Make Plans to Migrate over to the Rookery

Make Plans to Migrate over to the Rookery

Photo by Jo-Szu (Ross) Tsai

Photographers visiting the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park are astounded by the incredible photographic opportunities of hundreds of nesting heron and egrets pairs in close proximity to the public boardwalk.  2011’s breeding season ended with a grand total of over 800 nests!  As a member of the Great Florida Birding Trail, this accredited zoo has been selected for its excellent bird watching and bird education opportunities.

In the mid 1970’s the Alligator Farm expanded its Native Florida Swamp exhibit and inadvertently developed an outstanding natural bird rookery. A winding boardwalk allows for the rare opportunity to view wild nesting birds at extremely close distances, at times literally within arm’s reach.  Since the swamp was expanded, it has grown to become one of the largest natural bird rookeries in Florida.

The two-acre exhibit is home not only to American Alligators and native turtles, but many different species of wading birds.  Twelve species frequent the swamp, with eight of those nesting and producing young.  Great egrets and the endangered Wood stork are the first to arrive, followed by Snowy egrets, Roseate spoonbills, Tri-colored and Little Blue herons, and lastly, the Cattle egrets.  Green herons choose nesting spots deep within the trees in the Land of Crocodiles.  The nesting season begins in early March and lasts through July.  During the peak season, in May, birds can be photographed in all stages of nesting: displaying, incubating, and the raising of their young.

Along with the collection of valuable migratory bird data and the admiration by the staff and visitors of these spectacular wading birds, the Alligator Farm also participates in supporting conservation programs.  Among our favorites are the USFW Wood Stork Recovery Program and Audubon of Florida’s Roseate Spoonbill Banding Project.

See you on the boardwalk!