The city of Orlando, Florida, is known as a sprawling metropolis of seemingly ever-expanding and never-ending attractions, but there are many parks, forests, and wildlife refuges that allow thousands of native animals to call “The City Beautiful” home. To point you in the right direction for viewing birds and animals throughout O-Town, here we highlight where to find Orlando’s incredible wildlife.
The Tibet-Butler Preserve is a 440-acre area made up of cypress swamps, marshes, and pine woodlands that offers ample opportunity to see some of Orlando’s diverse wildlife. Several trails through the preserve and the areas around Lake Tibet-Butler are home to various native birds, deer, and gopher tortoises, while the butterfly garden offers a chance to see colorful butterflies.
One of the best places to see Orlando’s incredible wildlife is the Hal Scott Regional Preserve and Park, a more than 9,000-acre expanse of open prairie and flatwoods along the Econlockhatchee River. The Hal Scott Regional Preserve and Park is home to several iconic bird species, such as sandhill cranes, red-cockaded woodpeckers, and bald eages, as well as bobcats, gopher tortoises, and river otters.
If you simply can’t get away from the bustle of Orlando, you can still see some of amazing wildlife at Lake Eola Park. Aside from Lake Eola’s impressive population of resident swans (of which there are five different species) you’ll sometimes see ducks, rabbits, and raptors in the city’s downtown park.
A great way to see some of Florida’s most iconic wildlife species is by visiting Gatorland, a 110-acre wildlife preserve and theme park known as the “Alligator Capital of the World” that’s home to thousands of reptiles, including alligators, crocodiles, snakes, lizards, and the world’s biggest collection of rare leucistic (white) alligators. A 10-acre rookery also serves as a temporary or permanent home for dozens of bird species, such as herons, egrets, wood storks, and others, and the free-flight aviary and petting zoo offer opportunities to get a bit closer to the wildlife species of Gatorland in Orlando.
A great place for seeing central Florida’s incredible wildlife is the Orlando Wetlands Park, open every day of the year from dawn until dusk. More than 30 species of birds and animals listed on the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Threatened and Endangered Wildlife list call the Orlando Wetlands home, visitors often see white-tailed deer, bobcats, and river otters from the trails and roads. Bald eagles, red-shouldered hawks, turkey vultures, and limpkins can be seen year-round, while wading birds and waterfowl, such as blue and green-winged teals, white ibis, wood storks, and American coots appear during winter in the marshes of the wetlands.
Named after a 200-year-old live oak tree that survived a remarkable split down its middle, Split Oak Forest is a 2,000-acre area of undeveloped wetlands and pastures with several hiking and horse-riding trails and two overlooks that offer ample opportunities to see dozens of wildlife species. Visitors often see deer, turkey, Sherman’s fox squirrels, gopher tortoises, sandhill cranes, woodpeckers, and other wildlife species while exploring Split Oak Forest.
The undeveloped north shore of Lake Apopka is a wonderful place to see Orlando’s incredible wildlife, such as racoons, coyotes, and bobcats, as well as turtles, river otters, and alligators. It’s one of the best birding areas in all of Florida, where you can regularly see hundreds of species such as egrets, herons, warblers, flycatchers, ospreys, peacocks, and cormorants.
Wekiwa Springs State Park is a 7,000-acre expanse of wilderness that surrounds the park’s namesake Wekiwa (or Wekiva) Springs, serving as a perfect home to some of Orlando’s native wildlife. Visitors can often catch glimpses of white-tail deer, Sherman’s fox squirrels, wild turkey, foxes, rabbits, oppossoms, racoons, and black bears anywhere throughout the state park.