Springtime Spectacles: Native Wildlife to Spot in Sarasota

As spring breathes new life into Sarasota, it also awakens a vibrant array of native wildlife.

From graceful birds to elusive mammals and colorful fishes, Sarasota County boasts an abundance of exotic animal species that emerge or become more active during the warm spring season here. Whether you're snorkeling off the Gulf of Mexico, paddling the serene mangroves of the bay, birdwatching in one of our protected preserves or hiking through the sun-dappled forests of our state parks, the area offers endless opportunities to connect with nature and witness the wonders of springtime wildlife. 

Though a snorkel mask or binoculars will only enhance your chances of catching a glimpse of something exciting, simply having your eyes peeled while exploring the great outdoors of Sarasota, you're bound to witness the rich biodiversity of this hyper-active region. 

Butterflies: A Kaleidoscope of Colors

butterfly house selby gardens

Springtime in Sarasota brings fresh blooms and a fluttering kaleidoscope of butterflies as they emerge from their chrysalises and take to the skies in search of nectar-rich flowers. Look for species like the iconic monarch butterfly, giant swallowtail, cloudless sulfur, the vibrant Gulf fritillary and the delicate zebra longwing (the Florida state butterfly) as they dance among the blooms in gardens, parks and nature reserves throughout the area. The Butterfly House at Historic Spanish Point campus is also an amazing stop to be surrounded by more than 160 butterfly species that breed in Florida, as well as 200 or so species that migrate through the state. 

Manatees: Gentle Giants of the Gulf

mote amrinemanatee

During the summer, manatees tend to roam farther North and East. So the winter and spring seasons are typically the best time of year to spot manatees in Florida because they seek out warmer, shallow coastal waters and estuaries to feed their young. Though the peak season in Sarasota for seeing these gentle giants is typically November through March, manatees can be found in the region year-round and are especially present in the Lido Key area up to Longboat Key, as well as around Venice's North and South Jetties. Keep your eyes peeled for their slow, lumbering movements just below the surface.

Sea Turtles: Nesting Along Sarasota's Beaches

nokomis beach turtle nesting

Sarasota's sandy shores become a haven for nesting sea turtles during the spring months. Hundreds of loggerhead, green, and occasionally leatherback sea turtles return to the area's beaches to lay their eggs—continuing a timeless cycle of reproduction. Sea turtle nesting season occurs from May 1st to the end of October each year. During this period, you have a good chance of spotting sea turtles or their eggs during these months. Join a guided turtle walk or simply stroll along the beach (safely) at dawn or dusk to witness recent nesting activity from these majestic creatures at designated, roped-off areas (pictured above).

Migratory Birds: Soaring the Coastline

venice jetty bird

Aviation lovers will be dazzled by the aerial views of migratory birds as they make their annual journey back up north from Sarasota during the spring months. That being said, there are also an incredible number of native bird and shorebird species that may strike your eye. From majestic raptors like hawks and ospreys to hungry pelicans and colorful songbirds, like warblers and tanagers, the Sarasota area serves as both a homebase or stopover for birds both big and small. Visit local parks, nature reserves and birding hotspots like the Sarasota Audubon Society at Celery Fields or the Venice Area Audubon Rookery to catch a glimpse of these avian marvels.

Alligators: Sunbathing in the Sunshine State


As temperatures rise, alligators emerge from their winter slumber to bask in the warm Florida sun. Keep a safe distance and observe these prehistoric reptiles in their natural habitat at locations like Myakka River State Park or the Jelks Preserve. Look for them sunning themselves along the banks of rivers, lakes and wetlands, or floating silently just beneath the surface, their eyes and nostrils barely visible. Peace River in Arcadia is another popular spot to paddle or float along Florida's State Paddle Trail and perhaps pass a gator or two! 

Florida Fish: Cast Away Season

fishing tarpon

Sarasota offers excellent fishing opportunities year-round, but in general, fish tend to be more active during the spring and summer months when water temperatures are warmer. Because of this, the best months for both inshore and deep-sea fishing in Sarasota are typically March/April through September/October. During these months, the weather is warm, the seas are calmer and there is a wider variety of fish species to be caught—increasing your chances of seeing some exciting big game like grouper, snapper, cobia, kingfish, snook, tarpon and more. 

Year-Round Wildlife Exhibits:

sarasota jungle gardens

If you cannot wait to experience some of the amazing animal species that inhabit Sarasota County, there are a multitude of area wildlife encounters you can check out instead of hoping to be at the right place at the right time in nature.  

While observing and interacting with wildlife can be a thrilling experience, it's essential to prioritize the safety and well-being of both the animals and yourself. Remember to maintain a respectful distance from wildlife and refrain from touching or approaching them, as this can cause stress and disturbance to the animals and pose potential risks to your safety.