Irruptive migrating Birds

Irruptive migrating birds are unpredictable and may not return to our area each year. They visit from north and central Florida between December and spring only if their food supply runs out. Robins and cedar waxwings are the most common irruptive migrating bird species to suddenly show up in large numbers. Both are noisy and will mug a poor bush or tree containing ripe fruit.

Listen! do you hear the srrree… chuck, chuck, chuck call of the robins? You can see the red breasts and white bands at the base of their tails as they fly overhead. An even larger flock of cedar waxwings may pass overhead with their high pitched trilled whistle. There may be dozens or hundreds of them. This bird has a crest like the slightly smaller cardinal yet is greenish-brown with a black mask. Look in the native strangler fig and unfortunately -because they spread the seed- the invasive Indian laurel fig and you will find many of these birds feeding on the ripe fruit. Native mulberry is a favorite too.

Another thrush, like the robin, is the eastern bluebird. The blue back and red chest of this bird will bring back fond memories to those who have grown up in the country. Pine flatwoods and open pasture are preferred and a nest box will greatly improve your chances of seeing one. Don’t forget to keep the starlings out of the nest box.

Rare visitors include the hermit thrush, with a brown back and spotted breast; the blue and yellow northern parula warbler; the red male and yellow-orange female of the summer tanager; and the great crested flycatcher. This rather large nine inch bird sports a long rufous tail, yellow belly and can be seen high up in trees as it sallies out to catch insects. They hang out in gumbo limbo trees where they eat the fruit in the spring and are not found in the open. You can attract them with a nest box placed in such a way that squirrels and snakes can’t get to it. Remove starlings as they begin to invade the nest box.

Native plants that are fruiting in winter and early spring include marlberry, wild coffee, dahoon holly, beautyberry, pineland privet, rouge plant, white stopper, native strangler fig, snowberry, wax myrtle, southern red cedar and firebush. Keep your ears perked, eyes sharp and your binoculars out and you will see some interesting birds that you may not see again for a couple of years.