PERICO PRESERVE, located on Perico Island in Bradenton, near Anna Maria Island, has been open to the public only since 2016. The 176-acre preserve sits on the west side of Perico Bayou, creating an important wildlife corridor extending east across the bayou into Robinson Preserve. The property was abandoned farmland in 2007, when it was acquired by Manatee County. With the specific purpose of creating a unique bird sanctuary, the County began a program of extensive renovation that included removal of exotic vegetation and planting of native flora. The site has been transformed into a unique coastal wetlands habitat—with scrub hills, upland regions, and fresh and saltwater marshes—that attracts many animal species and a plethora of birds. The preserve provides a refuge for over 30 once-homeless gopher tortoises which may often be seen near their burrows. No dogs are allowed in the preserve (except service animals). Similarly, bikes will only be allowed on designated trails within the preserve. At key points, we ask that visitors leave their bikes behind to travel forth on foot, allowing the resident wildlife to maintain their natural behavior. A portable restroom, covered picnic pavilion and ample parking are available on site. No admission fees.
Featured Birds: Almost 200 bird species have been counted by eBirders in the short time that the preserve has been County-owned and managed. Birds commonly seen include Osprey, Bald Eagle, hawks, egrets, herons, ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Wood Stork, gulls, terns, Killdeer, Common Gallinule and Brown Pelican. In winter, additional waterfowl, wrens, sparrows, rails and shorebirds arrive at the ponds, lake, and bayou, and often include Blue-winged Teal, Canada Goose, mergansers, Ring-necked Duck, Spotted Sandpiper and Pied-billed Grebe, to name a few. In wooded areas, Red-bellied, Downy, and Pileated Woodpecker may often be spotted, and an array of warblers and other songbirds arrive during migrations. Rarities have included Canvasback, American Wigeon, American Bittern and Golden-crowned Kinglet.
Insider’s Tip: The trails in the preserve extend for about 1.5 miles. As you enter the preserve, the left fork leads to a pond-side bird blind and through hardwood hammock and brackish ponds, and then reconnects to the main trail; look for Wood Duck, Common Gallinule, Brown Thrasher, warblers, woodpeckers, Savannah Sparrow, and Marsh Wren. The main trail continues past private homes on one side of the trail and brackish marshes and freshwater wetlands on the other, and then reaches a loop trail circling a substantial lake with a central rookery island. Observation decks extend from the loop trail, providing views of the rookery island and across Perico Bayou. A spotting scope is useful for viewing the rookery island and for sighting birds from the observation decks. Although there are some shady stretches along the trail, it is mostly sun-exposed and can be hot, especially in summer, so bring water, sunscreen, and insect repellant. Visitors to Perico Preserve may wish to also check-out nearby Neal Preserve, where eBirders have sighted more than 180 bird species.
Perico Preserve is open daily, sunrise to sunset.
Biking (on some designated trails)