Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Bulletin #8 - South Florida #3

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas

Bulletin #8 – South Florida – part 3

Hello friends,

I have had the opportunity to visit Florida twice in the first half of 2007.

My first visit was to Sanibel Island in February. Last month, I had a business trip to Miami for a weekend and managed to spend about 2 full days birding with a great guide Paul Bithorn (305.431.5908 or email

The last couple of the native birds that I was able to photograph in Miami included the Gray Kingbird (Tyrannus dominicensis). This is another Caribbean species whose range extends north into south Florida. Notice the dark mask through the eye.


The next bird is the Cave Swallow (Petrocheilodon fulva). The subspecies in south Florida is the Caribbean, and it is considerably darker on neck and throat from the Mexican subspecies that occurs in Texas. The Cave Swallow has a brown forehead. The very similar Cliff Swallow has a white forehead. There is a nesting colony under a bridge alongside I-95 south of Miami. My guide took me there and I crawled under the bridge to photograph this bird in the nest.


Here is the Cliff Swallow for comparison. The white forehead is distinctive and diagnostic.


Now the fun begins as I’ll show you some of the exotic species in the Miami area that my guide was able to find rather easily. The first is the Spot-breasted Oriole (Icterus pectoralis). This native of Costa Rica was introduced into the Miami area long ago. It is established but according to the National Geographic bird guide is declining. It is an ABA countable species. Here are a 2 photos of the beautiful male. He was a lifer.

http://www.pbase.com/davidmcd/image/109471561 click 'next' once

Mynas are popular as cage birds, because they can be trained to talk. They are members of the starling family and are native to Asia. There are 2 species in Miami, but neither of them has been established long enough to be ABA countable species.

The more numerous is the Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis). If anyone has been to Hawaii you likely have seen this bird. It was introduced there as well and is a noisy nuisance. However, it is an attractive bird with black and chocolate brown accented with yellow bill, face and legs. It also has white wing patches.

http://www.pbase.com/davidmcd/image/109471565 click 'next' once

The other myna is the Hill Myna (Gracula religiosa). It is very local in the Miami area. It was a lifer for me. Notice the yellow orange bill & wattles, yellow legs and white wing patch.


The next bird is the Red-whiskered Bulbul (Pycnonotus jocosus). This is a popular cage bird that is native to Asia and Africa. They were first noted as escapes in Miami in the 1960’s. It also now occurs in Los Angeles and apparently there are a few in Houston as well. It also is an ABA countable species. Notice the red ear patch, the large crest and also the red undertail coverts (just visible between wing tip and tail). This bird was another lifer for me.


The Miami guide (Paul Bithorn) I used, was extremely knowledgeable, especially for the mangrove species and exotics. Many of the exotics occur in specific neighborhoods in the Miami area, and a casual birder would have a difficult time locating them. To contact Paul, call him at (305) 431-5908 or email him at

All comments and suggestions are welcomed and appreciated.

Happy Birding,David McDonald

photos copyright 2007 David McDonald

Note – photos with the name preceded by an asterisk were updated for this blog and the text was edited accordingly

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