Sea Turtle Identification

Quick Guide to Sea Turtle Identification in Florida

The following information is provided by FPL and is a good quick reference to learn a little more about the sea turtles encountered along the shoreline in Florida.  Browse through the information to learn a little more about these unique local residents.

You can also easily share or print this sea turtle reference guide to carry with you on your coastal adventures through the links provided at the bottom of our post.


Kemp's Ridley

The rarest and smallest of all the sea turtles, the endangered Kemp's Ridley feeds in the coastal waters of Florida on blue crabs and other crabs and shrimp. All Kemp's Ridleys nest on a single stretch of beach on the Gulf coast of Mexico.



Hawksbill Turtle

The endangered hawksbill, a relatively small turtle, has been hunted to the brink of extinction for its beautiful shell. Once relatively common in Florida, these turtles now nest here only rarely. Hawksbills feed on sponges and other invertebrates and tend to nest on small isolated beaches.


Loggerhead Turtle

The loggerhead turtle is the most common sea turtle in Florida. It is listed as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act. Named for its large head, which can be 10 inches wide, it has powerful jaws to crush the heavy-shelled clams, crabs and encrusting animals on which it feeds. In the past few years, 49,000 to 68,000 loggerhead nests have been recorded in Florida annually.


Leatherback Turtle


The endangered leatherback turtle is the largest and most active of the sea turtles.


They travel thousands of miles, dive thousands of feet deep, and venture into much colder water than any other kind of sea turtle. Up to 8 feet in length, these huge turtles have a rubbery dark shell marked by 7 narrow ridges that extend the length of the back.


Remarkably, leatherbacks feed on jellyfish and soft-bodied animals that would appear to provide very little nutrition for such huge animals.

Reason for population decline

Ingestion of plastic bags and egg collecting are reasons for mortality and population declines. About 100 to 200 leatherback nests are recorded in Florida each year.

Who you should contact

If you find an injured or dead turtle in Florida, call the Florida Department of Environmental Protection or the Florida Marine Patrol at 1-800-DIAL-FMP.


Green Turtle


The green turtle, named for the greenish color of its body fat, is listed as endangered in Florida. Most green turtles nest in the Caribbean, but 500 to 2,000 nests are recorded in Florida each year.

Reason for population decline

Green turtles have been hunted for their meat and the gelatinous "calipee" that is made into soup. Hunting and egg gathering have reduced their numbers greatly.


Green turtles are the only sea turtles that eat plants. They graze on the vast beds of seagrasses found throughout the tropics.

Travel and nesting

Some populations travel over 1,000 miles on open ocean to nest on islands in the mid-Atlantic.


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