FLYCATCHERS AND SWALLOWS

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Tyrant Flycatchers (Tyrannidae) - As with many of the families of passerine birds that are mainly neotropical migrants, the variety of species that could be seen during migration is  greater than what I present below.  These are the species that you would be most likely to encounter on the refuge, in my experience. Tyrannids are all "sallying flycatchers" that feed on flying insects by short flights or "sallies" from a perch, where they sit and watch for nearby insect activity.   They are often perched on the tallest or most conspicuous point in the habitat, especially in more open habitats.

                    Great Crested Flycatchers are common breeding birds in the forested habitats of the refuge. They return to central Florida by late March, and their loud wheep calls make them quite conspicuous when they are around.  They migrate to the tropics (mostly) and are gone by late September, though some birds winter in the peninsula further south.
                     The other tyrannid easily found on the refuge is the Eastern Phoebe, which is a common winter resident.  Look for them around the margins of woodlands, and along the dikes in shrubby areas or anywhere there are suitable perches from which they can hunt.
         Sometimes present briefly in flocks of 10- 50 birds during both fall and spring migration, Eastern Kingbirds don't breed on the refuge, and so are only temporary transients.  Look for them along the margins of the marshes south of Pools 1 and 3, and on the waxmyrtle and saltbush shrubs out in the marshes.
                   The least common of the flycatchers are the various species of Empidonax, which are sometimes seen in migration, particularly in fall.  Acadian Flycatchers may breed in some of the more remote mesic or hydric hammocks of the refuge, but I've never heard them.  Unless you hear one singing, identifying them to species is extremely tricky.  Even the experts often can't do it without a specimen in hand or without hearing their species-specific songs.

Swallows - A variety of species of swallow can occur on the refuge, particularly during migration. This includes Bank, Rough-winged, and Cliff Swallows, as well as Purple Martins.  In my experience, the two species below are far more likely to be seen than any of these others.

   Tree Swallows are winter residents that sometimes roost in gigantic (10's-100's of thousands) of birds.  They are most often seen in late afternoon, swirling over the marshes and impoundments, as they prepare to go to roost.  One of the truly stunning spectacles you may observe at Woodruff, if you are lucky, is what former refuge manager Leon Rhodes termed "the dance".  Immense flocks of Tree Swallows perform highly synchronized swirling flights for 10-15 minutes before roosting, and can be seen from over a mile away as what looks like a swirling cloud of smoke.  Here's my feeble attempt to photograph it.  Watch for these display flights at dusk in midwinter, especially over the marshes to the west of Pool 3.
    Barn Swallows are frequently seen over the marshes and impoundments during spring and fall migration.  You probably won't see them gathering mud as this one is doing, in preparation for nest building.  They do nest in some areas of Florida, but not in the vicinity of Woodruff.

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