Category Archives: Species Accounts

White-rumped Sandpipers

I have White-rumped Sandpipers flagged as “rare” in eBird in the counties I review because they’re a scarce migrant that is often mis-identified. I cringe every time I get a report that relies most heavily on “I saw the white rump in flight”. Not to say that you can’t see the rump on a bird in flight, but it’s very difficult to see it unless you’re close, the bird isn’t  flying erratically (Iike small shorebirds tend to do), you have excellent optics, great light, and hell – just a keen eye. I’ve seen many hundreds of White-rumped Sandpipers and I can’t honestly remember a time that I identified one in flight. That isn’t to say it can’t be done, but it’s tricky and there are much better ways to identify this species.

This year, I’ve gotten a little better with my photography skills and have taken a million pictures of White-rumped Sandpipers that I’ve found in three locations in Duval County thus far (Spoonbill Pond, Haulover Creek, and Heritage River Road Wetlands). I hope that these pictures and explanations are helpful study guides for anyone struggling with identifying these birds in the field.

Tip 1: I start looking for White-rumped Sandpipers in northeast Florida after the first of May, and then by scanning flocks of shorebirds in shallow pools and mudflats. This could mean inland puddles in flooded fields or pastures, places like Spoonbill Pond, or tidal marshes with exposed mud. A quick scan of a flock of small birds should tell you right away if a White-rumped is present, because they are significantly, noticeably larger than Least and Semipalmated/Western Sandpipers. Figure 1 below may be a typical binocular view of such a flock; you can see how easily the larger White-rumped stands out from the Semipalmated and Least Sandpipers.

Fig. 1. Standing out in a crowd.

Figure 2 below shows the significant size difference between a White-rumped and Least Sandpiper.

Fig. 2. Size comparison of White-rumped and Least Sandpipers.

Tip 2: Look for the reddish area at the base of the lower mandible. This is actually easier to see than it sounds. Figures 3 and 4 illustrate just how easily that field mark stands out.

Fig. 3 – Red displaying at base of lower mandible
Fig 4. Red mandible and classic profile.

Tip 3: The classic profile. To me, White-rumped Sandpipers have a classic profile that is often described as “long”, “lean”, or “attenuated”. Figure 4 above illustrates this look to a tee. In that image, not only can you see the red area at the base of the mandible but you can see that tapered look where the strong muscular back dips to a narrow point around the rump before flaring out through the length of those long primaries. The primaries and tail often present a “scissored” look like you see in Fig 4. Another view you may see is from the front or rear of the bird, where the “scissored” effect is even more dramatic, as in Fig. 5. This bird was photographed in May 2016 at Westside Industrial Park and you can clearly see how the primaries are so long that they cross in the back. When you see this, you have one of two things here: White-rumped or the incredibly more rare Baird’s.

Fig 5. Scissored primaries. White-rumped Sandpipers (left and right) with Least Sandpiper (middle).

Tip 4: The supercilium. The White-rumped Sandpiper will display a white supercilium in all ages and plumages. Figure 4 demonstrates this as does Figure 6, where you can’t even see most of the bird’s face and none of the bill.

Fig. 6. The strong, bold supercilium stands out.

Tip 5: The rump. The most common eBird comment made when writing up this species is something about “seeing the white rump in flight”. It should be noted that Western, Least, and Semipalmated Sandpipers all also have white in the rump, as do Sanderlings, Pectorals, Dunlin, and Stilt Sandpipers! What I don’t recall ever seeing is anyone extending their comment to specify the White-rumped Sandpiper has a solid, unbroken band of white in sort of a horseshoe shape (Fig. 7) and stating that the bird they saw had this trait and not a broken pattern divided by a dark central point like some of the other species mentioned would exhibit. I can’t stress this enough: use caution when relying on seeing a flash of white in the tail or rump of a shorebird to ID it to species.

Fig. 7. The “white horseshoe”.

Wood-Warblers Family: Parulidae

Ovenbird Seiurus aurocapilla
For some reason I have only found one report of an Ovenbird in reviewing decades of published observations; it was of one reported by Julie Cocke on 28 May 1989 (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994). They are essentially an early fall to summer species, but can be incredibly uncommon in winter. In spring, they tend to arrive in numbers by the second week of April and are virtually gone by the third week of May. By mid-August they are back and peak again from 15 September through the third week of October. There is usually at least one report each winter. Look or listen for them on the wooded trails at Reddie Point Preserve, Fort George Island, Cedar Point Preserve, Theodore Roosevelt Area and Hanna Park.

Worm-eating Warbler Helmitheros vermivorum
The earliest report of Worm-eating Warbler is also one of the very few winter observations, coming from 26 December 1953 (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994). The next report was from 12 April 1979. The species is fairly common in spring migration; much less so in fall. They typically arrive in early to mid-April, peaking around the 15th and are usually gone by the end of the first week of May. There are a couple early fall records from August, but most fall reports are from the month of September, peaking around the 18th of that month. In addition to obvious migration hotspots, my favorite place to look for this particular species is the wooded trail at Fort Caroline National Memorial.  Head there in mid-April and hang out around Marker 15, where the trail is actually elevated above the forest floor allowing you the rare opportunity to see warblers at or below eye level!

