birds

Scientists are one step closer to understanding how modern birds evolved to have beaks, and the answer starts millions of years ago with some of the sexiest dinosaurs.

It’s Nesting season for Florida’s waterbirds. And, Florida wildlife officials say it’s important the public keeps its distance, while on the beach or boating on the state’s waterways.

Joe Rimkus Jr. / Miami Herald Archive

The record rain that pounded South Florida last year and left the state a sodden mess had a silver lining: an explosion of wading birds.

Mark Hedden / markhedden.com

Is there anything more Floridian than a flamingo?

They’re everywhere. Pink plastic ornaments dotting lawns. On cocktail swizzlers and motel signs.

Real, live Flamingos occasionally show up in the Everglades. A couple years ago a big flock showed up in a Palm Beach County stormwater treatment area. But the official story is that these birds don't belong here. That Florida's flamingos were all hunted out of existence back in the 19th century.

Yesterday's Florida Keys / The Ketch & Yawl Press

When you’re talking about the protection of birds, in the U.S. and especially in South Florida, there’s one man who had an outsize impact — even if his name is barely remembered now.

That man is Robert Porter Allen.

Allen was the researcher from the National Audubon Society who established Audubon’s Tavernier Science Center in 1939. (It's now Audubon of Florida's Everglades Science Center.)

Mark Hedden

It's easy to spot birders. They probably have binoculars and a field guide handy. And there’s a good chance they keep a list of which birds they’ve seen, when and where.

But there’s a rare subspecies of birder you can see in South Florida every fall at the Florida Keys Hawkwatch.

Those are counters.

Key West Wildlife Center

  Least terns are having a banner breeding year in Key West.

That's good news — the seabirds are listed as threatened by the state of Florida.

But it also means more young birds are falling from the rooftops where many least terns nest.

Greg Lasley/VIREO / Audubon

Imagine lush mangroves, romantic background music and about two dozen good looking members of the opposite sex. Sounds like the perfect place to meet your mate. 

At least that's what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is going for, as it tries to get  the Magnificent Frigatebirds of the Florida Keys to relocate their nesting sites.

Mac Stone Photography

  Roseate spoonbills may not appear in plastic as lawn ornaments — but they are up there with flamingos as one of Florida's iconic birds. They're the other pink birds.

  Scientists from the National Audubon Society and Audubon Florida have been studying the spoonbill population of Florida Bay since 1939. First it was to determine whether the birds could come back from plume hunting in the late 19th century.

FWC

  Fifty-seven species of fish and wildlife are so rare or face such threats that they are considered "imperiled" by the state of Florida.

Now the state has 49 action plans aimed at protecting those species. Some, like several species of wading birds, share the same habitat so they're covered under the same plan.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

  The Florida Keys Hawkwatch Migration Monitoring Project opened for business Tuesday. Birdwatchers will be scanning the skies and counting birds in the Middle Keys every day until Nov. 2.

"We are counting warblers. We are counting thrushes. We are counting a lot of birds of prey, falcons, in particular. We count more falcons here than anywhere else on the planet," said Rafael Galvez, the project's director.

Mark Hedden / For WLRN

When he was young, Jim Hale told a friend he was going to move to Key West and become "the pigeon king." His friend, a budding comedian, thought that was an excellent joke. But Hale was serious.

He did move to the Keys, 30 years ago, and he started keeping and breeding racing pigeons. He's been successful with that, and he's got an unexpected sideline: rescuing the racing pigeons that wind up in the Keys after they're blown off course from Cuba.

Joe Rimkus Jr. / Miami Herald Staff

It's not a canary or a coal mine in Florida, but the idea from Audubon of Florida is the same. Wading birds hold the same function as the canary, and in this case the coal mine is the Everglades. Tabitha Cale with the society says things are dire.

Flickr/CreativeCommons/Bruce Tuten

 

How’d you like to become a citizen scientist and help conservation efforts in the Everglades?

Every other Saturday from Jan. 3, 2015 until late March, Everglades National Park will host its Big Day Birding Adventure.

Novice and experienced birders alike will be asked to spend the day counting birds within the varied habitats of the park -- from freshwater marsh to mangrove swamp.

If there is an iconic bird for the Florida Keys, the Key West quail-dove is it. The bird was named, and painted, by John James Audubon during his 1832 visit to the island chain.

"I have taken upon myself to name this species the Key West pigeon, and offer it as a tribute to the generous inhabitants of that island, who favoured me with their friendship," Audubon wrote in his journal.

Pages