Back to Nature (Published on TBNWeekly.com - March 16, 2006)
Spring: Its time for backyard birding in
Florida is a birders paradise, thanks to its diversity of habitats, its
location on migration routes, the extent of its remaining wild lands, and its
geographic span of both temperate and subtropical climates.
|Photo by Karen Mitchell Tremmel
|American Goldfinches dine on
thistle seed in the warmth of the morning sun.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, more than 470 verified
species occur here, including such sought-after birds as the rare Florida Burrowing
Owl the Florida Scrub-Jay, the Snail Kite and Floridas wealth of wading
birds. In other words: were blessed.
Florida backyard birding is as effortless as placing an everyday store-bought
feeder in a nearby tree or upon a post in front of a big window with a view.
Youll be amazed at the variety of species that come to visit. Expand your
experience by choosing different varieties of feeders and food.
To enjoy finches and grosbeaks, hang a long, column feeder specially designed to
hold minute thistle seeds. At the beginning of March, the American Goldfinch will
certainly delight you with their cheery song and bright yellow plumage.
Want to expand? Fill another feeder with safflower seeds only. The nuthatches,
titmice, cardinals and Carolina Wrens will be knocking at your door. Happily the
squirrels prefer to eat anything else but safflower seeds, only visiting the feeder
when they have nothing else to do.
If your property has room, install a squirrelproof feeder on a post with a
nutritious, all-purpose, commercial brand of wild bird seed. I call this my
potluck feeder. We just never know who will drop by and visit here.
This feeder tends to be for layovers along the flyway attracting wayward travelers
while providing us with unexpected surprises, such as the Orchard Oriole and
If you arent already familiar with these species youll quickly learn
to recognize Floridas more commonly seen birds such as: Blue jay, Boat-tailed
Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, cardinal, Common Grackle, European Starling, Grey
Catbird, mockingbird, Mourning Dove, Red-Winged Black Bird, (although seasonal)
American Robin and Northern (Baltimore) Oriole and Monk Parakeets (quakers).
On occasion, youll have the opportunity to view tropical strays (or
escapees), such as: Black-Hooded Conure, Ring-Necked Parakeet and the more common
budgerigar. Still want to expand? Purchase or build a few nest boxes. There are
many kinds to choose from. My favorite is our Screech Owl nest box. What a joy it
is to observe the fluffy, alien-looking, fledglings upon their first venture into
the outside world.
Expanding your backyard birding experience beyond the feeder also can be
accomplished by introducing native or naturalized (noninvasive) plantings and
plenty of water. Our (scrubbed clean) birdbaths seem to attract as many visitors as
Would you like to attract hummingbirds naturally? Plant: Firebush - Hamelia patens
and Wax Myrtle - Myrica cerifer. These two plants are my absolute favorites. You
may also try Callistemon or bottlebrush tree (naturalized), Callicarpa Americana or
beautyberry, Walters Vibernum, pentas, Purple Passionflower and plumbago to
set out a welcome mat.
Check with your local nursery or log on to the Florida Native Plants
Societys Web site: www.fnps.org. Inviting insects into your garden, such as little green
bees and butterflies create a garden that becomes a natural habitat for birds.
Beyond your backyard: The Florida Birding Trail makes it easy for all birders
both casual and expert to discover the exciting pastime of birding.
Trail literature details what species to expect at each site and what kind of an
experience each offers: a quick stop versus an all day hike, or a driving loop
versus a foot-access only property. To get you started on your birding experiences
the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission has built a superb Web site with excellent
information for beginner to advanced birders. floridabirdingtrail.com/Birdbasics.htm.
Even if you begin with just a simple dollar store variety feeder and a
handful of sunflower seeds youre guaranteed to be rewarded.
Karen can be reached at MyMuddyPawsStudio@gmail.com.