Where To Spot Local Wildlife
From sea turtles to manatees, bald eagles and bobcats, the Bradenton Area is home to some magnificent wildlife. Local habitats and ecosystems support a wide array of animals, including unique endangered species. Many of these special creatures can be found in our local parks and preserves, but you may want to take an excursion to catch a glimpse of others. Grab your hiking shoes (or flip-flops!): We’re highlighting a few of the best spots to find local wildlife!
Scour for sealife
The Bradenton Area has miles of coastline, and you’re bound to spot some spectacular sea life just about anywhere near the water. If you’re looking to get close, and gain some insight along the way, try a local guided boat tour. The Bradenton Area is home to many excursions, many that specialize in spotting sea life. From stable pontoon boats captains and their crew will take you on tours through local waters to find unique wildlife. During your expedition, you’ll learn about the Manatee River and Tampa Bay, and how these waterways attract special creatures, like the endangered manatee. Nearly every excursion spots a playful bottlenose dolphin. Some even guarantee it!
Paddle in a Preserve
If you’re feeling independent, rent a paddleboard or kayak where you can glide over grass flats and meander through mangrove tunnels. Keep your eyes peeled for the osprey, a coastal bird of prey that soars over the water looking for fish. But be sure to look closely, these beautiful birds are often mistaken for bald eagles which also call the Bradenton Area home. If you lower your gaze into shallow water, you’ll often spot sand dollars, sea stars or horseshoe crabs.
See ya later, alligator!
The American Alligator is a fairly common site around the area, especially at Lake Manatee. The 2,400-acre freshwater lake serves as a reservoir for the region. From the water or the shore of the surrounding state park, you can easily spot gators basking on the bank, soaking up the sun. But don’t go just to admire the alligators. This park features miles of hiking trails, where you’ll spot other common Florida species, like colorful songbirds, armadillo and maybe even a bobcat. Be sure to bring your tent or RV: there are nearly 50 campsites perfect for spending time in this special place.
Be the early bird
If birding is your thing, Robinson Preserve and Neal Preserve should be high on your list. These two parks are home to tidal marshes, mangrove forests and coastal wetlands, popular with visitors often because of the wildlife. The ecosystems of the two preserves attract wading birds like herons, egrets and beautiful pink Roseate Spoonbills. The giant brown pelican is also a common site, but if you visit in the cooler months (typically November though March) you may also encounter the American White Pelican. When you’re there listen for the unique chirp of the osprey, a bird of prey that builds massive nests high atop special platforms above the ground. Both parks offer plenty of well-marked paths, boardwalks and even observation platforms giving you a bird’s eye view of the surrounding habitat. Trust us, you’ll want to bring your camera!
The Bradenton Area is home to the Manatee River, aptly named after the gentle seagoing mammal. Also known as the sea cow, the manatee is an endangered species commonly spotted along the beaches and in local waterways. These curious vegetarians stick to the shallows, which means spotting them is fairly easy, especially in the cold-weather months. Locals know that Portosueno Park is a popular place where manatees tend to congregate, especially within the cove. If you’re unable to meet a manatee here, you can always visit the Parker Manatee Aquarium at The Bishop. This rehabilitation center is home to injured or sick manatees that are being nursed back to health, with a goal of being released back into the wild.