We had the best of Southern Florida this year. We enjoyed good weather, both in the sense of "sun and fun," but it was also a bit dynamic which is good for migrants. West winds blew for the first few days on Key West which probably helped bring in several typically western birds like Lazuli Bunting, Western Kingbird, and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. In addition, we got to sample cuisine from all over the world including Vietnamese, Mexican, Peruvian, Cuban, good 'ol American, plus Subway, and everyone's favorite, Sonny's BBQ (just kidding). We did a survey at the end of the tour and most people thought that 5 Spices (the Vietnamese joint) was their favorite meal.
And then there's the birding. This was definitely one of our better years for overall total species and vagrants. We tallied 168 bird taxa and group highlights included Bachman's Sparrow, Brown Noddy, Snail Kite, Swallow-tailed Kite, and for one person, "all those baby birds at Wakodahatchee." However, there was a three-way tie for first place: Purple Gallinule, Mangrove Cuckoo, and Antillean Nighthawk.
The last great thing about this tour was the group! Owen and I really enjoyed the camaraderie and good vibes throughout our 8-day adventure together. There were lots of smiles and laughter on this tour, so we hoped you enjoyed traveling with Field Guides and really look forward to seeing you on another trip in the near future. All the best for birding in 2023 and beyond,
KEYS FOR THIS LIST
One of the following keys may be shown in brackets for individual species as appropriate: * = heard only, I = introduced, E = endemic, N = nesting, a = austral migrant, b = boreal migrant
BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING-DUCK (Dendrocygna autumnalis)
Small numbers were around the Wakodahatchee wetlands. Not sure if they were breeding there, however, since they are cavity nesters.
EGYPTIAN GOOSE (Alopochen aegyptiaca) [I]
A few feral birds were seen in the Boynton Beach area.
MUSCOVY DUCK (Cairina moschata) [I]
BLUE-WINGED TEAL (Spatula discors)
Seen at Eagle Lakes and again at Harn's Marsh. This species is mostly a wintering visitor to Florida so many would have begun their northern migration soon after our visit.
MOTTLED DUCK (Anas fulvigula)
This resident duck was seen around Fort Myers and again in Boynton Beach.
NORTHERN BOBWHITE (Colinus virginianus) [*]
ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]
WHITE-CROWNED PIGEON (Patagioenas leucocephala)
We had nice encounters several times with this species on the cays, especially on Sugarloaf Key and Key West. They were nesting on the grounds of our hotel!
EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE (Streptopelia decaocto) [I]
Super common. An everyday bird.
COMMON GROUND DOVE (Columbina passerina)
Small numbers were seen at Babcock-Webb.
WHITE-WINGED DOVE (Zenaida asiatica)
Not super common, but small numbers were seen south of Miami and on the cays. This species is slowly expanding its range north across its distribution.
MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)
SMOOTH-BILLED ANI (Crotophaga ani)
We made a special visit to the Homestead Regional Airport to sniff out this (mostly) Caribbean species.
YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO (Coccyzus americanus)
Seen on the cays, but again in large numbers at Fort Jefferson.
MANGROVE CUCKOO (Coccyzus minor)
Success! We worked hard on this one right up to the final day.
COMMON NIGHTHAWK (Chordeiles minor)
Booming birds were seen diving during our special morning at Babcock-Webb. "Peenting" birds were probably the highlight of our Sonny's BBQ evening in Florida City.
ANTILLEAN NIGHTHAWK (Chordeiles gundlachii)
A highlight of the tour for most folks, and a lifer for everyone except one guide. We had a nice evening experience with several birds as they danced in the sky.
CHUCK-WILL'S-WIDOW (Antrostomus carolinensis)
We got up early for this one. It paid off, however, as we heard several calling and experienced a few flybys.
CHIMNEY SWIFT (Chaetura pelagica)
Small numbers had returned to the southern Florida area.
RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD (Archilochus colubris)
Migrants were seen on the cays.
SORA (Porzana carolina)
One was sneaking around the parade ground at Fort Jefferson.
COMMON GALLINULE (Gallinula galeata)
PURPLE GALLINULE (Porphyrio martinica)
Amazing, close encounter from the boardwalk at Wakodahatchee.
