For many in the birding community, Miami is a destination meant only for ticking off ABA-countable exotics such as Spot-breasted Oriole or Red-whiskered Bulbul. For others, it is simply a launching point to Everglades National Park or the Florida Keys. However, few realize that this flat, densely populated county boasts one of the highest list totals of any county east of the Mississippi. The warm, sunny climate beckons a wide variety of passerines, raptors, and shorebirds to spend the winter, inflating the species diversity to the extent that Miami-Dade can go toe-to-toe with counties in Texas and Arizona during this season.

The Great Miami Winter Bird Count, an event that transpired over the course of four days from February 13-16, set out to record this diversity for the first time in an organized manner as part of the overall Miami Birding Wave project. With the easy-to-use platform offered by the Great Backyard Bird Count, birders of all ages and experience levels set out to find, tally, and document as many birds as possible within the boundaries of Miami-Dade. It was truly heart-warming to see the local birding community participate with so much enthusiasm and fervor. It was great to see everyone really come together! As it turns out, every individual provided at least one new bird to the overall effort. One highlight came from Nico Salino, an up and coming young birder, who found the only Bonaparte’s Gull. This bird was a life bird for him! This is what the project is all about.

Short-tailed Hawk Nov 20 A

We recorded 17 Short-tailed Hawks this past weekend, a winter specialty in Miami-Dade.

The final species tally for the four day blitz was 186 ABA-countable species, an impressive total in winter for any location in the United States. Shorebirds put on a good showing with a total of 18 species, despite the shrinking number and quality of sites offering adequate habitat. A Snowy Plover, a regional rarity, continued at Crandon Beach, while a Solitary Sandpiper in a lonely puddle at Lucky Hammock was a nice surprise.

Snowy Plover Feb 2015

Although they breed on the west coast of Florida, Snowy Plover is a rare stray to this part of the state.

Many sporadic and irruptive winter visitors from further north made an appearance in Miami-Dade this past weekend despite forecasts to the contrary, including small flocks of American Robin, American Goldfinch, and Cedar Waxwing. The relentless train of winter storms and heavy snow may be partially to blame. On the other hand, numbers and diversity of waterfowl were way down, signaling that many have already begun pushing their way back north.

Lincoln's Sparrow

Song Sparrow is a genuine rarity in Miami-Dade. This Lincoln’s Sparrow is far more common.

Several species, all more or less annual winter visitors from the western United States, also made an appearance: Western Tanager, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Western Kingbird, Yellow-headed Blackbird, and Rufous/Allen’s Hummingbird. A La Sagra’s Flycatcher, a Caribbean stray, continued at Charles Deering Estate.

Yellow-throated Warbler Jan 2015

It was a banner winter season for warblers in Miami-Dade, with a total of 22 species seen during the course of the event (and we missed a few!). Highlights included singles of Blue-winged, Swainson’s, and Wilson’s, although the sheer number of Northern Parula (194) was also pretty impressive in of itself. There were double-digit numbers of 14 warbler species in all, hinting that southeast Florida might be a more important wintering destination for warblers than we might realize.

With the amount of enthusiasm and support for this year’s inaugural count, Miami Birding Wave is already considering how to make next year’s event even better with more strategy, more involvement, and more fun. Can we hit 200 ABA-countable species in four days next year?

We also hope to inspire and invite other counties in the United States or areas elsewhere in the world to organize their own bird count events to energize and bring together their own local birding communities.

Without further adieu, here is the total list:

Egyptian Goose: 57
Muscovy Duck (Domestic type): 322
Gadwall: 3
American Wigeon: 1
Mottled Duck: 19
Blue-winged Teal: 58
Green-winged Teal: 13
Ring-necked Duck: 19
Lesser Scaup: 9
Black Scoter: 3
Red-breasted Merganser: 7
Common Loon: 1
Pied-billed Grebe: 91
Horned Grebe: 3
Wood Stork: 77
Magnificent Frigatebird: 3
Double-crested Cormorant: 236
Anhinga: 95
American White Pelican: 19
Brown Pelican: 53
American Bittern: 2
Great Blue Heron: 62
Great Egret: 75
Snowy Egret: 49
Little Blue Heron: 32
Tricolored Heron: 36
Reddish Egret: 1
Cattle Egret: 133
Green Heron: 39
Black-crowned Night-Heron: 34
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron: 5
White Ibis: 2,727
Glossy Ibis: 21
Roseate Spoonbill: 4
Black Vulture: 290
Turkey Vulture: 2,197
Osprey: 26
White-tailed Kite: 2
Northern Harrier: 13
Sharp-shinned Hawk: 7
Cooper’s Hawk: 15
Bald Eagle: 6
Red-shouldered Hawk: 40
Broad-winged Hawk: 8
Short-tailed Hawk: 17
Red-tailed Hawk: 6
King Rail: 3
Clapper Rail: 1
Purple Swamphen: 28
Purple Gallinule: 3
Common Gallinule: 140
American Coot: 4,553
Limpkin: 1
Black-bellied Plover: 4
Snowy Plover: 1
Wilson’s Plover: 3
Semipalmated Plover: 85
Piping Plover: 40
Killdeer: 241
Spotted Sandpiper: 11
Solitary Sandpiper: 1
Greater Yellowlegs: 15
Willet: 5
Lesser Yellowlegs: 23
Ruddy Turnstone: 79
Sanderling: 190
Dunlin: 15
Least Sandpiper: 142
Long-billed Dowitcher: 55
Wilson’s Snipe: 12
American Woodcock: 2
Bonaparte’s Gull: 1
Laughing Gull: 860
Ring-billed Gull: 688
Herring Gull: 20
Lesser Black-backed Gull: 26
Great Black-backed Gull: 1
Forster’s Tern: 2
Royal Tern: 116
Rock Pigeon: 349
White-crowned Pigeon: 24
Eurasian Collared-Dove: 229
Common Ground-Dove: 34
White-winged Dove: 73
Mourning Dove: 194
Barn Owl: 3
Eastern Screech-Owl: 5
Great Horned Owl: 3
Burrowing Owl: 3
Barred Owl: 1
Lesser Nighthawk: 3
Chuck-will’s-widow: 1
Eastern Whip-poor-will: 1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird: 48
Rufous/Allen’s Hummingbird: 1
Belted Kingfisher: 19
Red-headed Woodpecker: 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker: 160
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker: 13
Downy Woodpecker: 20
Northern Flicker: 27
Pileated Woodpecker: 6
Crested Caracara: 1
American Kestrel: 39
Merlin: 1
Peregrine Falcon: 3
Monk Parakeet: 73
White-winged Parakeet: 6
Eastern Phoebe: 86
Great Crested Flycatcher: 38
Brown-crested Flycatcher: 5
La Sagra’s Flycatcher: 1
Western Kingbird: 2
Loggerhead Shrike: 47
White-eyed Vireo: 61
Yellow-throated Vireo: 8
Blue-headed Vireo: 38
Blue Jay: 158
American Crow: 50
Fish Crow: 492
Northern Rough-winged Swallow: 1
Purple Martin: 16
Tree Swallow: 522
Tufted Titmouse: 1
Brown-headed Nuthatch: 2
House Wren: 41
Carolina Wren: 6
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher: 412
Red-whiskered Bulbul: 7
Ruby-crowned Kinglet: 5
Eastern Bluebird: 7
Hermit Thrush: 1
American Robin: 39
Gray Catbird: 395
Brown Thrasher: 4
Northern Mockingbird: 173
Common Myna: 11
European Starling: 766
American Pipit: 120
Cedar Waxwing: 45
Ovenbird: 30
Worm-eating Warbler: 8
Louisiana Waterthrush: 1
Northern Waterthrush: 6
Blue-winged Warbler: 1
Black-and-white Warbler: 82
Swainson’s Warbler: 1
Orange-crowned Warbler: 15
Common Yellowthroat: 208
American Redstart: 22
Cape May Warbler: 2
Northern Parula: 197
Magnolia Warbler: 10
Yellow Warbler: 1
Black-throated Blue Warbler: 16
Palm Warbler: 740
Pine Warbler: 57
Yellow-rumped Warbler: 442
Yellow-throated Warbler: 35
Prairie Warbler: 82
Black-throated Green Warbler: 19
Wilson’s Warbler: 1
Eastern Towhee: 38
Clay-colored Sparrow: 1
Savannah Sparrow: 56
Grasshopper Sparrow: 25
Lincoln’s Sparrow: 3
Swamp Sparrow: 44
White-crowned Sparrow: 3
Summer Tanager: 5
Western Tanager: 1
Northern Cardinal: 272
Blue Grosbeak: 1
Indigo Bunting: 48
Painted Bunting: 54
Red-winged Blackbird: 962
Eastern Meadowlark: 24
Yellow-headed Blackbird: 1
Common Grackle: 226
Boat-tailed Grackle: 616
Bronzed Cowbird: 9
Brown-headed Cowbird: 22
Spot-breasted Oriole: 2
Baltimore Oriole: 1
American Goldfinch: 4
House Sparrow: 129

Non-Countable Exotics:

Indian Peafowl (Domestic type): 18
Yellow-chevroned Parakeet: 77
Orange-winged Parrot: 56
Blue-and-yellow Macaw: 12
Chestnut-fronted Macaw: 2
Crimson-fronted Parakeet: 18
Scarlet-fronted Parakeet: 2
Mitred Parakeet: 68
Red-masked Parakeet: 100
White-eyed Parakeet: 4
Common Hill Myna: 12
Scaly-breasted Munia: 16

I would like to acknowledge the following people for their effort in this count:

Alvear, Elsa
Avello, Miriam
Barros, Jose Francisco
Batchelor, Dolora
Berney, Mark
Bithorn, Paul
Blithe, Jonathan
Boeringer, Bill
Bugallo, Ezequiel
Diaz, Rangel
Diaz, Robin
Doyle, Diana
Featherly, Roxanne
Feinstein, Daria
Golenja, Kreshimir
Harper, Alex
Juan, Smith
Kayser, Hans Gonzembach
King, Jim
Klumb, Jessica
Mitchell, Trey
Patterson, Judd
Paez, Alex
Paez, Stephen
Porcelli, Mario
Rapoza, Brian
Salino, Nico
Sanchez, Carlos
Schaffter, David
Shafer, Julie
Showler, Robert
Trentler, Brandon
Urgelles, Raul
Wallenstein, Walter

Written by Carlos
A native of southern Florida, Carlos Sanchez has had a fascination with wildlife as far back as he can remember combined with an unquenchable thirst to learn -- the first books he checked out of the library were Beehler's "Birds of New Guinea" and Stiles and Skutch's "Birds of Costa Rica." Despite his parent's belief that he would 'grow out of it,' Carlos's passion has never wavered, and he has dabbled in everything from bird art to taxonomy. His passion has interwoven with his interest in travel, having birded extensively throughout the United States, eastern Australia, Thailand and Ecuador along with shorter jaunts to other locales such as Puerto Rico and Jamaica. In 2013, Carlos was a resident naturalist and birding guide at Cristalino Lodge in Brazil. If you would like to make a trip to southern Florida in search of Caribbean specialties, exotics, or general birding, please visit to inquire about his guiding services.