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.

I didn’t see it at first. 

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.

Kerry Ross

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.

cuatrok77 / Flickr Creative Commons

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.

Robert.Claypool / Flickr Creative Commons

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.