Florida and specifically Polk County is an amazing area to see birds in their natural habitat while hiking. Over 300 bird species are present in Polk County which is in the center of Florida. Florida and Polk county are fly ways for a multitude of birds traveling from Canada to South America so you never know what birds you may see when hiking.
There are many great Polk County Florida areas known for their abundance of birds. These birds can be viewed up close with minimal hiking. Additionally the areas I mention are easy to hike with little elevation or incline. Furthermore the areas are free to hike or only cost a few dollars to enter to hike. You can also meet others who love birds on these hikes and see them photographing the birds. It is extremely rare to go on a hike in any of these areas and not see a bird every 3 to 4 minutes. In most cases if you are hiking you will see a bird every three to four seconds.
The first locale is Circle B Bar Reserve. It contains over 1,200 acres of march, swamp, and oak hammock which provides habitat to wading birds, ibises, ducks, and eagles. A bird is typically visible within seconds of commencing a hike here. The address is 4399 Winter Lake Road in Lakeland.
The second option is Saddle Creek Park. This is a great area to find birds in the fall. It has over 36 different species of warblers. You can also see birds such as summer tanager, Carolina chickadee, and others here. This park is just outside of lakeland at the industrial east of downtown lakeland. Its lakes are remnants of phosphate mine pits. The lakes are stoked with largemouth bass, speckled perch and more. There are two trails. They both start at the back of the park and are closest to the farthest parking lot. The newest one has a gate and requires a fee. The older one is typically accessible without a fee. In the early morning it is common to see herons here. The address is 3716 Morgan Combee Road in Lakeland.
Lakeland Highland Scrub is another great area. It is on the historic Lakeland Ridge and home to red tailed hawks and palm warbles which are easily visible when hiking. It is at 6998 Lakeland Highlands Road in Lakeland Florida. Parking is at the dead end of the dirt road and it is open typically from 6 am to 6:30 pm. One of the hike loops is 0.6 miles and the other is 2.2 miles.
Lake Kissimmee State park is another amazing area to see a bird every second. The birds include turkeys and bobwhites. There are also picnic areas where you can often see wading birds and snail kites as well as songbird migrants and crested caracaras. There is a fee to enter and hike. However it is worth it if you enjoy to watch a rare bird. It is not uncommon to see the less common northern harriers and kingfishers here. You reach this Florida Park by taking State Route 60 and turning onto Boy Scoth Road to the north and then east on Camp Mack Road. There is an entry gate.
The next option is SUMICA which is approximately 10 miles east of lake Wales. It has little shade but abundant birds. It is a ghost town area with rows of concrete piers, old rail road beds, and remnants of structures. The hiking trail is a 3.5 mile loop hike. Birds you can see include wild turkey, Bachman’s sparrow, towhees, and short tailed hawks.