Eyes to the sky

Destin has unique bird watching opportunities

Annie Blanks | 315-4450 | @DestinLogAnnie |
A Great Blue Heron rests on a rock at the East Jetty in Destin. FILE PHOTO/THE LOG

Sometimes it’s a good thing to keep your head in the clouds.

That’s because Destin has a bustling bird population, and now is one of the best times of the year to go bird watching, according to Bruce Purdy, resident Destin bird specialist and member of the Choctawhatchee Audubon Society.

The former pilot is no stranger to flight. Purdy used to fly planes for the military. These days, the retiree spends hours each week tracking and observing the 80 some odd species of birds that call Destin home, even if only temporarily.

“This is peak migration period,” he said. “One of the best times of the years to get out and look at birds.”

Destin is the best place in Okaloosa County for bird watching, according to Purdy. That’s because there are several habitats for birds to choose from, between the Gulf, the bay, the dune lakes, the marshes and the forests.

“Different species of birds like different habitats,” Purdy said. “This is the only spot in the county where you can access all of these different places.”

The laughing gull, a type of seagull, is one of the more recognizable types of Destin birds. The small animals like to congregate around the jetties and around loose French fries on the beaches. But there’s much more to Destin bird life than just seagulls.

“There are around 80 species of birds that inhabit Destin at one point in time or another throughout the year,” Purdy said.

During his annual count last year, Purdy counted 78 different species of birds, including Brown Pelicans, Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets and Eastern Bluebirds. 

His favorite places in Destin to go bird watching are at East Jetty, Mattie Kelly Park and the bay.

“It’s really a unique place for bird watching,” he said. “You can find so many species right in your own back yard.”

The Choctawhatchee Audubon Society hosts monthly bird watching expeditions, called bird walks. To find one that interests you, visit