Ding Darling NWR

Sanibel, FL

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When to Visit:
January - Most ProductiveFebruary - Most ProductiveMarch - Most ProductiveApril - Most ProductiveMay - Most ProductiveJune - Most ProductiveJuly - Most ProductiveAugust - Most ProductiveSeptember - Most ProductiveOctober - Most ProductiveNovember - Most ProductiveDecember - Most Productive

Ding Darling is one of the top birding spots in the United States.  It offers a large variety of birds no matter what time of year you visit.

Specialty Species:

Waders:  Check all of the water areas for a huge variety of waders.  You can easily find more than 10 species, including Roseate Spoonbills during one morning at the refuge.

Mangrove Cuckoo:  During the summer, listen for this species as you drive along the Wildlife Drive.  Look along Indigo Trail and around Red Mangrove Overlook.  It is easier to hear this species than to see it.

Black-whiskered Vireo:  Like the Mongrove Cuckoo, this species is easier to hear than to see.  Listen for it as you drive along the Wildlife Drive.

Gray Kingbird:  This species is common on the refuge during the summer and can sometimes be found on the refuge during the winter months. 

Magnificent Frigatebird:  Watch for these amazing birds soaring overhead during the summer.

Shorebirds:  During the winter, many shorebirds use this site as their wintering grounds.  Two of the more rare species that winter here are Marbled Godwit and Red Knot.

Pelicans:  Brown Pelicans are present year-round while American White Pelicans are only found during the winter months.

Where to Bird:

Wildlife Drive:  This is the most common and easiest way to bird the refuge.  Drive slowly around this 4 miles long loop, looking for all species listed above.

Shell Mound Trail:  This area can be a good place to find Black-whiskered Vireos.  Sometimes they are heard on the Wildlife Drive just before the parking area for this trail.  This area is also a good place to look for migrant passerines during spring and fall migration.

Indigo Trail:  This trail is open on Fridays even though the Wildlife Drive is not.  It is a long trail, but if the only chance you have to bird this wonderful refuge is on a Friday, this is your best bet.  While hiking this trail, look for the species listed above.

Bailey Tract:  This tract is not connected to the main portion of Ding Darling.  This is a great place to look for herons, egrets, and Black-necked Stilt as well as alligators.


Wildlife Drive:
Saturday – Thursday 7:30am – Sunset
Closed Friday


Wildlife Drive:
$5 per vehicle
$1 per walker/biker over 15 years of age


Much of the birding is done from the car on the wildlife drive.



Non-birding Equipment Needed:

Lenght of Visit:

A full morning of birding is best, but the evening can be rewarding as well.




From the Sanibel Causeway:  As you approach the causeway, you will have to stop and pay the $6 toll.  (Note:  This fee is only charged for westbound traffic and not when you are coming back to the main land.)  At the first stop sign, turn right (west) onto Periwinkle Way.  Go 2.5 miles and turn right (north) onto Palm Ridge Road and continue onto Sanibel-Captiva Road at the next stop sign.  After 2.15 miles, turn right (north) into Ding Darling NWR.


1 Wildlife Drive
Sanibel, FL 33957
(239) 472-1100

Nearby Birding: