This migration season in Florida is fast coming to a close but it has not been without its high points. The Florida Keys Hawk-watch broke the world record for number of Peregrine Falcons recorded in a single day – a stunning 651 birds! And at the South Florida Birding Observatory we have been banding a few surprises over the past weeks. This research station is located on Key Biscayne and is providing interesting data on migration over the eastern Florida coast, an area with high human population density. Since 2002, the five most numerous species banded at the nets are as follows in descending order: Black-throated Blue Warbler, Ovenbird, American Redstart, Gray Catbird and Black-and-white Warbler. 2005 was a really interesting year with several notable rarities: Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, Thick-billed Vireo and Townsend’s Warbler. This year there have also been several notable observations.

First up is the high number of Swainson’s Warblers that we have successfully banded. These really interesting warblers belong to the monotypic genus Limnothlypis and its not hard to see why these birds are the sole members of their genus. Their weird bills are used to flip over leaves as the birds forage on the ground. Swainson’s Warblers are seldom-seen and mostly uncommon so its great to see them coming through South Florida in healthy numbers. We have had a record season for these birds and have banded 27 to date this fall.

A nice Swainson’s Warbler in the hand. Note the long bill and drab plumage.

Robin from the South Florida Bird Observatory talks about a Swainson’s Warbler

The 17th of September yielded a strongly-suspected Yellow-green Vireo, a bird which is normally only recorded in South Texas. There have only been a couple of records for Florida so this is a particularly interesting record and is the first ever record at the observatory, if indeed this is what is confirmed. This bird is notoriously difficult to separate in the field from the similar – and much more common – Red-eyed Vireo. Useful identification features are the absence of a solid black border on the gray cap of the Yellow-Green, the less distinct white supercilium in the Yellow-green and the larger, pale bill and bright yellow undertail of the Yellow-green.

Yellow-green Vireo in the hand

Dorsal view of the bird

A few weeks ago we banded and released a Black-billed Cuckoo which was a really interesting record, especially as we have not banded any Yellow-billed Cuckoos this year, a much more common bird during migration in Florida.

A rare Black-billed Cuckoo banded in South Florida

Just 10 days ago we got another great surprise, a Philadelphia Vireo, only the third ever record for the observatory.

Note the nice bluish feet of this Philadelphia Vireo

Master Bander Michelle Davis talks about this nice Philadelphia Vireo

And, if like me, you never thought of bird banding as controversial read here for an interesting discussion.

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Written by James
A life-long birder and native of South Africa, James Currie has many years experience in the birding and wildlife tourism arenas. James has led professional wildlife and birding tours for 15 years and his passion for birding and remote cultures has taken him to far corners of the earth from the Amazon and Australia to Africa and Madagascar. He is also an expert in the field of sustainable development and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in African Languages and a Masters degree in Sustainable Environmental Management. From 2004-2007 James worked as the Managing Director of Africa Foundation, a non-profit organization that directs its efforts towards the uplifting of communities surrounding wildlife areas in Africa. James is currently the host and owner of Nikon's Birding Adventures TV and he resides in West Palm Beach, Florida.