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This is a diverse group, and though warbler migration (like that of most other passerine groups) is not as impressive in peninsular Florida as it is further north, over thirty species regularly occur in the area. Warblers are often difficult to see well and identify, and particularly difficult to photograph because of their small size, active habits, and preference for foraging in foliage. Immature birds and females can be extremely frustrating to identify. The species below are those that are either breeding birds or fairly regular winter residents or transients.
|This spectacular bird, the Prothonotary Warbler, is not common in the public use areas of the refuge. They are breeders in the area, however, and are usually found in swamp forests or hydric hammocks, so they are probably present along Spring Garden Run and around Lake Woodruff itself. I've heard them once or twice from the hydric hammock/hardwood swamp you drive through just before you reach the parking lot.|
|Black-and-white Warblers are regular winter residents, and often are seen with other insectivores in mixed species flocks in woodland habitats. They are a bit more common during fall and spring migration than in winter. Their habit of clambering around on trunks, often upside down like a nuthatch, and their bold pattern make them unmistakable.|
|The Northern Parula is the most common breeding warbler in hammock habitats, and returns from its southern wintering grounds in late February or early March. Their buzzy trilling song is unmistakable. Look for them high in the trees and listen for them in hammocks, especially mesic and hydric hammocks.|
|Orange-crowned Warblers are never common, but are regular winter visitors that sometimes associate with mixed species flocks. Look for them in open woodlands or in thickets along the dikes. Don't expect to see the orange crown - I rarely do. If you see a dull gray-green warbler with no wing bars, tail spots, or other conspicuous identifying patterns, it's likely an Orange-crowned.|
|The Yellow-rumped or "Myrtle" Warbler is the most abundant of the Dendroica warblers (which includes the next five species as well), and can be extremely abundant from late fall until they migrate north in about early April. Look for them in small to large flocks in all habitats - they are frequently seen late in the afternoon feeding in clumps of waxmyrtle well out in the marshes.|
|Palm Warblers are not as common as Yellow-rumpeds, but are reliably present in moderate numbers, and are sometimes seen mixed in flocks with Yellow-rumpeds. Though they can be found in forested habitats at times, they are more common in open and disturbed habitats, especially thickly vegetated margins of the dikes. They frequently walk on the ground when foraging. Color pattern is quite variable; males of the eastern subspecies (which mostly winter farther west) can be bright yellow on the breast, while individuals of the western subspecies (which mostly winter in the east) are more dull, like this one. They usually wag their tail constantly, whether sitting or walking.|
|Pine Warblers are permanent residents that can usually be found in the pinewoods and surrounding hammock habitats you pass through as you drive into the refuge. This is a brightly colored male; females and immature birds are often quite dull, but always have the wingbars. Listen for their high, trilling song from early spring to mid-summer from high up in the treetops of the pinewood habitats.|
|The Prairie Warbler is a fairly common transient species during migration, and a few may be seen throughout the winter. They can also be found in a variety of habitats, from within the hammocks to brushy thickets along the dikes. The dark semi-circle under the eye and the bright yellow streaked underparts (duller in females and immature birds) are good field marks.|
|Yellow-throated Warblers (not to be confused with the Common Yellowthroat, another warbler species) are present year-round, but I see them more frequently in the fall. Single birds are sometimes present in mixed species feeding flocks of the hammock habitats. The black, yellow and white patterning of the head and throat are distinctive if you see them well. This can be difficult, as they tend to forage high in the canopy.|
|Yellow Warblers migrate through in large numbers in late summer to early fall, but are unusual in spring migration. During August and early September, they can be extremely abundant along wetland edges with thick vegetative cover. They are particularly fond of willows for foraging. Females and first-year birds can be considerably duller than this breeding plumaged male, and lack the red stripes on the breast and belly.|
|The Common Yellowthroat is a permanent resident, but population numbers are usually higher in fall and winter when resident birds are joined by migrants from the north. Unlike the similarly named Yellow-throated Warbler, a woodland species, the Common Yellowthroat is more often found low in the vegetation at woodland edges, marsh thickets, or in the marsh itself. The black mask and yellow breast of the male are distinctive; females and immatures are duller, but similar in shape and behavior. Listen for the wichery wichery wichery song of the males from late winter through spring.|
|American Redstarts are transient migrants, but are sometimes numerous, especially in the fall. They often forage in the understory of hammock habitats, and can be more easily seen than many warblers. They seem to hang around during migration longer than most transient species do, and may occasionally persist into early winter. Males are unmistakable with their bright orange and black pattern; females and immatures (left) are less colorful, but have large yellow "windows" in the tail, which they frequently fan while foraging.|
|As its name suggests, the Louisiana Waterthrush is fond of wet habitats (though it's not truly a thrush). In August and September, they are regulars in the hammock habitats, especially when heavy rains or tropical storms have left pools of standing water in the woods. At those times, they often forage along the edges of pools in the trails and can be easily observed.|
|The Northern Waterthrush is very similar in appearance and habits to the Louisiana, but usually arrives a bit later in fall migration, and may occasionally persist into winter. The eyestripe of the Northern is yellowish rather than white, and there are fine streaks on the throat not present in the Louisiana. Distinguishing the two can be difficult without a good look.|
|Ovenbirds are in the same genus as the Waterthrushes (Seiurus), and are fairly regular fall migrants. They are typically found in hammocks or dense thickets, where they forage on the ground. When seen well, the bright rusty cap is distinctive, as is the large-eyed appearance. They tend to be shy, so you have to move quietly and look carefully to see them. A few birds stay late in the fall, and may occasionally overwinter in central Florida.|
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