Category Archives: Muscovy Duck

FLORIDA: Urban Birding

This may well be the first trip that I have lead that is an all male group! Jim, Dave and the boys from Canada, Art, Bill and Rick were all set to go at first light for a day of urban birding – Miami style!

With the exception of Hawaii, Florida ranks as the state with the highest number of introduced avian species. Between the Central American culture of keeping caged birds, and hurricanes destroying everything from airport quarantine areas to pet stores and Parrot Jungle, caged birds escape. In this sub-tropical climate most of them find a way to survive, some even thrive.

None are more evident than the parrots. While the United States only ever had one native parrot, the Carolina Parakeet, that is now long extinct, over 50 species of psittacidae now breed in Florida.

While the purists undoubtedly are rolling their eyes, birders tend to be divided into two camps – one happy to see anything that is free flying, and others that feel that exotic species belong in a different category to those birds that find their way to this continent on their own. Either way the American Birding Association (ABA) allows us to count certain species, yet in this part of the country we still ask ourselves, “If we can count this species, why can’t we count that species, when they are far more numerous?”

A good example of this is Yellow-chevroned Parakeet (top), originating from northern South America. There used to be a species called Canary-winged Parakeet, these being the small fast flying parrots that continuously chatterer as they zip around Miami’s residential neighborhoods. A decade or more ago they were split into White-winged (above) and Yellow-chevroned. Though neither of these species can be found in the numbers that they were seen in the 1970’s, on each trip I lead to South Florida, we inevitably come across far more Yellow-chevron’s than White-wings. Today we had excellent looks at both birds, and could easily separate the identification features – eye ring, bill, wing and overall color.

From southern South America comes the Monk Parakeet (above) which favors utility structures as a perfect place to place their large stick nests. Possibly just as common though not ABA countable is the Mitred Parakeet, which we encountered in a flock of about twenty.

House Sparrows, Starlings and Rock Pigeons aside, the British Empire is well represented in South Florida. Eurasian Collared Doves are ubiquitous. From Asia, in particular India, comes the Red-whiskered Bulbul (above) and Common Mynah. As luck would have it a bulbul cooperated nicely, found where one would expect it to be in an urban setting – on a wire!

Another exotic passerine is the beautiful Spot-breasted Oriole (above) which hails from Mexico. We did not have to go that far to see it, settling for a pair copulating on the campus of the University of Miami!

While the numbers of bulbuls and orioles remain low, the Common Mynah (above) is flourishing around gas stations, fast food outlets and shopping strips. After all these years, it has finally been added to the ABA list!

We spend a exorbitant amount of time looking for (wild) Muscovy Duck along the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, yet here in Florida, the Florida Records Committee, allows us to count these tame table ducks, domestic Muscovy’s, (above) that waddle along at a painfully slow speed. For the record the ABA does not allow us to count this domestic variety seen in Florida or elsewhere for that matter, as an ABA bird.

all photos © adrian binns