The first Central Florida birding location I fell in love with is Viera Wetlands. You can stay in your car and drive around a loop to view the wetlands, so this may be a fun place to take your kids too.
My kids are not that interested in birds, but they do like to see alligators, and you’re likely to see several here. This can be some great birding; according to eBird, 234 species have been seen here–not bad for a little park, and you can drive around it in about an hour.
It’s a great, simple place to visit if you have an hour or two for some relaxing birding. You can see my field reports for more information.
As much as I love this place, though, there is one drawback for me. I can get to Merritt Island a little more quickly than I can get to Viera Wetlands, and generally speaking I see more at Merritt Island, so over the past few years I haven’t come here nearly as often as I used to–that is unless a rarity is spotted here.
When I do visit, there are three areas I like to see. In each of these locations, I usually stay in my car to avoid spooking the birds. On occasion, I’ll leave my car and crouch down low at the water’s edge for a better view of birds on the water.
Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands
— This is the place to begin. It’s located right next to a wastewater treatment plant, and they just recently created an entrance that allows you to enter without driving through the plant’s parking lot. If you want to see a Limpkin, this may be your best place to go. The wetlands always have many herons, egrets, and bitterns as well. During the winter months it’s a great destination for viewing ducks. Keep a lookout for Crested Cara Cara while you’re hear.
— N. Wickham Rd appears to dead end into the wetlands, but if you look to your right, you’ll see that the jogs to the right as a dirt road where it continues farther west. Just after the “jog” in the road, you’ll see a sign for the “click” ponds on the right. I always drive around this loop when I’m here. Sometimes there’s practically nothing at the ponds. At other times, you may find a flock of 50 White Pelicans waiting to greet you. When the water levels are right, this area can also fill up with shorebirds.
River Lakes Conservation Area
— If you continue farther west on Wickham Rd, it will dead end in the River Lakes Conservation area. I usually drive this road slowly to see what I can find. I frequently find American Kestrel and other raptors, Loggerhead Shrike, and toward the end of the road, Eastern Meadowlark. During the winter, this seems to be a good place for Ash-throated Flycatchers.
The wetlands are a wonderful place for both beginning and advanced birders. It’s relaxing and beautiful. You’re almost always going enjoy your time there, and it’s a great place for photogrpahy as well. I highly recommend this place.