GRAY-HEADED SWAMPHEN (Porphyrio poliocephalus) [I]
This large introduced species was seen well at several sites in the Fort Myers and Boynton Beach area.
LIMPKIN (Aramus guarauna)
Harn's Marsh offered us nice viewing of this snail eater.
SANDHILL CRANE (Antigone canadensis)
We heard them a few times before we finally caught up with a small family at Harn's Marsh that materialized from the tall marsh grass.
BLACK-NECKED STILT (Himantopus mexicanus)
BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (Pluvialis squatarola)
A good number of migrants were seen around Key West.
SEMIPALMATED PLOVER (Charadrius semipalmatus)
Seen well at Boca Chica and Eagle Lakes.
KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus)
UPLAND SANDPIPER (Bartramia longicauda)
As we were leaving Fort Jefferson, a wayward migrant deciding to drop into the parade ground for a short visit. It quickly realized its mistake and moved on.
RUDDY TURNSTONE (Arenaria interpres)
Several were hanging around the picnic tables at Keys Fisheries hoping for a handout.
SANDERLING (Calidris alba)
Singles on a couple of days.
DUNLIN (Calidris alpina)
Small numbers at Boca Chica.
LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla)
This species and the next two were foraging together at Boca Chica which led to an impromptu shorebird lesson.
WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER (Calidris fuscicollis)
SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER (Calidris pusilla)
SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER (Limnodromus griseus)
A small group of 10 individuals was seen at Boca Chica.
RED-NECKED PHALAROPE (Phalaropus lobatus)
Most folks standing on the bow during our boat trip out to the Dry Tortugas glimpsed this species in flight.
SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius)
SOLITARY SANDPIPER (Tringa solitaria)
GREATER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa melanoleuca)
One was a Harn's Marsh.
WILLET (EASTERN) (Tringa semipalmata semipalmata)
A couple were seen at Boca Chica.
LESSER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa flavipes)
LAUGHING GULL (Leucophaeus atricilla)
The common gull of the tour. Seen most days.
BROWN NODDY (Anous stolidus)
Tens(?) of thousands at the Dry Tortugas.
BLACK NODDY (Anous minutus)
We picked out two individuals amid the hundreds of Brown Noddies. They are noticeably smaller, darker plumaged, with a thinner bill.
SOOTY TERN (Onychoprion fuscatus)
Again, tens(?) of thousands at the Dry Tortugas.
BRIDLED TERN (Onychoprion anaethetus)
Just one pair at Fort Jefferson, but seen well in the scope.
LEAST TERN (Sternula antillarum)
Fairly common on the cays.
ROSEATE TERN (Sterna dougallii)
Several small groups, totaling six individuals, were seen on the cooling docks at the Dry Tortugas.
ROYAL TERN (Thalasseus maximus)
SANDWICH TERN (Thalasseus sandvicensis)
Also, at the Dry Tortugas.
AUDUBON'S SHEARWATER (Puffinus lherminieri)
Incredible to tally nearly 20 individuals during our trips to and from (mostly on the return) the Dry Tortugas.
WOOD STORK (Mycteria americana)
Did we see a Wood Stork on this trip? ;-)
MAGNIFICENT FRIGATEBIRD (Fregata magnificens)
Common on the cays, but there is also a large breeding colony at the Dry Tortugas.
MASKED BOOBY (Sula dactylatra)
We counted around 75 individuals on Hospital Key.
BROWN BOOBY (ATLANTIC) (Sula leucogaster leucogaster)
A small number (around 15) were also on Hospital Key.
ANHINGA (Anhinga anhinga)
Good numbers seen throughout the tour.
DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT (Nannopterum auritum)
In the Southern Florida area this species is resident. It was regularly encountered during our time on tour.
BROWN PELICAN (Pelecanus occidentalis)
GREAT BLUE HERON (GREAT BLUE) (Ardea herodias herodias)
GREAT BLUE HERON (GREAT WHITE) (Ardea herodias occidentalis)
We had one quick drive-by of this interesting subspecies as we were leaving Key West. Unfortunately, there was not an opportunity to stop for it.
GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)
SNOWY EGRET (Egretta thula)
LITTLE BLUE HERON (Egretta caerulea)
TRICOLORED HERON (Egretta tricolor)
Seen mostly on the mainland around Key West, but very cute downy chicks were enjoyed at Wakodahatchee.
CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis)
GREEN HERON (Butorides virescens)
BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax)
A pair were seen in flight over Harn's Marsh; our only ones of the tour.
YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nyctanassa violacea)
Just one on our final morning at Black Pointe Marina.
WHITE IBIS (Eudocimus albus)
GLOSSY IBIS (Plegadis falcinellus)
Small numbers were seen around Miami and again in the Fort Myers area.
ROSEATE SPOONBILL (Platalea ajaja)
Not common on this tour, but we ran into singles around Fort Myers.
BLACK VULTURE (Coragyps atratus)
TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)
OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus)
It was nice to see all the Osprey nests (and Ospreys) on this tour.
SWALLOW-TAILED KITE (Elanoides forficatus)
Probably one of the better US tours for seeing this species. They were pretty common at various spots during our time in the Everglades. Always elegant on the wing.
SNAIL KITE (Rostrhamus sociabilis)
Erratic in their movements, but thankfully for the last few years they have called Harn's Marsh home.
SHARP-SHINNED HAWK (Accipiter striatus)
A large female dashed over us during our first morning at Chapman Park.
BALD EAGLE (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
Just one high flyover at Boca Chica beach.
RED-SHOULDERED HAWK (EXTIMUS) (Buteo lineatus extimus)
The paler headed subspecies was seen in the Everglades and Fort Myers area.
SHORT-TAILED HAWK (Buteo brachyurus)
Singles were seen in the Everglades and again at the Homestead Regional Airport.
EASTERN SCREECH-OWL (Megascops asio) [*]
BURROWING OWL (Athene cunicularia)
These cuties were holding on to the last bit of priceless habitat on Marco Island.
BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon)
RED-HEADED WOODPECKER (Melanerpes erythrocephalus)
We made a special trip to look for this species near Fort Myers. It really paid off. Always a crowd-pleaser.
RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER (Melanerpes carolinus)
The most common woodpecker on this tour.
DOWNY WOODPECKER (Dryobates pubescens)
Small numbers seen in the Babcock-Webb pineywoods.
RED-COCKADED WOODPECKER (Dryobates borealis)
One of our targets at Babcock-Webb WMA was this federally listed endangered woodpecker. Our early morning arrival was the key as we watched a pair of birds forage near their cavity site.
HAIRY WOODPECKER (Dryobates villosus)
One was also at Babcock-Webb.
PILEATED WOODPECKER (Dryocopus pileatus)
Now the largest woodpecker in the US, and always fun to watch. Several were in the Everglades (we called one out at Flamingo) and Fort Myers area.
NORTHERN FLICKER (YELLOW-SHAFTED) (Colaptes auratus auratus) [*]
CRESTED CARACARA (Caracara plancus)
We made a couple of U-turns to catch up with this species during our drive to Boynton Beach.
PEREGRINE FALCON (Falco peregrinus)
One high-flying over Flamingo was being harassed by a Swallow-tailed Kite!
EASTERN WOOD-PEWEE (Contopus virens)
One was seen (and, thankfully, calling) at the botanical gardens in Key West.
GREAT CRESTED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus crinitus)
Fairly common as migrants and breeders on the mainland during this tour. Often detected first by voice.
WESTERN KINGBIRD (Tyrannus verticalis)
This is a rare, but regular winter visitor to southern Florida. Some years very few are around, while this year we had several encounters including at the Dry Tortugas and Everglades.
EASTERN KINGBIRD (Tyrannus tyrannus)
Good numbers on multiple days.
GRAY KINGBIRD (Tyrannus dominicensis)
A mostly Caribbean species that breeds in coastal Florida. Pretty common on the cays.
SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHER (Tyrannus forficatus)
Ditto Western Kingbird. We had a female at the Everglades.
WHITE-EYED VIREO (Vireo griseus) [*]
RED-EYED VIREO (Vireo olivaceus)
Good numbers at Key West and Dry Tortugas.
BLACK-WHISKERED VIREO (Vireo altiloquus)
We struggled a little to get the group its first, but we eventually had several each day in the cays including on Sugarloaf and at Fort Jefferson.
LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE (Lanius ludovicianus)
Pretty common around Florida City and Everglades. Nice to see this species in good numbers as in other parts of the country it is in a steady decline.
