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Beach Birds

The Emerald Coast is a stopover for migrating birds, a place where they can rest and feed before continuing on their migration. The freshwater marsh areas provide shelter for clapper rails and spotted sandpipers. A diversity of gulls, terns and various shorebirds can be found year-round. So grab your binoculars and keep your eyes peeled. You never know what you may find!

Bird ID

Black Skimmers/Terns

Birds begin nesting in April or May and usually finish in August. Black skimmers and terns will make their nests along the causeway. Do not disturb any nests you find. These birds will become very territorial if their nests or their chicks are disturbed. Terns will dive-bomb toward anything they perceive to be a threat. You might notice some reduced speed limits during nesting season. Please obey the speed limit along beach roads to lessen the chance that you may kill a bird or chick.


These small gray and white birds that run back and forth along the water’s edge actually spend winters in places like Navarre Beach and summers in the Arctic. They have short little legs and stubby thin beaks. All that running around has everything to do with their food source. They wait for waves to retreat and then dash up to peck up invertebrates exposed by the waves.

Brown Pelicans

If Navarre Beach had an official bird, brown pelicans would likely be in the running. They fly in a graceful V-formation over the beach, dive straight down in the water for food and pester fishermen on the pier for a free meal. But they don’t want to be friends, experts warn. They just want food. In the air, pelicans are beauty and grace. On land? Not so much. They don’t walk as much as they waddle.


Graceful and acrobatic, gulls are hardly cautious around humans. They will not hesitate to swoop down and take food right out of your hand. You can find these beautiful seabirds on any beach or bay shoreline, or in and around mangrove trees, seawalls and piers. When you’re looking at a flock of seagulls, you’re probably looking at several different species that are closely related. Enjoy watching gulls, but please don’t feed them.

Great Blue Herons

If you see a great blue heron up north, the chances are you will have to use a telephoto lens to photograph it. Along the Emerald Coast, they’ll stand right next to you. Herons, a lightweight bird, are perhaps best known for their long legs and long necks. The middle of their legs flex backwater, but that’s because what looks like their knee is actually their ankle. Everything below that middle joint is actually part of their feet.