Florida Wildlife 101

great egret bird in flight

If you’ve always dreamt about retiring in the Sunshine State, what images come to mind when you imagine your future in Florida? Perhaps you picture gorgeous sunsets on a beach with glittering waves. Maybe you think about palm trees swaying outside your window. Or perhaps you focus on the food: delicious orange juice, fresh seafood, and irresistible key lime pie. Chances are you don’t picture the animals that will greet you. But even if they likely won’t be the area’s biggest selling point, they’re often interesting and gorgeous — and certainly worth knowing about if you plan to move here! Plus, they may affect your day-to-day life. So, let’s explore the basics of Florida wildlife.

Florida Wildlife 101

We can’t discuss every animal and insect that might greet you in Florida, but we’re going to cover a good assortment of Florida wildlife. Some are quite well-known as Floridian creatures — alligators, dolphins, turtles, pelicans, seagulls, etc. — while others aren’t commonly talked about. For example, did you know there are black bears in Florida? For each animal, we’ll provide a fun fact or two, which you might wish to keep in your back pocket for conversation starters!


The average lifespan of an American alligator is 40 years. They spend most of their time in the water but also enjoy sunbathing.


Armadillos were introduced to the Sunshine State in the 1920s and are now found in almost every corner of the state. They’re nocturnal, so you may see them wandering around your neighborhood at night.

Bald Eagles

Iconic North American birds, bald eagles were removed from the threatened species list in 2008. They can live up to 30 years and mate for life.

Black Bears

Black bears are the only species of bear found in Florida. There are an estimated two to three thousand black bears in the state.

Blue Crabs

Commonly found in Florida’s estuarine and coastal waters, blue crabs like to get around. One tagging study found that female blue crabs moved about 500 miles in 100 days!

Blue Whales

Blue whales are the largest animals in the world! Their lifespan is similar to humans, as they often live to be 80 to 90 years old.


The Florida sandhill crane is a non-migratory, year-round resident of the Sunshine State. Every winter these cranes are joined by large numbers of migratory greater sandhill cranes, which nest in the Great Lakes region before flying down to Florida for the winter.


American crocodiles can be found in southern Florida. They are shy, reclusive, and rarely encountered inland.


Social creatures that often travel in groups, dolphins are highly intelligent and have a wide range of vocalizations. They’ve been known to live into their 50s.


Large white birds, egrets like to stalk their prey in shallow waters.

Fiddler Crabs

A male fiddler crab is very easy to spot, as it has one oversized claw that looks like a fiddle! It waves this claw around to attract females when courting.

Florida Panthers

One of the most critically endangered animals on the planet, Florida panthers tend to live in the woods and swamps in south Florida. There are no documented cases of attacks on humans — in fact, they’re so shy and uncommon that they’re rarely seen by humans!

Great Blue Herons

To catch their prey (fish and small animals), great blue herons stand incredibly still, like statues. Then they suddenly spear their prey with their sharp bills.

Humpback Whales

Like many other species of whale, the humpback whale uses baleen plates (fringed and bristly plates that hang in their mouths instead of teeth) to strain out shrimp and krill to eat.


Jellyfish sometimes wash up on the beach or bob near the shore, so if you spot something blobby and translucent, don’t touch it! It may sting you.

Key Deer

Key deer are sometimes called “toy deer” because of their small size. They’re about 65 pounds on average — similar to golden retrievers!


No longer officially considered “endangered” but “threatened,” manatees are sometimes called “sea cows.”


The mockingbird is the State Bird of Florida!

North Atlantic Right Whales

One of the most endangered large whale species in the world, it’s estimated that less than 350 North Atlantic right whales currently exist on Earth.


Brown pelicans are the most common type in Florida. They can reach up to five feet in length!


If you head to the beach, you’ll undoubtedly encounter some squawking and squabbling seagulls. Be careful if you’re packing a picnic — they may grab your sandwich right out of your hand!


Because seahorses don’t have a stomach, food passes through their body very quickly. They eat almost constantly, feeding on plankton and small crustaceans.


Florida is home to a variety of types of sharks, including hammerheads, bull sharks, great white sharks, nurse sharks, and tiger sharks.


Stingrays are quite common, typically swimming along the sand. They’re shy and typically try to avoid people.


Sea turtles are among the oldest creatures on Earth! To help young turtles find their way to the sea, it’s important that Floridians (1) turn off lights that can be seen from the beach, (2) never leave out beach chairs or accessories overnight, (3) never approach or take flash photographs of turtles, (4) never litter, as items can find their way to the sea.


Now that you’ve gotten a good taste of Florida wildlife, which creature are you most excited to meet when you arrive?

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