BLUE JAY (Cyanocitta cristata)
FLORIDA SCRUB-JAY (Aphelocoma coerulescens) [E]
A cool experience with a pair of curious birds north of Fort Myers. Neat habitat, too.
AMERICAN CROW (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
FISH CROW (Corvus ossifragus)
The most common corvid on the trip, found in most habitats, except in the Everglades where the previous species rules.
TUFTED TITMOUSE (Baeolophus bicolor)
A pair were at Six Mile Cypress Slough. Our only ones of the trip!
NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)
PURPLE MARTIN (Progne subis)
The most memorable would be the martin house at Robert Is Here.
BANK SWALLOW (Riparia riparia)
BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica)
CLIFF SWALLOW (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota)
We had a small group of Cliff Swallows over Fort Jefferson.
CAVE SWALLOW (Petrochelidon fulva)
Resident Cave Swallows were watched at the overpass near Portofino Plaza. This subspecies is the nominate Caribbean group, fulva, but only first documented breeding in southern Florida in 1987.
BROWN-HEADED NUTHATCH (Sitta pusilla)
These rubber duckies of the Pineywoods were seen well at Babcock-Webb.
BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER (Polioptila caerulea)
CAROLINA WREN (Thryothorus ludovicianus)
A pair were nest building near the boardwalk at Six Mile Cypress Slough.
EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris) [I]
COMMON MYNA (Acridotheres tristis) [I]
GRAY CATBIRD (Dumetella carolinensis)
Pretty common in the scrubby understory (at least by voice) on the cays.
NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus polyglottos)
An everyday bird.
VEERY (Catharus fuscescens)
This was a good year for this migrant. Seen most days on the cays including Fort Jefferson and one in the parking lot of our hotel.
GRAY-CHEEKED/BICKNELL'S THRUSH (Catharus minimus/bicknelli)
Presumably, most/all of these were Gray-cheeked, but we will take the conservative route. Regardless, there were good numbers most days on the cays and at Fort Jefferson.
SWAINSON'S THRUSH (Catharus ustulatus)
Again, a good number of migrants were moving through the cays, but also one at Six Mile Cypress Slough.
WOOD THRUSH (Hylocichla mustelina)
At least four individuals were skulking around the parade ground at Fort Jefferson.
CEDAR WAXWING (Bombycilla cedrorum)
We had a small group that we scoped at Zachary Taylor State Historic Park.
TRICOLORED MUNIA (Lonchura malacca)
A male was visiting the drip at Fort Jefferson. There are very few records of this species for the US. It was introduced to the New World where it has been slowly expanding through Middle America and the Caribbean.
HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]
HOUSE FINCH (Haemorhous mexicanus) [*]
BACHMAN'S SPARROW (Peucaea aestivalis)
We had to work a bit for this one, eventually finding a responsive bird at a satellite compound of the Babcock-Webb WMA. This was a highlight for several in the group.
SEASIDE SPARROW (CAPE SABLE) (Ammospiza maritima mirabilis)
Distant views this year. There wasn't any song, so many individuals could have been nest attending.
LINCOLN'S SPARROW (Melospiza lincolnii)
A pair at the Dry Tortugas was another good find for the trip.
BOBOLINK (Dolichonyx oryzivorus)
Seen a few times this trip, but our best encounter was a feeding group with several males at the Homestead Regional Airport.
EASTERN MEADOWLARK (Sturnella magna)
RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius phoeniceus)
SHINY COWBIRD (Molothrus bonariensis)
We had one on the power line mixed with a group of Brown-headed Cowbirds in the agricultural fields before entering the Everglades NP. Can easily be missed on this tour, but seem to be slowly increasing in numbers.
BRONZED COWBIRD (Molothrus aeneus)
We lucked out finding a singing bird along the entrance road inside the Everglades NP. This is a low density wintering visitor to western Florida, but slowly increasing due to the increased land modification in the area.
BROWN-HEADED COWBIRD (Molothrus ater)
Common in the Everglades area.
COMMON GRACKLE (Quiscalus quiscula)
Common throughout the tour.
BOAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus major)
Seen on the mainland where common, but not found on the cays (for whatever reason!).
