INDIAN RIVER COUNTY ― One of the most rewarding aspects of life in Indian River County is the abundance of gorgeous birds. The county is a home or a temporary resting place for hundreds of fascinating birds, including migrating birds who pass through for a brief time.

A new video from Pelican Island Audubon Society, “A Birder’s Guide to Migration in Indian River County,” describes expert strategies for observing migrating birds in Indian River County.

Host Juanita Baker, author of "Florida Birds Exposed," and accomplished local birders Julien Grudens and Will Johnson explain in layman’s language the science of birding, and point viewers to the best places to observe specific species in Vero Beach and Sebastian.

Mr. Johnson is a PIAS volunteer and field guide. Mr. Grudens is a longtime birder in Indian River County who is involved in avian ecology and conservation research. Their webinar shows how to see more birds, and what resources to use to get the most out of your birding trips.

In the hour-long presentation, viewers learn about the biology of birds and their migratory paths, discovering how factors like weather affect why and where birds migrate.

Most important for birders, they tell you how and where to find the species you want to see.

Some birds, Mr. Grudens explains, are tropical birds who “just come up here to breed during the summer. They're really only here for a short amount of time. A lot of them we only get to see in Florida during passage and migration.”

“There's a lot of different strategies. Some go over land, some go over water for different reasons. Some birds soar, some birds can't do that.”

Mr. Grudens and Mr. Johnson explain about the migratory pathways, or flyways, which are key to understanding where and how birders can locate the birds they want to see.

One of the most useful parts of the video is the introduction to free online tools like eBird.org, an enormous but user-friendly science project with documentation of more than 100 million bird sightings contributed by birders around the world. The video shows how to use the eBird website and free mobile app to plan when and where to find specific species.

“Birds have evolved to migrate for a lot of different reasons and for different benefits,” Mr. Grudens explains.

The video teaches the basics about the Mississippi and the Atlantic flyways, the two flyways that most influence birding in Florida.

By understanding which paths are taken by which bird species, one can learn which birds travel via Cuba and the Bahamas and which travel across the gulf to and from the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico.

The video and the associated website suggest the best places to view migratory birds in Indian River County.

To see passerines, perching birds and songbirds which make up half of all bird species, the PIAS video recommends Sebastian Inlet State Park, Jungle Trail north of C.R. 510, Captain Forster Hammock Preserve, the Environmental Learning Center, the Indian River Land Trust Lagoon Greenway, and Round Island Park and Conservation Area.

For seawatching, a type of birdwatching where one observes seabirds from a fixed point on the mainland, the PIAS recommends any of our public beaches, Round Island Park & Conservation Area, South Beach Park and Treasure Shores Park in Vero Beach, and Sebastian Inlet State Park.

To view shorebirds, birds found along shorelines who wade in order to forage for food in the sand, PIAS recommends Egret Marsh Stormwater Park, Sebastian Inlet State Park, Joe’s Overlook at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, beaches from Treasure Shores Park north into Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, South Beach Park, the oceanside part of Round Island Park and Conservation Area, and Osprey Acres Stormwater Park & Nature Preserve.

For more information about birding in Indian River County and to view the video, visit https://pelicanislandaudubon.org/2020/09/15/a-birders-guide-to-migration-in-indian-river-county/.

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