The Florida Keys Wild Bird Sanctuary is a fantastic little place to come and see birds up close, both wild and the captive "patients" which happen to be in residence at the time.
The Center is just down the road from Key Largo in the Upper Keys and definitely worth a quick visit if you are in the area or are driving down to the Lower Keys.
It's an easy stopover, perhaps an hour or two, and a must if you love birds.
This Rehabilitation Center, as the name implies, is sort of a "Bird Hospital" that operates purely based on donations. One of their main missions is to rescue birds that have been harmed or injured and to release them back to the wild once they are fit again. Their motto is "Keep Them Flying"!
Another goal of the Sanctuary is to educate the public about the dangers facing our wildlife and the steps we can all take to
protect the environment. A visit to the center is both educational and fun and also great for kids.
At the entrance check out the list of birds currently at the Sanctuary that are being rehabilitated...
As you enter you follow the walk which will bring you around to the various cages and enclosures with the "patient" birds that are being cared for. Each cage is clearly marked and has that bird's story.
There were sea gulls, cormorants, pelicans, a red-shouldered hawk, a couple of owls, a turkey vulture and many other winged creatures...
The staff will also post the times when the resident birds are fed. There are feedings throughout the day normally between 8:00 am and 2:00 pm.
Besides the resident birds which you will see in the many enclosures, you will also encounter birds hanging around the Sanctuary outside the cages. It's almost like they are "visiting" their patient friends...
These animals are wild, so beware, because of their friendly and approachable behavior you might mistake them for some of the residents, they certainly prance about like they own the place!
Most notably are the pelicans which were all over the walk, they come to you, follow you, show off and beg for attention.
One of our "theories" is that these could be animals that were former patients and now just hang around out of familiarity and habit. Perhaps waiting for a handout as they know there is food coming, to no avail since as one of the keepers confirmed the wild birds that hang around are NOT fed by Sanctuary.
At any rate, they are fun to watch, I never realized how big they were, check out their wing spans when they flap them and fly on top of the cages.
Follow along the path until the end where it opens into a nice view of the bay and the "Salt Pond" where many wild wading birds hang out.
It's a marshy area with birds hiding in the shade of the mangroves or feeding in the shallows.
We saw beautiful great egrets...
A pair of white ibis scavenging and looking for food in the swampy bottom...
A gorgeous snowy egret...
Many cormorants, pelicans, and even a wood stork! There have also been sightings of roseate spoonbills, although we haven't seen any here (yet).
There are benches in front of the pond where you can sit and enjoy the nature and gorgeous views of the bay. Spend some time and let nature come to you before you head back to the liveliness of Highway 1!
Getting there is easy, just follow Overseas Highway to Mile Marker 92, the Sanctuary will be on the right as you are heading South towards Key West. You will see the sign:
There is no admission fee for the Sanctuary. There is a Donation box at the entrance, please donate what you can! Also if you are able, these are some every-day items on their "wish list" which would help them help our little winged friends:
Here's the entire list which is posted at the entrance of the Center:
Where?: 92080 Overseas Highway, Tavernier, FL 33070
Hours: The center is open year round during daylight hours.
Entrance to the Refuge: FREE, there is a donation box at the entrance, please give generously!
Parking: Free, limited number of spaces but more than adequate. Might fill up quick during weekends and holidays.
More Info: www.keepthemflying.org.
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