[This post was mostly written last year after my return from Florida, but was never finished. I finished it today and post it now. Better late than never.]
Compared to my Northwest, South Florida seems very much like a foreign place. The geography, the topography, the plants, the animals, the roads, the buildings, the weather, the people and the birds. Very very different – almost to the point of being Exotic. When it gets to plants, animals and birds, South Florida indeed is exotic. Much of what is there really is not from there and maybe should not be there and that in no means is a commentary on our country’s touchy immigration laws – or at least those that apply to people.
There are at least 500 non-native fish and wildlife species in Florida. Many are harmful and are considered invasive – threatening native species, bringing health problems and creating economic impacts. Incredibly almost 200 species of birds are considered non-native – exotic. Many of these have now established breeding and sustaining populations – to the point where the American Birding Association currently recognizes about a dozen of these species and there are many others that are possibly in line for recognition.
Additionally because of its proximity to the Bahamas and Cuba, there are a number of observations of birds from these areas that are the “rarities” that so thrill us birders. So any bird listing trip to South Florida looks for the introduced exotics – established and possibly yet to be established – rarities from the Bahamas and Cuba – and the South Florida specialties themselves – native but generally found either nowhere else or in only a few places because of the unique conditions and history of the area.
Finally as at other strategic spots, during migration, birders look for migrants at migrant traps – especially places like the Tortugas, the Keys and coastal areas, where migrants land after flights over open water and rest up before the next legs of their journeys.
My other South Florida blog posts chronicle our birding pursuits looking for established introduced exotics, migrants and South Florida specialties. When Frank Caruso and I first contacted Paul Bithorn to arrange guiding services, we put together a wish list that included migrants, specialties and exotics. While our interest was greater on the exotics that were ABA Countable, we asked Paul to show us others as well – like putting species in the bank – thinking that maybe someday they would gain recognition status and we could pull them out at that time. Paul is particularly adept at finding the exotic species and we did very well. Most were parakeets (or relatives) but we had others as well. The remainder of this post will share some photos of these species – ABA countable and not.
An overarching comment is that one would think that large birds like parrots/parakeets would be easy to find and easy to identify – especially since they are so noisy – particularly at roost sites. But such is not the case. They usually feed in large trees either in dense foliage and/or near the tops. Differences between species can be minute and particularly to the untrained eye can be easily missed or misinterpreted. Especially in dim light, many details were just not discernible – at least by me. Once again photography was handy – either capturing details that supported one identification or another – and often showing details (or their absence) that meant that the initial idea was wrong – even if not helping to determine a correct one. Here is “Exotic South Florida”.
Monk Parakeet – ABA Countable
Nanday Parakeet – ABA Countable
Yellow Chevroned Parakeet – Not ABA Countable
Indian Peafowl – Not ABA Countable
Common Hill Myna – Not ABA Countable
Red Junglefowl – Not ABA Countable
Common Myna – ABA Countable
Red Mitred Parakeet – Not ABA Countable
White Winged Parakeet – ABA Countable
Green Parakeets – ABA Countable
White Eyed Parakeet – Not ABA Countable (Seen but no photo)
Rose Ringed Parakeet – Not ABA Countable
Blue Crowned Parakeet – Not ABA Countable
Muscovy Duck – ABA Countable
Egyptian Goose – ABA Countable
Gray Headed Swamphen – ABA Countable
Lilac Crowned Parakeet – Not ABA Countable
Red Whiskered Bulbul – ABA Countable