Birds and Mammals
Above the surface of the water, springs are home to many of the most recognizable mammals and birds found in Florida. Some, like the Great Blue Heron, Deer and Otters, can be found at the springs year-round. In the winter the springs, which maintain a constant water temperature of about 70 degrees, provide a warm-water refuge for species like the Manatee. Meet the feathered and furry residents of springs.
The Limpkin is a mottled brown, medium-sized wading bird commonly seen stalking the edges of springs and spring runs. In north Florida, the Limpkin feeds almost exclusively on the Apple Snail and is dependent on their abundance for its survival.
Seen diving for small fish or flying over headsprings, Belted Kingfishers are common to virtually all of Florida's springs. Their trademark rattling calls are often heard while flying along the spring run.
A large fish hawk, the Osprey is the most common bird of prey encountered along large spring-fed rivers. With a wing-span exceeding five feet and sharp talons, they are capable of taking large bass and mullet from the water in a single strike.
Great Blue Heron
Four feet in height, the Great Blue Heron is one of the most common and recognizable birds of the springs' ecosystem and one of the largest wading birds in North America. They are most often seen flying gracefully over spring-fed rivers or patiently stalking the spring's edge in search of fish, frogs and snakes.
With their bright white plumage and striking red, down-curved beak, the White Ibis is of the most unmistakable bird species encountered at the springs. They are most often found in the morning and evenings congregating in small flocks near edges of headsprings and spring-fed rivers, probing the bottom for snails and small invertebrates.
Distinguished from Great Egrets by their smaller size and black beak, Snowy Egrets are dainty, solitary birds common to virtually all of Florida's springs and spring-fed rivers. They are seen walking on aquatic vegetation in search of small fish.
The Common Moorhen is a year-round native of the springs easily distinguished from other resident waterfowl by its bright yellow beak and signature, red "frontal shield". Preferring the still, calm waters of headsprings, they feed primarily in pairs on mats of submerged, aquatic vegetation.
Though no longer a common resident of the spring ecosystem due to increasing development and habitat fragmentation, the Black Bear has traditionally ranged throughout the upland spring recharge basins of north Florida coming to the springs to feed on fruits, nuts, and animals.
West Indian Manatee
The West Indian Manatee is by far the most famous and recognizable of all the springs' residents. These gentle, friendly mammals are most often encountered migrating into spring runs where they congregate in the winter to take advantage of the springs' constant 70 degree temperatures and plant-rich waters.
Easily recognized by their black facemask and signature ringed tail, Raccoons are common residents of Florida's springs. They are most often encountered at night as they prowl the banks of springs and spring-fed rivers for frogs, crayfish, and bird eggs. During the day they den in hollow trees and logs.
Seeing a River Otter slip quietly into the water along one of Florida's many spring-fed streams is an exhilarating wildlife encounter. Otters are seldomly seen, but commonly inhabit Florida's springs where they den in the bank or logs and swim the river in search of small fish and crustaceans.
Though rarely seen during the day, the presence of Beavers along many of Florida's springs is apparent by their obvious stick dams and small fallen trees where they have gnawed the bark off with their sharp front teeth. Beavers feed primarily on the bark of sweetgum and willow trees.