Exploring the Remarkable Animals of the Florida Everglades

wildlife in the everglades florida

The Florida Everglades, often called the "River of Grass," is a unique and captivating ecosystem in the southeastern part of the United States. This vast wetland is home to an astonishing variety of wildlife, including reptiles, amphibians, mammals, and birds. Meet the cute and cool creatures that call the Everglades their home.

Reptiles and Amphibians

American Alligator

The American alligator is an iconic resident of the Everglades. These massive reptiles can grow up to 13 feet long or even longer! Alligators are excellent swimmers and often lurk beneath the water's surface, waiting for prey to approach.

Fun Fact: Alligators are known for their impressive "gator holes." They dig these deep depressions during the dry season, providing a refuge for aquatic life when water levels drop.

Here's a short video of a baby gator we encountered in Fountain Lakes

Baby Alligator in the Naples Area of Florida

American Crocodile

American crocodiles are less common than alligators but can also be found in the Everglades. They are known for their slender bodies and V-shaped snouts. Crocodiles prefer saltwater habitats unlike alligators, and can even be seen swimming in coastal beach areas.

Fun Fact: American crocodiles are excellent swimmers who can also "cry." They release tears to help remove excess salt from their bodies.

Banded Water Snake

Banded water snakes are non-venomous and can be easily identified by their distinctive pattern of dark bands. They are excellent swimmers and primarily feed on fish and amphibians. These snakes play an essential role in the Everglades ecosystem by helping control the population of smaller animals.

Fun Fact: Banded water snakes imitate the venomous cottonmouth snake by flattening their heads and displaying similar markings, helping them avoid predators.

Florida Cottonmouth

Also known as the water moccasin, the Florida cottonmouth is a venomous snake. They have a reputation for being aggressive but usually try to avoid humans. These snakes are excellent swimmers and can be found in various wetland habitats.

Fun Fact: Cottonmouths are one of the few snake species in North America that give birth to live young rather than laying eggs.

Florida Softshell Turtle 

florida softshell turtle

Florida softshell turtles have flattened, pancake-like shells. They are powerful swimmers and spend most of their time in the water. These turtles are carnivorous and feed on aquatic creatures such as fish and insects.

Fun Fact: Softshell turtles can stay submerged for long periods by breathing through a tubular appendage that functions like a snorkel.

Florida Snapping Turtle

As the name suggests, Florida snapping turtles have powerful jaws and a temperamental disposition. They are known for their large size and firm bite. Snapping turtles are primarily aquatic but can sometimes be seen basking in the sun along the water's edge.

Fun Fact: These turtles are excellent scavengers and have been observed eating carrion (dead animals) in addition to their regular diet.

Little Grass Frog

Little grass frogs are tiny amphibians that can fit on the tip of your finger. They are often green or brown, helping them blend into their surroundings. These frogs have a musical call that can be heard during the rainy season.

Fun Fact: Little grass frogs change color depending on their surroundings, helping them blend in and avoid detection by predators.

Oak Toad

Oak toads are small, round-bodied amphibians. They get their name from the oak leaf-shaped markings on their backs. These toads are expert burrowers and are often found in sandy soil.

Fun Fact: Oak toads are often called "peeping toads" because of their high-pitched, musical calls during the breeding season.

Mammals

Florida Panther

The Florida panther is a rare and endangered big cat. They are known for their striking appearance with tawny fur and white markings. Panthers are solitary animals and primarily hunt deer and other small mammals.

Fun Fact: Florida panthers are known for their ability to leap great distances, sometimes up to 15 feet, to catch prey.

Florida Black Bear

Florida black bears are the only bear species found in the state. They are smaller than grizzly bears and typically have shiny black fur. These bears are omnivorous and eat a variety of foods, including berries, insects, and small mammals.

Fun Fact: These bears are excellent climbers and often climb trees to escape predators or reach food.

Virginia Opossum

The Virginia opossum is the only marsupial (a mammal with a pouch) in North America. They have a prehensile tail and are excellent climbers. Opossums are scavengers and eat a wide range of foods.

Fun Fact: Opossums have a unique defense mechanism - they "play possum" or feign death when threatened, hoping to deter predators.

River Otter

River otters are sleek, playful mammals that spend much of their time in the water. They have webbed feet and are excellent swimmers and divers. These otters feed on fish, crustaceans, and other aquatic creatures.

Fun Fact: River otters are known for their playful nature and can often be seen sliding down muddy banks for fun.

Raccoon

Raccoons are easily recognizable with their masked faces and bushy tails. They are opportunistic feeders and will eat almost anything, from fruits to insects to garbage. Raccoons are excellent climbers and can often be seen raiding bird nests.

Fun Fact: Raccoons have incredibly sensitive hands and can manipulate objects with great dexterity, almost like having human-like hands.

Birds

Wood Stork

Wood storks are large wading birds with distinctive long legs and bills. They primarily feed on fish and other small aquatic animals. These birds are known for their graceful flight.

Fun Fact: Wood storks have a keen sense of touch in their bills, allowing them to detect prey by feel in the water.

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate spoonbills are striking pink birds with distinctive spoon-shaped bills. They wade through shallow water, sweeping their bills from side to side to catch food. These birds are a majestic sight when they take flight!

Fun Fact: The pink color of roseate spoonbills comes from the food they eat, which is rich in carotenoid pigments.

Great Blue Heron

Great blue herons are tall, wading birds with long legs and necks. They are skilled hunters, patiently waiting for fish to swim by before striking with lightning speed. Herons are monogamous birds, and male and female herons take turns caring for eggs.

Fun Fact: These herons are patient hunters and can stand motionless for hours before striking at lightning speed.

Anhinga 

anhinga florida

Anhingas are water birds often called "snakebirds" due to their long necks. They swim underwater to catch fish and then dry their wings by spreading them in the sun. Anhingas are skilled divers.

Fun Fact: Ahingas are sacred birds according to Indigenous people native to Florida. They say their tail feathers have healing properties.

Double-crested Cormorant

Double-crested cormorant Everglades

Double-crested cormorants are water birds with dark plumage. They are excellent divers and can stay underwater for extended periods. These birds are often seen perched with their wings outstretched to dry.

Fun Fact: Cormorants have less buoyant bodies than most birds, which helps them dive underwater efficiently for fishing.

Red-shouldered Hawk

red shoulder hawk florida

Red-shouldered hawks are raptors with distinctive rusty-red shoulders. They are skilled hunters, often hunting small mammals and reptiles in the Everglades. Female red-shouldered hawks are significantly larger than male hawks.

Fun Fact: These hawks are known for their "kowl" call, which sounds like a spooky owl hoot.

Turkey Vulture

turkey vultures everglades

Turkey vultures are large, dark birds with reddish, bald heads. They are scavengers and mostly feed on carrion. Turkey vultures play a crucial role in cleaning up the ecosystem by removing carcasses full of bacteria.

Fun Fact: Turkey vultures have an excellent sense of smell, allowing them to locate carrion even from high in the sky.

Resources About Everglades Animals

American Alligator

American Crocodile

Banded Water Snake

Florida Cottonmouth

Florida Softshell Turtle

Florida Snapping Turtle

Heron at Pelican Bay

Little Grass Frog

Oak Toad

Florida Panther

Florida Black Bear

Virginia Opossum

By: Sean Lorch