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.
I was just getting into my car in the WLRN parking lot when I heard the warbling. It seemed the bird song was carried along on the air in surround sound, with a resonance that my colleagues inside the building would envy.
I kept scanning the electrical poles and wires above the parking lot to see if I could spot it. It had to be there, because he was a born performer, this bird. What a ham! Despite the ruckus I was making settling into my driver seat, he just kept singing away.
The Peregrine Falcon is the fastest animal on the planet. Throw a brick off the top of the Empire State Building and the Peregrine will fall out of the sky faster.
The secret is the falcon’s ability to shape its body into an almost perfect teardrop, fine tuning its muscles and feathers according to the feel of the rushing wind. Navy scientists using radar have clocked them doing 240 miles per hour. Peregrine Falcons don’t do this for fun. They do it to survive.
How valuable are state-managed conservation lands? It's a question the South Florida Water Management District has put to the public in a multi-month assessment of fee-owned lands throughout the state.
The Birdist's Nicholas Lund -- who, in a recent Slate piece, took each and every state to task for its choice of state bird -- stands by his assertion that the flamingo should be Florida's avian ambassador, even if most of the state's denizens will never set eyes on the pink fellows outside of an aviary or souvenir shop.
Northern mockingbirds are usually about ten inches in length, with a fifteen-inch wingspan, grayish upper portions, white undersides, and white patches on the tail and wings. The female has slightly less whiteness in its feathers than the male.
Humans aren't the only species facing an uncertain future in South Florida should current sea level rise predictions prove accurate. Migratory and resident shore birds also would feel the pinch of encroaching salt water, beach erosion, and shore line and habitat loss.
When examining current land modeling and other scientific data, in addition to physical evidence, "It becomes clear what a substantial threat sea level rise will be," said Julie Wraithmell, director of Wildlife Conservation, Florida, for the National Audubon Society.
The roseate spoonbill -- often mistaken by confused tourists for the non-native flamingo -- is one of Florida's great iconic species. Dubbed "one of the most breathtaking of the world's weirdest birds" by naturalist Roger Tory Peterson, the gangly creatures are an increasingly rare sight in South Florida.
According to a feature in the May-June issue of Audubon Magazine, spoonbills have been vacating South Florida in droves, heading north to more hospitable (read: often less developed) lands.
Is there any animal more closely associated with the Everglades than the American alligator? OK, the Burmese python has been the 'glades press "darling" as of late, but invasive, non-natives do not count for the purposes of celebrating the Everglades. While Florida's iconic reptilian king deserves all of the attention it gets, there are plenty of other cool critters that inhabit the Everglades.
In January, WLRN reported on the curious -- and destructive -- habits of some of the Everglades National Park's vulture population. The birds have been reported to "attack" parked vehicles, picking off rubber and vinyl. The baffling and costly behavior has led Everglades' staff to pass out anti-vulture kits to park visitors. It has also motivated state conservationalists and scientists to look into the matter more thoroughly.
Dust off those binoculars and brush up on your birding skills. The 2013 Great Backyard Bird Count is on and South Florida is a historical hotbed of action.
The four-day count -- a joint effort by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, National Audubon Society, and Bird Studies Canada -- is a large-scale citizen-science project with participants from around the globe. There's no cost to join and it's open to birders of all levels, from the casual feeder watcher to hardcore "listers."