The Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge is roughly 5400 acres of protected water and land. Located near Sebastian, Florida, the refuge is a beautiful conservation site in an otherwise sprawling urban area. This oasis of forest and mangroves on the Indian River Lagoon is home to over 140 species of birds. Additionally, hundreds of species of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and invertebrates make this their home.
I was lucky to spend time on the trails in the refuge while on a family visit to Florida. Little green anoles scampered out of our way while walking on the sandy paths. Tiny crabs scurried into their small holes. And a few times, I remembered how much I enjoy the lack of snakes in Fairbanks, Alaska.
While there are only a few miles of trails at Pelican Island, there is plenty to see with some patience. The birds seem a bit shy here. Even from a distance, they always seem to know when I have an eye on them. It only takes a second for them to disappear to the other side of a mangrove. It’s a vast landscape for all sorts of creatures to hide.
Of course, there are exceptions to the skittish birds. There are tons of shorebirds like pipers and plovers that don’t even seem to notice people. Also, we did encounter one juvenile yellow-crowned night heron that didn’t give way on the trail for us at all. Although, it never let go of us with its big yellow eye.
What I find incredible is that you can see these same birds all over in Florida. They’re in backyards, parking lots, and every waterway you see. Yet, there is something different about seeing them in their natural habitat. It feels like a miniature version of Jurassic Park without the pens or cages. Unlike much of Florida, people seem out-of-place here. That’s refreshing to me since I don’t really think I fit in with the people of Florida (no offense). If you are in the area and need a respite from the traffic and the shops, I’d highly recommend spending some time here!
Interested in a visit? Check out more info on the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service webpage. You can also check out more of my photos from Pelican Island here: https://photos.lwpetersen.com/Galleries/Florida/Pelican-Island-National-Wildlife-Refuge/