What comes to mind at the mention of Kissimmee? Just south of Orlando, the region is renowned for theme parks, especially those represented by a particular mouse and orcas. That is about to change. Birding is taking flight in Kissimmee.
An Unlikely Birding Destination
While some birding destinations, like Everglades National Park, are clear hotbeds of activity, others, such as Alcatraz Island and Kissimmee, may come as a shock. Sometimes an area is renowned for something so iconic that we cannot fathom the co-existence of nature in the same space.
Just as Alcatraz Island is known for its prison, Kissimmee is known for theme parks. Yet, each offers excellent birdwatching opportunities. When nature thrives within an unexpected habitat, it often yields more fantastic rewards.
Kissimmee Birding Club
Experience Kissimmee, the Greater Osceola County tourism authority, wants visitors to know Kissimmee is much more than a mouse and orcas. Accordingly, they started the Kissimmee Birding Club this year. DT Minich, Experience Kissimmee President & CEO, says, “We are thrilled to launch the Kissimmee Birding Club and offer a unique opportunity to explore the area’s rich birdlife and natural beauty.”
Kissimmee harbors a combination of natural and organized spaces for birding. Minich states, “This initiative aims to inspire visitors and locals to discover Kissimmee through a unique activity.” Birding enthusiasts, whether beginners or experts, can explore wetlands, forests, and grasslands to discover various bird species in the wild. The natural habitats comprise parks, conservation areas, and wilderness preserves.
Discovery Cove, a local aviary, yields opportunities to observe birds in a controlled and educational setting. Guests can even hand-feed tropical birds.
The region is home to many types of birds, including songbirds, birds of prey, seabirds, and wading birds. People regularly spot ibises, herons, egrets, hawks, falcons, quails, sandhill cranes, anhingas, wood storks, red-winged blackbirds, meadowlarks, and ducks. Visitors have a chance to potentially see rare birds like the Florida scrub jay, limpkin, snail kite, and crested caracara.
The area’s birdlife changes seasonally due to breeding, wintering, and migrations. As such, visitors can have different experiences at various times of the year.
Unique Birding Area
Kissimmee sits in the heart of the Great Florida Birding Trail, a network of over 500 premier wildlife viewing sites that spans more than 800 miles across the state. Although Kissimmee houses many types of birds, three bird species make the region unique.
The roseate spoonbill, prominently featured in the Kissimmee Birding Club logo, dons beautiful pink plumage and an odd bill. It is one of six species of spoonbills worldwide and the only one found in America. Spotting a roseate spoonbill in the wild requires a trip to the southeastern coast of the United States, Mexico, or Central or South America. People regularly spot roseate spoonbills in Osceola County.
Other than Alaska and Minnesota, Florida is believed to house the most significant concentration of nesting bald eagles in the United States, with approximately 1,500 pairs. Kissimmee boasts the most extensive population of nesting eagles in Florida.
Birders regularly spot the nearly extinct whooping crane around Kenansville. It is North America’s tallest bird and one of our rarest. Only about twenty birds remained in the 1940s. Today, we have about 600 whooping cranes.
Birding Club Program
The Kissimmee Birding Club program includes a mobile-exclusive and interactive site where users can learn about nearly two dozen regional birdwatching locations. Users can earn points on the site in various ways, including checking in to every place they visit.
Points accumulate, and users may redeem them for prizes, including Kissimmee Birding Club branded hats, socks, backpacks, fanny packs, and more. Visit the Kissimmee Birding Club site for details.
Wrap-Up: Kissimmee Birding
The Kissimmee area offers much more than theme parks, where you can see orcas and a famous mouse. A new animal now shares the spotlight; the roseate spoonbill.
Whether you are a beginning birder or an expert, search for the beautiful pink bird and the area’s many other species. You may even spot a rare bird. Although unexpected, Kissimmee offers excellent birding. That in itself is a rare find!
Featured image credit: Joshua J. Cotten
More Articles from Miles with McConkey
About the author
Scott McConkey is a nationally syndicated travel writer and the founder of Miles with McConkey, where he provides vacationers and travel enthusiasts with trip ideas, travel guides, and inspiration. His travel articles have been seen in The Associated Press wire, ABC, CBS, CW, FOX, NBC, MSN, and many more. He and his wife, Julie, left the corporate world after nearly 30 years for a life of travel and adventure. What started as a gap year has evolved into a second act. She creates visual content while he utilizes the written word. Their goal is to create content inspiring others to travel more and live their best lives now.