The Gulf Coast is full of friendly marine life! Up in the sky, or beneath the waves, a host of coastal critters is waiting to meet you! Each of the following animals are known to have a friendly nature, and are species typically confined to coastal regions. Read below for 6 of the Friendliest Marine Species found on the Gulf Coast.
The most popular of all Gulf Coast sea creatures is the bottlenose dolphin! Not only are dolphins one of the most intelligent and happy creatures in the world, they are also among the friendliest towards humans. Pods of Bottlenose Dolphins can number from 10 - 25 as they roam the coast, hunting for tasty mullet and playing in the wake. Dolphins are very curious animals, and typically aren't afraid of human interaction. It's not unusual for one or two to approach swimmers or jet skiers in search of a playmate. In Panama City Beach, Florida, dolphins are known to hold a symbiotic relationship with humans. Pods will follow fishing boats in anticipation of a good spot to hunt, or hang out at the pier waiting to be fed with fishing boat scraps. In return, many businesses rely on local dolphins for Panama City Beach dolphin sightseeing tours
including boat tours, snorkeling excursions, and personal encounters.
visit from a sea turtle will put a smile on the face of any nature
lover. This ancient species of reptile has inhabited the earth's oceans
for more than a hundred million years, developing long lifespans,
underwater vision, and migration patterns that can take a traveling
turtle thousands of miles at a time. The most common species of Sea
Turtle found in the Gulf of Mexico are Green, Hawksbill, Leatherback,
Kemp's Ridley, and Loggerhead. While Sea Turtles are commonly
encountered on boat tours or snorkeling excursions
, it is best not to
disturb them (even if one photobombs your picture!).
It is also very important to give a beached turtle plenty of space. The
only time a Sea Turtle ventures onto the beach is to lay eggs, which is a
very delicate process that should never be interrupted!
Seabirds are perhaps the most common animal encountered on the Gulf Coast. Seabirds are any species of bird that has adapted to life within a marine environment. From the beach to the pier, to a Destin, FL boat tour
, expect to see plenty of these aerial avians on your Gulf Coast vacation. Seabirds are friendly animals, and inherent beauty makes them a spectacle, as well as a popular figurehead for beach culture. Below are three of the most popular species of seabird found in coastal towns.
Head down to a bridge, beach, or fishing pier, and you might just spot a Pelican. These large seabirds like to set up shop near shallow ocean waters, and are expert fisherman. The Brown Pelican is the only species of Pelican found on the Gulf Coast, and is the smallest of all Pelicans. Watching them eat is an entertaining sight, with the Pelican diving after a fish and holding it in its large throat pouch before gobbling it down whole!
Multiple Seagull species are found nationwide, but the most common Gull found on the Gulf Coast is the Ring-billed Gull. You may have seen Ring-billed Gull's before in a local parking lot, or by any fresh water lake, but these Gulls are most in their element on the Gulf Coast. Seagulls can drink both salt and fresh water, and are capable hunters, as well as scavengers. The Gulls found on Gulf beaches may or may not be the same found in your hometown, but are sure to display the same characteristics. They are an opportunistic species, meaning they will steal fishing bait, fresh caught fish, or even your turkey sandwich if you're not careful!
One Seabird that perfectly exemplifies the beauty of the Gulf Coast's marine life is the Great Blue Heron. This large and majestic bird is a sight to behold, with long thin legs, massive wings, and a strong pointy beak designed for laser-sharp precision. Heron are found near both freshwater and saltwater, hunting primarily fish, but making a diet of almost any small animal including reptiles, amphibians, and rodents. Heron are very easily startled, so be sure to keep quiet if you want to catch a good look. if you happen to see one in action, it makes for a very memorable encounter.
The Florida Manatee is one of two subspecies of manatees found in the Americas. While primarily found in Central and North Florida freshwater estuaries, the Florida Manatee can survive in brackish or pure salt water, leading them to destinations throughout the Gulf of Mexico and as far north as New England! This "gentle giant" species is known to present a kind demeanor, and is an omnivore, dining primarily on sea grass and other marine plant life. Manatees are affectionately nicknamed "sea-cows" for their large size, slow-moving actions, and friendly disposition. While swimming with manatees is considered a rewarding experience, it is best not to bother or crowd a wandering manatee or manatee aggregation. Not only are they easily frightened, they tend to heavily defecate where they spend time!
There are tons of friendly Gulf Coast marine animals to meet! From blue crabs to porpoises, there is plenty of exciting wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico. To plan your trip to the areas of New Orleans, Gulf Shores, and the Emerald Coast, visit TripShock.com for hotel and activity booking in the Gulf Coast
- Sarah Dowdey (9 July 2009). "How do seagulls drink saltwater?". HowStuffWorks.
- Quinney, T. E. and P. C. Smith. 1979. Reproductive success, growth of nestlings and foraging behaviour of the Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias herodias L.). contract rept. No. KL229-5-7077. Can. Wildl. Serv. Ottawa.