Identification and Species Accounts
Once you start to look more closely at the birds in your neighborhood, you may be surprised to find there's a greater variety than you thought. The bird you've always assumed was a mockingbird just may be a Loggerhead Shrike. The "sparrow" may be a female Red-winged Blackbird. The "cowbird" is actually a Cattle Egret and the true Cowbird arrives in a flock of blackbirds and grackles.
If you'd like to identify the birds and find out a bit about them, you might want to get a guide such as Florida's Birds: A Handbook and Reference
, Stokes Beginners Guide to Birds
, or Stokes Field Guide to Birds: Eastern Region
The Stokes guides provide photos for identification of the birds while Florida's Birds uses illustrations. Experienced birders insist that illustrations are much better for identification purposes. However, beginners often find photographs easier and more enjoyable.
The Stokes Beginners Guide covers only 100 birds but does so in detail. The Stokes Field Guide includes about 400 but without as much detail. Florida's Birds covers over 350 species, all of which are found in Florida, and often includes information specific to Florida, including historical anecdotes.
If you have some experience identifying birds or if you have trouble distinguishing harder to identify species, Peterson's A Field Guide to the Birds
is preferred. It covers more species and highlights distinguishing field marks.
If you want the most comprehensive field guide to North American birds, it's the National Geographic Society's Field Guide to the Birds of North America
To find out more about the birds, Kaufman's Lives of North American Birds
is an excellent source.
The Florida Museum of Natural History's Division of Ornithology
has sections of bird songs
and a photo gallery
of southeastern birds.
Where to Go
Many birdwatchers keep lists and journals noting the birds they've seen and special or unusual bird behavior. Most field guides provide lists that can be checked off when a particular species has been seen. Lists are available that provide spaces for noting date and location as well. Some people keep separate lists to record birds they've seen in their yard, city, and state. Many also keep year lists, starting a new list every January 1st.
Bird checklists provide a list of species found in a specific geographic location. Sometimes they list additional information, such as the times of year the bird is most likely to be found there and whether the bird is rare is common. Detailed checklists for Florida's National Wildlife Refuges
are available online. The South Florida Birding Connection
provides information about checklists for Florida and south Florida.
Your backyard, balcony, or patio is the first stop. If you provide food
, many birds will come to you.
There are so many places to go. Look around your immediate area. Is there a pond with natural vegetation? A field at the edge of a wooded area? A mudflat? A pasture? A wet pasture? Woods? Take a few minutes to watch at different times during the day.
If you're looking for a particular species or for an area that's especially good for birding, Pranty's A Birder's Guide to Florida
is a must-have, with information and directions to obvious and not-so-obvious hot spots.
National Geographic has also published guides to Birdwatching Sites
in the Eastern and Western U.S.
Rare Bird Alerts (RBAs) list sightings of rare birds and their locations, often with detailed directions on how to get to the location and how the spot the birds. The alerts also include phone numbers so you can call to listen to a recorded message of the most recent alerts and report rare sightings. The Florida-specific RBAs are currently inactive: the Statewide
and the Northwest Florida/South Alabama. Florida RBAs may be found on the NBHC BIRDEAST
mailing list. There are also archives of RBAs for South Georgia/North Florida
The Delorme coordinates referenced in the RBAs and many wildlife viewing guides are found in Delorme's Florida Atlas and Gazetteer
There are also search engines
where you can find information about particular species or areas. The Florida Trails Guide
lists locations by habitat as well as by activity (hiking, camping, et cetera).
You might also want to check organizations
for local outings and meetings. Some parks and refuges also offer guided bird walks. Guided field trips and self-guided walks, as well as workshops and presentations, are available at numerous bird events
[ Florida's Birds ]
Binoculars and scopes can enhance bird (and wildlife) watching and are necessary for viewing some species. Don't rush into buying optics. Finding what is right for you and your birdwatching needs can be a real chore but is well worth the effort.
Optics for Birding
has a wealth of information including a detailed FAQ and reviews. Better View Desired
is also a good place to check.