South Florida & The Keys Apr 20—26, 2017

Posted by Rafael Galvez


Rafael Galvez

Rafael Galvez has been birding and illustrating birds since childhood, a dual passion that developed when his family moved from Peru to South Florida. Always with a sketchp...

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South Florida in the spring can be a magical experience, filled with untold avian possibilities: hundreds of migratory species stopping over the region during northbound flights, returning Caribbean breeders settling in their territories, and the prospect of vagrants from the Tropics. This spring season, the region experienced an extraordinary record of Caribbean vagrants, unmatched by no other season in recent history. With relatively little effort, we saw three vagrants during our tour – Western Spindalis, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, and Tropical Kingbird – the last two found while looking for other species!

“Black-backed” Western Spindalis— Photo: Rafael Galvez


The chasing of vagrants during any tour can be can be a precarious game. During typical circumstances, South Florida and the Keys offer plenty more than can be covered in a single week. From the tropical to the temperate, the lowest portion of the peninsula allows us to delve into habitats found nowhere else in North America. This tour is a great way to experience a mix of regional specialties such as Caribbean birds returning to nest in South Florida, and established exotics including several parakeet species. A bonus is that many songbirds winter and migrate through the region, adding to the potential of interesting encounters. 

However, such was the situation with tropical vagrants this spring that it was inevitable for us to run into locations along our trajectory where vagrants had been recently reported. Only when these locations were along our path did we put effort into finding such birds. A number of them, including a La Sagra’s Flycatcher reported from the Middle Keys just when we happened to be driving through the area, turned out to be “one-minute wonders,” and no one but the initial observers got to see them. That “miss” turned our attention to an adjacent area where a Bahama Mockingbird had been reported, which also turned out to be a no-show when we arrived, but instead we saw a male Western Spindalis – the first of our unexpected tropical treats!

Read Rafael’s full report in his Field List.