|Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center –
This is a great place to go if you want to get a feel for Florida nature. Set in Key Largo on the bayside, the Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center will give you an up-close encounter with some of the common birds that inhabit the Keys. Even though it’s set right on Highway One (Overseas Highway), the main drag through all the Keys, it somehow seems off the beaten path and you leave the Center feeling like you’ve discovered something hidden.
As you wind your way on rustic boardwalks through the lush tree environment you can get close to the hundreds of birds who call this mini-forest habitat home. Turns out Pelicans don’t fare well around fishing activities, so they end up here, where they can nurse their broken wings without fear of starving or being eaten by a predator. For this reason, you’ll see a lot of Pelicans at the Wild Bird Rehab Center. You’ll actually see a lot of Pelicans, period, in the Keys, so the population mix here at the Center kind of mirrors the real world.
Aside from the various forms of injured and otherwise not injured but just curious Pelicans, you’ll find ospreys, herons, the occasional owl, and, if you venture all the way down one particular path, a whole gaggle of raccoons! Be warned about the Raccoon path, however: raccoons are very curious animals, which results in lots of nose/face injuries for these otherwise cute critters, so you might see one or two unfortunate victims down there.
You can learn about the birds of the Keys by reading the small plaques scattered along the boardwalk. There are small plaques everywhere, attesting to the hundreds of people (thousands?) that contribute to and appreciate the work done by the people who run the Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center. There is so much to look at, so much to absorb here, that it’s worth a visit no matter how short your visit may be.
The winding pathways end up at the water, which has gorgeous views of Florida Bay, and is one of the few places where the public can go to get a feel for the Keys the way they were before they were developed. That is, dense foliage all along the beach, and lots of craggy roots and sticks and beautiful large-leafed short trees that make for beautiful photo ops, especially in the late afternoon or towards sunset, which occurs over the bayside. This is just a beautiful part of Key Largo, away from the rush of everything, in its natural state, surrounded by hundreds of birds.