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Travel, For the Birds – Top Bird Watching Hot Spots in Jefferson County Florida

By clgolden
Posted: January 30, 2019

American White Ibis

The moderate climate in Jefferson County allows for year-round outdoor recreational activities. For the birdwatcher looking for a glimpse of a roseate spoonbill, swallow-tailed kite or the Florida burrowing owl, our offerings are abundant.

The Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail is a network of wildlife viewing sites across the state consisting of 510 premier sites. There are enough hot spots here in Jefferson County to satisfy any avian adventure.

Along the Gulf of Mexico, the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge is a birdwatching mecca split between Wakulla and Jefferson Counties. The diversity of wildlife offers opportunities to see a variety of avian species throughout the year.

In the winter months, you can find several birds of prey including the Bald Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk, and the Peregrine Falcon. When visiting from December through February you might catch a glimpse of a White-faced Ibis or beautiful Barn Owl. I had an encounter with a Barn Owl one evening as he swooped down in pursuit of prey.

Three major rivers, the Wacissa, Aucilla and St. Marks run through miles of pristine forests and marshlands, offering an avian adventure by canoe or kayak.

The Wacissa River is a tributary of the Aucilla with twelve springs feeding the river as it winds through the Aucilla Wildlife Management Area. Here, birders have assisted ornithologists in identifying a large concentration of aquatic birds, including egrets, herons, ibis, osprey and wood storks in this spring-fed haven.

Travel to Jefferson County Florida is definitely for the birds.

Ornithologists were originally drawn to this area because of the rare and endangered ivory-billed woodpecker. This woodpecker is one of the largest in the world and was commonly seen here in the late nineteenth century. A sighting today would be considered the “holy grail” since it is listed as critically endangered.

Back in Monticello, located on South Water Street, you’ll find Monticello’s Ecological Park. This twenty-six-acre urban forest is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail and provides walking trails through mixed hardwoods and pines with an elevated boardwalk across a spring-fed stream.

With vast woodlands, pristine rivers, streams and plantations stretched from the Gulf of Mexico to the state of Georgia, this is an avian paradise. Pay a visit to one of Monticello’s birder friendly Bed and Breakfast Inns where the coffee is always ready to get you out by sunrise.

Photograph by Terry Foote [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0]