If you go cuckoo for birds, we've got the perfect vacation spot for you, the Dry Tortugas -- a string of seven small islands about 70 miles off the coast of Key West. The Dry Tortugas National Park has long been known as a birder's paradise. So if you're fond of our feathered friends, you'll want to add the Dry Tortugas to the top of your 'must visit' list.
What Draws Birds To The Dry Tortugas?
Since their discovery by Ponce deLeon in 1513, the Dry Tortugas have been recognized as a fantastic spot to witness migratory birds -- of both the land and seabird varieties. You've heard the old expression, "Location, Location, Location?," so it is for the birds. While fresh water and food can be sparse for the birds, the location of the Dry Tortugas, between the eastern United States and South America make the islands a crucial resting spot for migratory birds. Every spring and fall, birds make their way to the islands as they recuperate between legs of their long intercontinental journey.
What Kind Of Birds You May See
In addition, the Dry Tortugas are home to specific colonies of birds. Believe it or not, here you can see 100,000 Sooty Terns all in the same place during the nesting season from March through September. In addition, you'll see thousands of Noddy Terns and even an occasional Black Noddie. While Bush Key (the island that hosts the birds) is closed during nesting season, you can see the rookery through binoculars from nearby Fort Jefferson on Garden Key.
During migrations, you may see a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, a Yellow Billed Cuckoo, a Peregrine Falcon, or even the magnificent Frigate Bird (with a 7-foot wingspan!). Spring is the best time for bird watching in the Dry Tortugas, but any time of year offers a treat. Nearly three hundred species of birds have been spotted in the Dry Tortugas National Park and birders who frequent the islands can tell you that during the spring months of the year, you could spot as many as 70 different species in one day.
Other birds you may encounter in the Dry Tortugas include the Rosette and Brindled Terns, Double-Crested Cormorants, Shiny Cowbird, the Golden Warbler, Masked and Brown Boobies, Red-Footed Boobies, and the Caribbean Short-Eared Owl. The Dry Tortugas National Park Service offers a full checklist of birds you can view in the park.
Traveling To The Dry Tortugas
The Dry Tortugas National Park is closed to personal watercraft. However, you've got many choices for ferry service from Key West. A little research can help you select the ideal mode of transportation. In addition, the concierge at your Key West hotel or Key West inn can help you sort out your options. Many of our tour operators offer more than just transportation, including lunch or light refreshments. If you would like to try out Key West snorkeling, or Scuba diving in Key West, the Dry Tortugas is a great place to experience life under the sea. The Trip to the Dry Tortugas takes approximately 2 hours by boat and you'll need to "pack in" and "pack out" all that you need -- so remember your sunscreen, your bug repellent, water, and of course your binoculars as you prepare to be dazzled by the wildlife above and below.