such as Royal Terns.

When a Laughing Gull spots a target in the water, it dives to the surface and grabs it. It may also take food from another bird’s bill or land on its head to steal it.


Laughing Gulls, like other gulls, establish a colony of nests near one another. Their nests are situated among bushes, vines, or plants on the ground.

Laughing Gulls are more likely to be seen in the dark, especially during mating. When it’s dark, they prefer to feed near the beach, and they never capture insects during the day.

11. Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican

They are large seabirds with a stocky appearance. When gliding, they have a lengthy wingspan. Brown Pelicans are massive seabirds with a stocky build. They have long bills and narrow necks, and an elastic throat pouch for catching fish. Their wings are extraordinarily large and wide whenever the birds are gliding, and they are often clearly bent.

As adults, Brown Pelicans have gray-brown bodies, yellow heads, and white necks. The sides of the throat become a rich, deep red in breeding plumage. Pale atop with a faint yellowish belly and breast in immatures.

Brown Pelicans feed by diving into the water and stunning tiny fish with their massive bodies before picking them up in their inflatable throat pouches. Pelicans rest on docks and coastlines when they are not foraging or they patrol the shoreline. Pelicans fly on their big wings in flight, typically riding updrafts along wave walls or cliffs. The flapping of their wings is slow but strong and deep.

Brown Pelicans can be found around the southern and western seacoasts, although they are rarely observed inland. They lay their eggs in colonies, generally on remote islands where they are safe from terrestrial predators.

12. Royal Tern

Royal Tern

The Royal Tern is a tall and elongated bird with a black crest and widespread wings. They have white plumage with grey undersides. Their legs are short, and their tails are forged.

Royal Terns are frequently seen along the water’s edge and on sandy beaches. They hunt for food by hovering low and looking for it. They dive some inches just below the water’s surface when they find prey to capture.

Habitat & Food

Royal Terns have been known for stealing meals from other birds, particularly smaller birds. They prefer to feed in the dark and have been seen to snag flying fish in mid-flight. Many tropical places, including Hawaii, have them.

Tiny fish and crabs make up their food. Shrimp, squid, and other crustaceans are also eaten. Royal Terns are highly gregarious birds that breed in dense colonies. The male and female courting occurs in high-altitude spiraling.

On the other hand, Royal Terns have a quicker, more floating flight. They have a slimmer, narrower body. Terns have sharp beaks and forked tails. They have an orange beak and a shaggy blacktop.

Terns may hover 10 to 30 ft. above the sea for a brief moment before gracefully diving into the waves to snag a fish. The Royal Tern is the biggest of the terns. The Royal Tern prefers to be near large amounts of water. They eat fish and crabs there.

13. Great Egret

Great Egret

The Great Egret is a big bird with long legs and an S-shaped neck. They have feathers, yellow beaks, and black legs similar to swans. Because they are colonial nesters, they can be found in high numbers along beaches and other watery areas. They’re also found in Hawaii.

Whenever the prey is close enough, Great Egrets seize it with a rapid thrust of their beak. They, like Laughing Gulls, have a habit of stealing meals from other birds.

Great Egrets were formerly an uncommon sighting in the United States, but they’ve begun to rebound because of improved conservation efforts. Great Egrets hunt small aquatic animals like frogs and fish in shallow water. 

They usually remain motionless, waiting for unwary prey to come by. The egrets then attack with a jab of its long neck and beak, striking with stunning speed.

14. White Ibis

Ibis White

The White Ibis has a football-shaped body. It has a long neck and legs and is huge and stocky. It has white plumage with black at the tips of its wings.

The exposed reddish-pink skin of a White Ibis’ head is perhaps its most distinguishing trait. The base of the bill is reddish-pink, while the tip is black.

They are one of Florida’s most frequent birds. It wades into shallow water and uses its bill to explore the water. Crustaceans, insects, and tiny fish are among its favorite foods.

15. Willets


Willets are most commonly found around marshes and swamps with enough shallow water to walk through. On the other hand, these seabirds may be seen traveling down the shore.

Willets have plumage that is a blend of grey and brown, and they feed by probing the water with their beak. Insects, particularly aquatic insects, make up the majority of their food, comprised of crustaceans, crabs, tiny fish, and fiddlers.

While standing on the coastline, it’s possible that you won’t be able to spot a Willet. When it extends its wings, however, the characteristic black and white lines on the wings are visible.


In this discussion, we have talked about some most common birds abundantly present in Florida. Due to its panhandle structure and its coastal areas, it is home to various sea birds that Florida dwellers can see abundantly.

We have talked about the features of the birds, their feeding patterns, and their certain peculiar aspects that make these birds special and distinctive from others.


Which is the sea bird that is the most common?

Gulls are the most common sea birds.

Can pelicans be found in Florida?

Yes, pelicans can be seen on the shores of Florida.

How many species of sea birds are most common in Florida?

Normally there are 12 species of sea birds that are the most abundant.

Which sea bird has an s-shaped neck?

Great egret has an s-shaped neck.

About Lily Aldrin

I am Lily Aldrin. I attended Cornell University, where I obtained my degree to become an Ornithologist so I could pursue my love of these magnificent creatures in and out of their natural habitats.

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