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The Wildlife In My Florida Backyard

In Florida, you really don’t have to travel far to find interesting flora and fauna to gaze at. The Sunshine State is home to a wide variety of species, both native and invasive. Many different lizards especially take comfort in the warm and humid weather, and you can find everything from the striking African Rock Agama to Cuban Knight Anoles, the largest anole species and a favorite of mine to practice my Crocodile Hunter skills on.

Lets take a look at just some of the animals you can expect to find roaming about in south Florida.

Green Iguanas

Depending on who you ask, Iguanas can be described as a public nuisance, loving pets, or delicious meals. These beautiful dinosuar-like sun loving creatures can be found in most any part of Florida near lakes, and individual lizards carry striking patterns from bright neon greens to blazing fire orange and dark black stripes.

Iguanas are a highly invasive species to Florida, and are known to cause damage to sidewalks and seawalls by burrowing underneath to lay their eggs.

Brown Basilisk

Nicknamed the Jesus Lizard for their ability to quickly skip across bodies of water on their webbed feet, brown basilisks are pretty unique and entertaining little guys, and finding one in the wild may prove challenging at first as they are masters of camouflage. They are skittish and quick on their feet, so you may not even notice you’re walking by one until you hear the skitter of tiny feet and the faint blur of dark brown and bright yellow.

Pretty much any freshwater you come across in Florida will have a variety of turtles for you to take a peak at. The ones that call the lake where I live home look like this little guy, a Yellow-Bellied Slider I’ve taken to calling Kratos. Other common turtles you’ll see are Red-Eared Sliders and Pond Sliders

Great Egret

These majestic Kings of the Wetlands stand tall on thin jet black legs, and use their bright orange dagger-like beaks to snatch fish up out of the water.

You can usually find these beauties gazing longingly at the sunset or flying through the sky on their great white wings. If you’re lucky, you’ll find one that’s comfortable in the spotlight and will let you get close enough to get some good snaps of it.

In the 19th century, these stunning birds were killed for their plumage, which was used to decorate hats. However, thanks to conservation, they have regrown in numbers and are thriving, though they still face a decline in some areas of the U.S. due to habitat loss.

Northern Cardinal

Hang around a bird feeder long enough and you are sure to catch one of these beautiful songbirds flying by for a snack. Identified by the bright red feathers of the males and the telltale mohawks on both genders, these birds are always a joy and a visual treat for bird watchers or casual observers.

They are the state bird of seven different states, more than any other species. Although Florida is not one to name the bird as a favorite, they are still loved and enjoyed by many in the Sunshine State.

Red-Headed or Rock Agama

These fast-footed fellows are yet another invasive species to welcome themselves into sunny Florida — and they have been loving it. First noticed in Florida 1976, this species is rather new to the scene.

I first laid my eyes on them in Martin County, where they run rampant on the hot asphalt and can be seen fleeing from nearby humans in parade-like fashion. The males have gorgeous patterns of jet black, bright orange and grayish white; some variations have earned them the moniker “Spiderman Lizards” for their bright blue bodies and red arms and head.

Glass Lizard

Here is a unique one that I couldn’t just leave off the list, Glass Lizards. I know what you’re thinking, and no, this isn’t a snake! Glass Lizards are in fact just that, lizards with no legs. They are identified by their movable eyelids and brittle bodies, making them recognizably less flexible than snakes. They are harmless and live their lives in wet meadows, forests and occasionally, suburban neighborhoods.

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Written by Marilyn Belrose

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