The Florida Everglades is a vast wilderness of wetlands and forests across the southern tip of Florida. While most people that venture out into the Everglades are hoping to spot an alligator (and surely, they will!) there are many more animals you may find. From unique birds to big cats and lots of reptiles–here are some of the animals you may find in the Florida Everglades!
10. American Alligator
No animal is more synonymous with the Florida Everglades than the American alligator. They can often be seen swimming in the waterways or basking on the riverbanks. These fascinating dinosaur-like creatures have been roaming the swamps of Florida since they were first formed some millions of years ago.
American alligators are so well known in the state of Florida, that they are featured prominently on signage, business logos, and advertisements. They are also the official mascot of the University of Florida Football Team, aptly named the Florida Gators.
American alligators can grow up to 15 feet and weigh up to a whopping 1000 pounds! Seeing one in the wild can be an extraordinary sight, but one that should be admired from a distance. Visitors to the Florida Everglades are warned never to swim in the water–for obvious reasons!
9. White Ibis
The white ibis is commonly spotted throughout the Florida Everglades and other wetlands around the state. They are known for their brightly colored beaks and legs which are a stark contrast to their all-white bodies. The white ibis is a wading bird that forages in shallow waters feeding on crustaceans, insects, and small fish. They are often seen moving about in large flocks.
The white ibis is known as the last bird to leave when a hurricane approaches, they are also the first to return. This anomaly of their behavior earned them a place as the official mascot for the Miami Hurricanes–the football team of the University of Miami.
8. Florida Softshell Turtle
Another unique inhabitant of the Florida Everglades is the Florida softshell turtle. These turtles can be found all throughout the Everglades and other waterways around the state. Known for their unique appearance, Florida softshell turtles have flat soft shells and long tubular-shaped noses. They use their elongated noses like a snorkel as they move through the water.
Florida softshell turtles spend most of their time in the water or burrowing in mud but can occasionally be seen basking on the banks of rivers and canals. They eat mainly a diet of snails and small fish but will also eat insects and crustaceans if available.
7. Roseate Spoonbill
One of the most striking birds of the Everglades, the roseate spoonbill is known for its brightly colored pink feathers and unique spoon-shaped beak. They use their extraordinary spoon-shaped beak to stir the mud beneath shallow waters for small crustaceans. Their crustacean-heavy diet is what contributes to their bright coloring, as crustaceans are high in carotenoids.
Roseate spoonbills can be found throughout the Florida Everglades as well as other nearby wetlands and coastal marshes. They are a favorite among Florida birdwatchers and wildlife photographers.
6. Florida Panther
The Florida panther is a subspecies of mountain lion that once roamed the entire state of Florida from wetlands to forests. Sadly, due to land development and habitat loss, there is only a small population of these big cats left, mostly residing within the Everglades and nearby pinelands.
Florida panthers are mostly solitary animals except for when they are breeding or raising their young. Like all big cat species, they are carnivores and excellent hunters. They hunt mostly deer, hogs, and other small mammals and birds.
In the 1970s there were less than 30 Florida panthers left in the wild. With conservation efforts, the number now sits around 200, but is still considered critically low for a healthy population. The state continues to monitor the panther population and provide protections for this endangered Florida species.
Often seen perched with their wings outstretched to dry off in the sun, the anhinga is a unique swimming bird of the Florida Everglades. Anhingas are sometimes referred to as “snakebirds”. They’ve earned this nickname for the snake-like appearance they have while swimming, with only their long necks suspended above water.
Anhingas eat mostly a diet of fish which they skewer with their sharp pointed beaks. Anhingas nest in pairs and both parents look after the chicks when they are born. They will nest in colonies with other anhingas as well as other types of water birds.
4. Great Blue Heron
The great blue heron is a large wading bird found in the Florida Everglades and other wetlands throughout the state. They are known for their brilliant blue colors and impressive size. Great blue herons can reach heights of 4 feet tall and have a 6-foot wingspan.
Great blue herons eat a diet mostly of fish and small crustaceans, which they stalk as they wade through shallow waters. They are opportunistic and will also eat insects when available. Similar to other water birds, great blue herons will nest in pairs and share space with other colonies.
3. Marsh Rabbit
The marsh rabbit is a smaller subspecies of cottontail rabbit found throughout marsh habitats of Florida, including the Everglades. Marsh rabbits are strong swimmers and eat a variety of aquatic vegetation. They can often be seen in and around the water's edge feeding on plants.
Marsh rabbits are an important part of their ecosystem keeping plant species in check. They are also a prey species for many of Florida’s carnivorous wildlife, including panthers, bobcats, foxes, owls, and alligators.
2. North American River Otter
The North American river otter can be found throughout the Florida Everglades as well as the many rivers and springs around the state. They are very social animals and are often spotted in groups swimming or playing along riverbanks.
These otters live in burrows and feed on fish. While most otters won’t stray far from their aquatic habitat, a few have been known to raid backyard fishponds when they were feeling adventurous!
1. American Crocodile
While the Florida Everglades is widely known for alligators, there is another, often lesser-known member of the crocodilian order that inhabits these waters–the American crocodile! These crocodiles are found in much lower numbers than their alligator cousins and are considered a threatened species.
The southern end of Florida is the only place in the world where both alligators and crocodiles coexist. While alligator sightings are quite common, these crocodiles are much more elusive and rarely spotted outside of the deepest areas of the Everglades. They can also sometimes be found in coastal areas of southern Miami and in the upper islands of the Florida Keys.