Gnatcatchers and Kinglets

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher Polioptila caerulea
Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are a year round resident and breeding species in Duval County, with the earliest breeding record from 3 April 1931 (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994). They are relatively easy to find in any of the birding hotspots or local parks, so you shouldn’t have much trouble locating them. They are abundant at places like Reddie Point Preserve, Fort George Island, Sheffield Regional Park, Pumpkin Hill, Cedar Point Preserve, or Theodore Roosevelt Area. In March, a good location to observe them setting up breeding territories is at Julington Durbin Creek Preserve or any other park with extensive pine woods. In 1928, Grimes noted “the pine is the tree most commonly chosen for the nest site” and noted six nests in pines on 8 April 1925 (Howell, 1932, p. 368).

Golden-crowned Kinglet Regulus satrapa
Golden-crowned Kinglets are a little more common just to the west of Jacksonville in Clay and Baker counties, but they still shouldn’t be expected in any season. When they are observed in Duval County, it is in the winter season and typically associated with a “mini” irruption of the species. In 1988-1989 Peggy Powell noted it was a “good winter” for them, but no further details are available (Ogden, 1989).

The most recent such event was in the winter of 2006-2007, where they could be found relatively easily at Kingsley Plantation on Fort George Island and along the treeline at the entrance to Cedar Point. Remarkably, they are one of the county’s oldest recorded species, as Maynard collected a pair in December 1868 (Howell, 1932, p. 368). Perhaps the earliest fall arrival was at Kingsley Plantation on 29 October 1995 (and seen again there on 27 November) (Rowan, 1995). On 30 January 2016, Dave Foster and I recorded five in one flock off Starratt Road in north Jacksonville and found three more there two weekends later. From 2016 to 2020, there are reports each winter in the county, which is likely a result of more people birding and using eBird to report their observations.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet Regulus calendula
Ruby-crowned Kinglets are very abundant in winter, arriving the first week of October and departing by the end of April. Much like the Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, they can be found throughout the county in any park or suitable habitat with almost no effort.

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