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Bird Watching At The Dry Tortugas National Park
by Christine OKelly

Located about 70 miles off the west coast of Key West is the Dry Tortugas, an island chain named for the heavy population of sea turtles who called it home when discovered in the 1500s. The island chain is now home to an abandoned military installation, an automated lighthouse, a National Park, and a diverse population of birds.

Rarely interrupted by man or machine, people vacationing in Key West have also enjoyed the National Park for its spectacular bird watching. Because the island chain is a protected area isolated from any population centers, the birds are able to fly around, nest, and play without any fear of being hunted or disturbed.

What Brings Birds To The Park

The location of the islands makes it a crucial spot during the migration of birds. Birds traveling from South America to North America or traveling the reverse need a place to rest and regroup. Because of the central location, it's a great spot for avian travelers to hunt for food, rest for the day or night, and drink fresh water.

The national park status also makes it an attractive destination. Birds have a keen sense of predators and impending harm. Abandoned for many years, the Dry Tortugas is home to birds of all sizes, shapes, and colors who rest easy on the land.

What Different Species Of Birds Rest There?

In addition to being a crucial stopping point on a bird's migratory route, the islands are also the home to many different colonies of birds. The island chain is one of the few places on the Earth where you can witness 100,000 Sooty Terns in the same place from March until September. Thousands of Noddy Terns and the occasional Black Noddie also call the islands their occasional home.

During the migratory season, you'll see Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds, Yellow-Billed Cuckoos, Peregrine Falcons, and Frigate Birds from time to time. Some counts suggest there are over 300 different species of birds resting or living in the area in and around the islands throughout the year, making almost any day of the year perfect for bird watching.

How To Get There

Closed to personal watercraft, chartering a ferry service is the only way to get to the National Park. An internet search will point you in the right direction for finding the ferry that best meets your needs. If you are already in Key West, your hotel's concierge service or staff will point you in the right direction. Many tour packages go along with chartering a ferry, including sightseeing and snorkeling. Overall, a trip to the islands takes about two hours, making going to and from an all day excursion.

About the Author

Christine O'Kelly writes for the experts at Best On Key West. They offer information on the Dry Tortugas.



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