The period between May and September offer the best potential for an assortment of pelagic species (species which live most of their lives far from land) off the Atlantic coast of Florida. The Friends of the Marine Science Center sponsor several pelagic trips every year out of Ponce de Leon Inlet to explore the deep ocean waters around the Gulfstream in search of many of these pelagic species.

Great ShearwaterBirds, like this Great Shearwater, are attracted to the chum slick set out by the ship’s crew

For those willing to wake up early (the boat leaves the inlet at 3:00AM) and with a spirit of exploration, these trips offer the birder a good chance to see many species which they would otherwise never see from land such as Cory’s Shearwater, Great Shearwater, Pomarine Jaeger, Wilson’s Storm-Petrel, and many more. Furthermore, rarer species such as Black-capped Petrel (which has been recorded on every May trip) and White-tailed Tropicbird (nearly annual on the handful of pelagic trips that go out of Ponce de Leon Inlet) are species recorded frequently on these trips. Finally, since Florida’s pelagic waters are relatively unexplored, there is always a high potential to see a state first such as a Trinidade Petrel — one can always hope!

Cory's ShearwaterCory’s Shearwater is regular in Florida’s pelagic waters

For those who have been on pelagic trips in places such as California, Chile, or Australia, keep in mind that pelagic trips in Florida almost always feature long birdless stretches interspersed with brief spurts of activity. Days are long (3:00AM to 9:00PM) with the trip involving over 100 miles of travel off the coast to the east wall of the Gulfstream. However, the birds that are seen such as the petrels and possibly the aforementioned tropicbirds are truly special, and these pelagic trips always include sightings of other incredible denizens of the open ocean such as dolphins, seaturtles, and sunfish (mola mola).

Leatherback SeaturtleOne of many Leatherback Sea Turtles seen on a pelagic trip out of Ponce de Leon Inlet

For those who are interested in participating in one of these special trips, please contact Michael Brothers at The next pelagic trip of 2013 will be on Sunday, July 21st.


Written by Carlos
A native of southern Florida, Carlos Sanchez has had a fascination with wildlife as far back as he can remember combined with an unquenchable thirst to learn -- the first books he checked out of the library were Beehler's "Birds of New Guinea" and Stiles and Skutch's "Birds of Costa Rica." Despite his parent's belief that he would 'grow out of it,' Carlos's passion has never wavered, and he has dabbled in everything from bird art to taxonomy. His passion has interwoven with his interest in travel, having birded extensively throughout the United States, eastern Australia, Thailand and Ecuador along with shorter jaunts to other locales such as Puerto Rico and Jamaica. In 2013, Carlos was a resident naturalist and birding guide at Cristalino Lodge in Brazil. If you would like to make a trip to southern Florida in search of Caribbean specialties, exotics, or general birding, please visit to inquire about his guiding services.