Birds (and more) at Pelican Island

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.

Great Blue Heron at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida
Great Blue Heron | Buy Print

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.

Green anole in a tree at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida
Green anole in a tree branch keeping an eye on me as I walk by | Buy Print
Great Egret at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge
Great Egret | Buy Print

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.

Palm trees and blue skies at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge
Palm trees, forests, and dense shrubs | Buy Print
Mangroves
Dense mangroves buffer the trails from the shoreline in much of the area | Buy Print

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.

Juvenile yellow-crowned night heron
Juvenile yellow-crowned night heron | Buy Print
Juvenile yellow-crowned night heron at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge
Juvenile yellow-crowned night heron | Buy Print
Pipers on a tree
Pipers | Buy Print

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!

Lesser Yellowlegs
Lesser yellowlegs jumping out of the water | Buy Print
Great Egret in a tree
Great egret in a tree | Buy Print

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/

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