Cape May Warbler

With an abundance of over 500 species of birds, almost 75 percent of all documented bird species of the US have turned up in the state of Florida. The main bulk of those species are winter visitors which makes winter the best time of year to pay Florida a visit. A small amount of species is summer visitor and most of those are the specialties of Florida. Florida has only one endemic species and only a few species with limited range of distribution. (see Endemics, targets and rarities). For the interested all-round birder: above mentioned number is increased by 175 exotic bird species (see Escapes).
The avifauna of the US has been thoroughly researched and mapped; almost every state has its own Birdfinding Guide, some even more than one. This makes it easy to plan your trip and to find the hotspots without too much difficulty.

Waders. Southern Florida’s swampy nature – of which the Everglades National Park is the most renowned though not the most impressive part – makes it an ideal place for waders including all North American herons and species like Limpkin(Aramus guarauna, Koerlan) and Woodstork (Mycteria americana, Kaalkopooievaar). In many places these waders can be spectacularly common and that’s why it can be teeming with birds when visiting during the right time of the year.


Endemics, targets and rarities
. Florida has not much to offer to the global twitcher: only one true endemic species: Florida Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens, Florida Struikgaai) and a few endemic subspecies under which Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow (Ammodrammus maritimus mirabilis, Kweldergors) and Florida Grasshopper Sparrow (Ammodrammus vannanarum floridanus). The only other species I can think of that are globally hard to find but are fairly easy to twitch in Florida are Whooping Crane (Grus americana, Trompetkraanvogel) and Red-cockaded Woodpecker (Picoides borealis, Kokarde Specht). Although concerning Whooping Crane one has to be content with reintroduced birds and their offspring. Further more there are yet another 30 or so species that reach their most northern range in Florida though most of those, like Smooth billed Ani (Crotophaga ani) and Crested Caracara (Caracara cheriway, Kuifcaracara) are a lot more common in Central and South America. Other species with ranges in the US limited to Florida are, among others, Roseate Spoonbill (Ajaia ajaja, Rode Lepelaar), White-crowned Pigeon (Columba leucocephala, Witkapduif) -a species not easily found in the Caribbean anymore -, Mangrove Cuckoo (Coccyzus minor, Mangrove-koekoek) and Grey Kingbird (Tyrannus dominicensis, Grijze Koningstiran)

Escapes. Florida alas, has the arguable status of being the state with the highest number of registered escapes: more than 170 exotic species have been recorded in the Miami area alone. A number of those species has been accepted by rules of the American Birding Association, because they have settled and established feral populations. It is therefor that species like Spot-breasted Oriole (Icterus pectoralis) and Red-whiskered Bulbul (Pycnonotus jocosus) are ticked by many birders and with much enthusiasm. Because we do not share this enthusiasm and share the opinion that introduction of environment-alien species rarely contributes to a natural balance there will be no mention of the escapes and reintroduced species that we saw. To draw a consequent line the following widespread species also belong to this category: House Sparrow (Passer domesticus, Huismus),European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris, Spreeuw) and Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto, Turkse Tortel). There is one exception: White-winged Dove(Zenaida asiatica, Witvleugeltreurduif), its status in debate. Some say that only the wintering birds are of wild origin while others assume that the population near Homestead got there on its own, something that is being confirmed by the fact that this population belongs to the Caribbean subspecies.

Migration. Bird migration and especially the migration of American warblers can be spectacular in Florida. At the right time of year (between the end of March and the middle of May with a peak between the 10th and 20th of April) it is possible to see more than 30 species of American warblers in one day. During this time even ‘hard to find’ species, like the exceptionalKirtlands warbler (Dendroica kirtlandii) can be found. Add to this the chance of encountering all American Catharus thrush species and several Vireo species. Furthermore, almost every species with a western migratory route have been recorded as a winter visitor or vagrant and even vagrants from Cuba and the Bahamas, like Bahama Mockingbird (Mimus gundlachii, Bahama-spotlijster), can be found annually. Raptor migration (fall) and wader migration (summer) can also be fascinating.

Tame, tamer, tamest. One of Florida’s most known charms are the excellent opportunities for photography. Especially in the more marshy nature reserves, where ‘boardwalks’ are the only way to enter them, the birds can be extraordinary tame. Herons,Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus, Geoorde aalscholver) and Anhingas (Anhinga anhinga, Amerikaanse Slangehalsvogel) stay seated on the railing when you pass them. While many warblers are like Goldcrests during a severe winter, Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis, Canadese Kraanvogel) can be found between the many bathers on a beach and Florida Scrub Jay feels no inhibition to come and eat the bread crumbs out of your hand. Take a lot of film with you because you keep shooting them!