South Florida Audubon Society


by Paddy Cunningham Pascatore

Spring Migration: Birding at it's Frustrating Best

Spring migration is a long anticipated event where you will have numerous opportunities to see songbirds in their breeding best.  Spring males have returned in full plumage and finally the warblers look like the ones in the book.  Great birding hotspots for migrants include Birch State Park, Deerfield Island Park, Evergreen Cemetery, Woodmont Park, and John Williams Park.  Go to Birding Browardfor details and directions to these great birding areas.

  • Look for movement in the tree canopy, but don't forget half of the warblers are found on or near the ground. 
  • Warblers with wingbars such as the Blackburnian and Cape May will be in the tree canopy.  Those without wingbars such as the Kentucky, Hooded, and Wilson' will be on the ground or near it.  
  • Finding warblers moving in the tree canopy can be difficult and you may get a stiff neck (warbler neck) from looking up so often and so long. Stick with it.  
  • Finding warblers on the ground is difficult because they are extremely camouflaged and have secretive behavior.  Rewards are worth it. 
  • Check all fruiting and flowering trees for movement.  Strangler Figs are especially good in that they provide good cover, fruits to eat, and insects that are attracted to rotting fruit. Check Red Mulberry for Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and Summer and Scarlet Tanagers.  Live Oaks provide good canopy.  
  • For ground dwelling warblers and thrushes look in leaf-covered areas and listen for rustling leaves. 
  • It's either feast or famine.  Warblers and other songbirds tend to move in mixed flocks where you will be looking frantically or waiting in quiet.  Keep walking until you find the flock.
  • Weather plays a major role in fallouts of warblers.  Go out after or just before a front especially where there are west winds.

If you have any questions about birds or birding hot spots in our area or if you are looking for birding opportunities, visit my website at or contact me at


Waterfowl Behavior

Waterfowl are special local “snowbirds” adding a lot of color and birding excitement in the winter.  In large concentrations of ducks, such that you find at Merritt Island or S.T.A. 5, look for behavior clues to increase success in identification.

  • Ducks have VERY RAPID wing beats in comparison to other birds in flight. 
  • Dabbling ducks such as American Widgeon, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup and Blue-winged Teals feed on vegetation on the surface. 
  • Red-breasted and Hooded Mergansers can be identified by a lot of splashing on the water surface when they are feeding on fish in groups. Mergansers will also disappear completely under the water like a Anhinga. 
  • Northern Pintails feed with their head under the water and tails in the air. 
  • Ruddy Ducks are stiff tailed ducks with large bills.

For more information or questions send an email to or visit my website .

Black-bellied Whistling Duck

photo credit: Kay McGuinn