OVENBIRD (Seiurus aurocapilla)
WORM-EATING WARBLER (Helmitheros vermivorum)
NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia noveboracensis)
BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER (Mniotilta varia)
TENNESSEE WARBLER (Leiothlypis peregrina)
A small number of migrants were seen on the cays most days.
COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis trichas)
HOODED WARBLER (Setophaga citrina)
One was seen at Zachary Taylor SP, and again a female at the Dry Tortugas.
AMERICAN REDSTART (Setophaga ruticilla)
Fairly common throughout the tour in different places.
CAPE MAY WARBLER (Setophaga tigrina)
Also, good numbers in different places on the tour, but mostly on the cays.
NORTHERN PARULA (Setophaga americana)
MAGNOLIA WARBLER (Setophaga magnolia)
BAY-BREASTED WARBLER (Setophaga castanea)
CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER (Setophaga pensylvanica)
We had a couple at Zachary Taylor.
BLACKPOLL WARBLER (Setophaga striata)
PALM WARBLER (WESTERN) (Setophaga palmarum palmarum)
PINE WARBLER (Setophaga pinus)
Seen well at Babcock-Webb.
PRAIRIE WARBLER (Setophaga discolor)
One of the more common breeding warblers on this tour.
BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER (Setophaga virens) [*]
SUMMER TANAGER (Piranga rubra)
Several were at Zachary Taylor State Historic Park, but those were our only ones of the trip.
SCARLET TANAGER (Piranga olivacea)
Fantastic, close studies of a pair at the Key West Botanical Gardens, but also again on the Dry Tortugas.
NORTHERN CARDINAL (Cardinalis cardinalis)
ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK (Pheucticus ludovicianus)
LAZULI BUNTING (Passerina amoena)
One of the rarest passerines found on the tour. We saw this vagrant at the Dry Tortugas. It had been reported a few days earlier and thankfully stayed around for us to see it.
INDIGO BUNTING (Passerina cyanea)
A common migrant on the cays.
DICKCISSEL (Spiza americana)
We had nice scope studies of migrants feeding in the gumbo limbo trees at Zachary Taylor Historic Park.
RED-LEGGED HONEYCREEPER (Cyanerpes cyaneus)
MEGA! A female had been reported off and on for a few weeks before we arrived to Zachary Taylor State Historic Park. We walked around for a bit, but eventually found her near where we parked! Great views and photos.
MARSH RABBIT (Sylvilagus palustris)
A couple of times on this tour including several on the road edge at Everglades and again at Wakodahatchee.
EASTERN GRAY SQUIRREL (Sciurus carolinensis)
BOTTLENOSE DOLPHIN (Tursiops truncatus)
A few during our drive down to Key West and again on the boat ride back from the Dry Tortugas.
NORTHERN RACCOON (Procyon lotor)
One was at Black Pointe Marina.
WEST INDIAN MANATEE (Trichechus manatus)
We had a nice experience with a small group near the pier at Flamingo.
WHITE-TAILED DEER (Odocoileus virginianus)
KEY (WHITE-TAILED) DEER (Odocoileus virginianus clavium)
We made a special effort to look for this distinctive and endangered subspecies on Big Pine Key. It wasn't too difficult to find them, though!
BROWN ANOLE (Anolis sagrei) [I]
This introduced species seems to have completely replaced the native Green Anole.
RED-HEADED ROCK AGAMA (Agama agama) [I]
GREEN IGUANA (Iguana iguana) [I]
NORTHERN CURLY-TAILED LIZARD (Leiocephalus carinatus armouri) [I]
AMERICAN CROCODILE (Crocodylus acutus)
A pair were lounging on the boat ramp at Flamingo. This species prefers more brackish waters than the American Alligator.
AMERICAN ALLIGATOR (Alligator mississippiensis)
Seen a few times on the mainland in the Everglades and Boynton Beach area.
FLORIDA SOFTSHELL TURTLE (Apalone ferox)
GOPHER TORTOISE (Gopherus polyphemus)
A cool creature that we saw near Harbor View in the white sand scrub oak habitat. Indigo Snakes and Burrowing Owls are both closely tied into the dens of this species.
GREEN SEA TURTLE (Chelonia mydas)
Several on our boat ride to (and from) the Dry Tortugas.
Totals for the tour: 168 bird taxa and 7 mammal taxa