GNATCATCHERS, KINGLETS, THRUSHES, WAXWINGS, AND SHRIKES

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Gnatcatchers and kinglets - tiny woodland  birds that are frequent members of mixed-species flocks in the winter.

       Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are sometimes described as looking like little mockingbirds, though they are tiny by comparison, and lack the wingbars and white wing patches.  In body proportions and profile, however, the comparison is apt.  They frequently flick their relatively long tail back and forth when foraging or agitated.  Though present year-round, they are most abundant and conspicuous in the winter.  Breeding birds seem to be more restricted to mesic hammock habitats; wintering birds may be found in brushy areas in open habitats as well.
    Ruby-crowned Kinglets, one of the tiniest passerines, are winter residents, and can be found in hammocks, woodland edges, and brushy areas along the dikes.  Don't expect to see the ruby crown - they only flash it briefly when excited.

Thrushes - like other families composed mainly of transient migrants, several species not illustrated below might also be found during migration, especially in fall, when abundance and diversity of migrants is usually higher than in the spring.

   Hermit Thrushes are regular winter residents in small numbers.  Look for them in any wooded habitat.  They spend much of their time on the forest floor, so look for them there or listen for the rustling of leaf litter as they forage.  The faint spotting on the breast and rusty wings and tails are the best field marks.  They often pump their tails and wings and utter a rather muted chuck call when disturbed.
     Several other species of migrant Catharus thrushes (Veery, Swainson's, Gray-cheeked and Wood Thrush) are all possible during fall and spring migration, but are never common.  Look for them in mesic or hydric hammock habitats.  This one is a Veery, I believe.
     American Robins are common winter visitors.  Large flocks of these nomadic birds often appear in fall or early winter, and may stay in an area for a week or two at a time before moving elsewhere.  They can be found either in the hammocks, on the grassy areas of the dikes, or especially where the two habitats abut.  Large flocks of robins are often accompanied by lesser numbers of Cedar Waxwings.

Waxwings

Cedar Waxwings are sporadic fall, winter and spring visitors, and although small to large flocks are seen most years, it's difficult to predict exactly when they might be seen.  Look for them in wooded habitats or around the edges, especially where there are trees or shrubs with fruit present, such as cedar or holly.

Shrikes

Loggerhead Shrikes are raptorial passerines that act more like small falcons than songbirds. These predatory "butcher birds" are permanent residents in central Florida, but I see them far more frequently in fall and winter on the refuge.  There are usually one or two birds in winter hunting the dikes and marshes around Pool 1.  Look for them on any conspicuous high perch among the palms and oak trees that grow around that impoundment.

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