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Birding On a Disney Trip Summer 2022 Trip Report (1 Viewer)


Well-known member
United States
I don't usually do these, but I felt like a trip report of a family Disney trip I managed to squeeze some birding into might be of use to other birders who may find themselves in a similar situation someday. Here I'll discuss both the birding I did outside the park in central Florida as well as the birding situation within Disney itself. This trip took place in late May and early June 2022.

(Lifer birds in bold)

Day One:
Flew into Sandford Airport. I was able to get my first lifer before the plane even landed - a Swallow-tailed Kite startlingly close to the plane while landing. Taxiing on the runway I was able to spot perhaps 100 Cattle Egrets. The plane landed around 7:00 PM, leaving no time for birding today, as we had to get to our hotel (a Disney resort) right away today, and it's about a 40 minute drive from Sandford to Disney. I was able to pick up a few birds at the car rental at the airport though, including Black Vulture, both Common and Boat-tailed Grackles, Eurasian Collared-Dove, and Fish Crow. Along the drive I spotted a few birds flying around, including a flyby Little Blue Heron and around 50 Osprey nests - I would find this species to be shockingly common all around Florida. We stopped a Target to get a few groceries on the way, and there was a small pond in the parking lot. I assumed a tiny pond like this would yield no birds, but I was surprised to a family of Limpkins, including several chicks. Apparently, even the tiniest bits of water here in Florida are covered in birds. Also here were more grackles and Fish Crows (ubiquitous in Florida), a Mallard, a group of "Muddled Ducks" (the local term for Mallard x Mottled Duck hybrids, more common than either pure species in most areas) and a small group of feral Muscovy Ducks, an established introduced species throughout much of Florida. After this stop, we continued to our resort, by which time it was too dark to see birds. Of note, however, was that the outside of the buildings were covered in Tropical House Geckos.
Day Two:

Today was our first day at Magic Kingdom. I was able to get away for some birding today as long as I got back to the park around noon.

The plan was stop first at Orlando Wetlands Park (about 50 minutes east of Disney). Orlando Wetlands Park is water treatment wetland that is owned by the City of Orlando for some reason despite being quite a ways outside the city. The site is managed with wildlife in mind and the accessible trails make this a somewhat well-known birding site.

On the drive there, I had to stop for a pair of Crested Caracaras in the road. This was very cool, and I was surprised this species wasn't very skittish. I was able to take photos from the car stopped right next to the birds and they didn't seem concerned. In fact, that was true of basically all birds except ground-doves on this trip. I think only scared birds by approaching them a total of three times on this entire trip, and two of those were ground-doves.

I knew Orlando Wetlands Park was a good place when the first person I run into was a birder from Thailand. In fact, there were lots of birders here who were able to help me find a variety of birds. The property is quite extensive and I did have limited time, so I ended up walking the 2.5 mile Birding Loop, which is a trail across some marsh dikes. The birding was great here. Wading birds were extremely abundant, with literally hundreds of Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets (as well as Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, Common Gallinules, and American Alligators). Also fairly common here were Limpkin, Purple Gallinule, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Cattle Egret, Green Heron, Anhinga, and White Ibis. Looking a little closer among the reeds I was also able to spot Black-crowned Night-Heron and Least Bittern. It's a good idea to keep your eyes on the sky here as well, as I had flyovers of Roseate Spoonbill, Blue-winged Teal, Black Vulture, and Red-shouldered Hawk. One extremely interesting thing here is the Purple Martins which nest in natural cavities in palm trees. This is the only colony left east of the Rocky Mountains to not nest in man-made boxes. Back in the forest at the parking lot, I heard a few forest species such as Common Ground Dove, White-eyed Vireo, Northern Parula, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Carolina Wren, and saw my only Ruby-throated Hummingbird of the trip.

I did make another stop after this, at Hal Scott Regional Park, which is near Orlando Wetlands Park to the west. This stop was mainly an attempt to see Red-cockaded Woodpeckers. I had seen maps that showed where in the park where the woodpeckers nest, but I had no concept of how far from the parking lot this was. I was just hoping it wouldn't be too far with the tight schedule I had.

The habitat at Hal Scott was super cool. An open longleaf pine savanna with a dense floor of saw palmettos underneath. I had been advised to watch out for rattlesnakes here. It was pretty quiet here, bird-wise. I was able to pick a much-tinier-than-I-had-imagined Common Ground Dove right in the parking lot, as well as an Eastern Bluebird, which my hopeful mind thought was a scrub-jay for a brief moment. The calls of Northern Bobwhite and Bachman's Sparrow were omnipresent here but I was unable to locate either species. I spotted a White-eyed Vireo later on the trail. I quickly realized I did not have to find the woodpeckers, as it would be a few miles of hiking at least to get to their nest site. I turned around, but not before spotting a very active flock of Brown-headed Nuthatches working through the trees. I did see a few interesting species here, but summer birding in Florida isn't good in dry habitats.

Magic Kingdom is not good for spotting wildlife. Just putting that out there. The huge crowds and non-native greenery make it poor bird habitat, especially in the breeding season. House Sparrows and Muddled Ducks are the only birds you can expect to see throughout most of the park. There is one okay spot to see wildlife in the park though - Tom Sawyer Island. Accessible only by boat, this is a quiet corner of the park where all the birds that should be elsewhere in the park seem to take refuge. I was able to get within a foot a Great Egret hunting anoles here. I could hear a few interesting species calling from the cypress swamp on the other side of the water, including Northern Parula, Northern Mockingbird and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Oddly, this was also the only place in the park I saw White Ibises, which are common in the other Disney parks. The herp and mammal situation in Magic Kingdom is even bleaker than the bird one. Tom Sawyer Island and parts of Frontierland have a Brown Anole population (but that species is abundant everywhere in Florida). You might see some bullfrog tadpoles in some of the water features, too. As for mammals if you're lucky you might see a squirrel.
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