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Bird Migration: Weekend Leisure

Migratory birds fly over the Gulf. Photo by Hannah Davis.

     Every year in late winter, senior Hannah Davis, active bird enthusiast and volunteer for the St. Pete Audubon Society, watches pilgrimages from non-native bird species that make Florida their temporary residence. “There are tons of birds that come from up north, so you’re bound to see something if you look hard enough!” 

     These birds make their annual migratory path to Florida in order to keep safe from the winter cold and the blustery winds in their native towns. Florida’s mild temperatures protect and allow them to find enough food to survive winter. “Some are coming back here to build their nests and raise their young,” said Mary Keith, Head of the Tampa Audubon Society, a local bird-watching group. 

     Davis identified her most significant work as protecting the shorebirds from beachgoers and fishermen. “Birds tend to migrate in the winter because of scarce resources in colder climates, where the food is covered by snow,” said Davis. Florida offers an all-you-can-eat-buffet for these weary travelers. It’s a win-win-win for the birds, the bird enthusiasts, and the Florida environment as these non-natives eat many invasive species. Keith said, “In a way, it’s genetic…Something in their hormones tells them it’s time to move. But that is tied to how many hours of daylight and darkness there are. More daylight, time to go north. In the fall, it’s more dark, time to move south. But this is also connected to what they eat and where they make their nests.” And according to Matthew Press, a member of the Sarasota Audubon Society, “Most frequently we can find the numerous species of Wrens, Warblers, Hawks and Waterbirds.”

Davis takes a moment to appreciate the stunning sight of a migratory bird at rest, contemplating the importance of these pit stops and the beauty they hold. Photo By Betty Li.

     Where can we find these birds locally? Press said, “Near St. Petersburg, I would recommend Fort Desoto Park, Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, and Sawgrass Lake Park.” Keith said, “Almost any park in Hillsborough County, or along the coast of Florida, that has trees, bushes, water, and bugs—places to rest, hide, drink and eat—will have migrating birds this time of year.”  Birds start to return north usually by the end of May, so time is running out.   

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