Birding Florida in Fall and Winter – Part Two

Here is some more info on what to look for in Florida! Species marked with an * are quite rare at any season or some just in winter.

An alphabetical list of some Florida specialty birds (See http://www.tropicalaudubon.org/birds/south-floridas-birds/florida-specialties#birdlist and http://floridabirdingtrail.com/index.php/mobile/birds/ for more details.)

American Flamingo – coastal mudflats and freshwater marshes; south FL

Antillean Nighthawk * – open areas near brush; FL Keys

Bachman’s Sparrow – pine woods; north and central FL

Bananaquit * – parks and gardens; south FL

Black-whiskered Vireo * – coastal subtropical forests; south FL

Bridled Tern – tropical, semi-pelagic; Dry Tortugas and FL Keys

Brown Booby – tropical islands; Dry Tortugas and FL Keys

Brown Noddy – tropical islands; Dry Tortugas

Common Myna – parks and gardens; south FL

Egyptian Goose – city parks and freshwater wetlands; south FL

Florida Scrub-Jay – oak and shrub scrub; mostly central FL

Gray Kingbird * – subtropical, coastal habitats; south and central FL

Limpkin – freshwater marshes; most of the state

Mangrove Cuckoo * – coastal mangrove swamps; south FL

Masked Booby – tropical islands; Dry Tortugas

Parrots and Parakeets – a variety of exotic species seem to prefer urban and suburban habitats throughout the central and southern parts of the state. Monk Parakeet, Budgerigar, White-winged Parakeet, Nanday Parakeet, Red-crowned Parrot and Green Parakeet are listed on the ABA bird list.

Purple Swamphen – freshwater marshes; central and south FL

Other Rarities * – a variety of other vagrants from the West Indies are also possible. La Sagra’s Flycatcher and Key West Quail-Dove have been fairly regular in recent years. Others are strictly “hotline birds.”

Red-cockaded Woodpecker – mature pine forests; central and northern FL

Red-whiskered Bulbul – parks and gardens; south FL

Roseate Tern – coastal beaches and marsh; FL Keys

Shiny Cowbird – lawns and parks; south FL

Short-tailed Hawk – deciduous woodlands near water; southern FL

Smooth-billed Ani * – borders of wetlands and coastal scrub; central and south FL

Snail Kite – prairie wetlands and marshes; central and south FL

Sooty Tern – tropical islands; Dry Tortugas

Spot-breasted Oriole – parks and gardens; central and south FL

Western Spindalis * – usually in urban and suburban parks and gardens along the coast; south FL

White-crowned Pigeon – coastal woodlands and hammocks; south FL

White-tailed Tropicbird * – pelagic; Dry Tortugas

 We’ll let you know how we fare in our search for these and other species during the upcoming trip.

Birding Florida in Late Fall and Winter – some thoughts

We usually don’t have many rarities to chase while we are at our summer place in North Carolina, so it is nice to be on the road again in Florida.

In just a couple of days we will start a week-long tour of southern Florida looking for some of the rarities and exotics that we have missed so far in our Big Year and Eight Years to 800!? projects. Florida is one of our favorite birding areas. Our favorite season here is spring migration, but the winter season is also very good, and the weather is very nice during this season. Most of the time, we don’t worry too much about the traffic and crowds, although they can be quite bad during the Thanksgiving weekend and after the peak winter season starts after Christmas. Our experience so far is that most areas are quite enjoyable at this time. Some places can be crowded but if you take a few precautions, such as visiting at certain times of the day or certain days of the week, making advance reservations, and being patient, you can usually avoid any troubles that might interfere with birding.

The highlights of many Florida trips are the water birds. The winter season is one of the drier seasons of the year so water birds tend to be concentrated in the remaining wet habitats. That can make for some spectacular birding with thousands of waders, divers, and dabblers in view at one time in suitable habitat. The Florida specialties are also well represented, but may be a bit harder to find when they are in non-breeding mode. Some species, however, may be absent during this season, so it is imperative that you check ebird and other sources for the latest sighting information.

In general, the more northern parts of the state are not as productive as those farther south. There are some good birds to be seen, but the drier, forested habitats are not Florida’s strong suit at this time of year. Thus, we tend to concentrate our efforts on the coastal wetlands, the major lakes, and the southern tip of the peninsula from about Fort Lauderdale to the Florida Keys.

On this trip we are especially interested in the rarer Florida specialties and are basing our strategy on the most recent ebird reports for these species. We are also checking the websites for the Tropical Audubon Society in Miami and monitoring the rarity reports on NARBA. Based on that information we have listed about half a dozen species as our prime targets: American Flamingo, Smooth-billed Ani, White-winged and Yellow-chevroned Parakeets, Spot-breasted Oriole, and Western Spindalis. We also hope to see some of the other specialties to get better views and photographs that we missed on other trips over the last few years.

Stay tuned for the details of our search!