Louisiana Waterthrush Parkesia motacilla
Louisiana Waterthrush is a notoriously early migrant in both seasons and is more abundant in “fall”. In spring, you should really look for them as early as 7 March and scrutinize any suspects by 5 April to ensure they’re not Northerns. In “fall”, 4 July kicks off my annual Louisiana blitz and I start combing the four mile loop drive on Fort George Island almost nightly looking for them. Yes, they can be found in other obvious habitats at the local hotspots (oddly enough, zero reports from Reddie Point Preserve through 2015), but none better than the dirt roads of Fort George in either the morning or evening. If there is enough rain to create a puddle, head there immediately after and make the slow drive around the island. This routine produced the highest known count of the species to date – Roger Clark and I tallied six at one time there on 12 July 2014 following a heavy storm. I’m not aware of any verifiable records of the species after mid-September through 1 March.

Northern Waterthrush Parkesia noveboracensis
Years of observations suggest Northern Waterthrush is significantly more abundant than Louisiana, and while their arrival overlaps a bit, they are certainly the more expected of the two beginning in early April and anytime after 1 September. There have been a few reported in late March, but their arrival is really expected around mid-April continuing through mid-May; one early late spring record is from 28 May 1961 (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994). What is an “early late spring record”, you ask? It’s the oldest “late” date in the spring season, of course! Their numbers are almost equal in fall, peaking from mid-September through the first week of October. This species doesn’t seem to discriminate in terms of hitting all the hotspots – including Reddie Point.

My advice: if you see a Waterthrush here in March it’s likely a Louisiana and you should be prepared to make a strong case otherwise. If you see one after mid-April through 1 June, be prepared to make case why it isn’t a Northern. In July, you ought to have a picture if you report a Northern.

Golden-winged Warbler Vermivora chrysoptera
Golden-winged Warbler is a maddening species for me because it’s regular and reasonable enough to see here but has eluded me to date. The oldest record is from 1 October 1972 followed by 6 October 1980 (Atherton & Atherton, 1981), 26 September 1983 (Atherton & Atherton, 1984), 5 September 1987 (Atherton & Atherton, 1988), and 2 May 1989 (Langridge, 1989). That May report is the only known spring report of the species.

In recent years, observations include 5 October 1991, 21 September 1999, 13 October 2007, 29 September 2013, 1 and 7 October 2015. Speaking of maddening, the 13 October 2007 bird was observed in the evening of a day-long local Audubon field trip led by Roger Clark that wound up at his infamous backyard drip on Fort George Island. I made the classic blunder of leaving just a tad bit early, which we all know means the Bird of the Day will arrive at that moment for everyone else.

Based on the known observations, I’d suggest keeping an eye out the latter part of September through the peak of migration, and they seem to favor the mature old-growth oak hammocks so concentrate at Fort George Island, Theodore Roosevelt, Spanish Pond, Fort Caroline, and perhaps Cedar Point Preserve.

Blue-winged Warbler Vermivora cyanoptera
Blue-winged Warbler is a fairly rare migrant that is more likely in fall than spring, and produces roughly one observation in the county each year. If it provides any perspective, I do a tremendous amount of birding in the county and haven’t seen one here since 2010 – I’m either that unlucky or they really are that uncommon. To that point, there are only a couple “old” reports of the species, the first coming from Bill Chitty and John White who noted one on 24 April 1966 (Cunningham, 1966) and the next on 29 August 1983 (Atherton & Atherton, 1984).

In the “modern era”, spring observations include 28 April 2007, 17 April 2013, 19 April 2014, and 18 April 2010, suggesting the third week of April is the time to search for them. Fall observations include 2 October 1999,  23 and 30 September 2006,  21 and 26 September 2014, and 6 and 7 September 2015, so target the latter half of September in fall. Almost all known reports are from three locations: Fort George Island, Reddie Point Preserve, and Theodore Roosevelt Preserve; I’d stick with those and perhaps Cedar Point Preserve when looking for them.

Golden-winged x Blue-winged Warbler 
There are a handful of reports of “Brewster’s” warbler and just two of the more rare backcross hybrid, “Lawrence’s”. “Brewster’s” observations include 14 August 1964 (Stevenson, 1964), 19 September 1984 (Atherton & Atherton, 1985), 16-19 September 1998 (Pranty, 1999), and 1 October 2003 (Pranty, 2004). “Lawrence’s” sightings include 2 October 1999 (Pranty, 2000) and 9 October 2005 by Roger Clark.

Black-and-white Warbler Mniotilta varia
The first report of Black-and-white Warbler is from 15 December 1933 (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994), and an old summer report is from 10 July 1976. They are a fairly expected species when doing any kind of woodland birding in fall, winter, and spring, and can even be found in less densely populated woods (or small groups of trees) around office parks and neighborhoods. They don’t seem to discriminate in terms of habitat or areas of the county, and can be found pretty much anywhere throughout.

Perhaps because of their commonality, many local birders don’t realize that they’re not to be expected during a brief period in the summer from the third week of May through about 1 August. They do occur occasionally in July but virtually never in June (there are no verifiable June records). The best windows of time to look for them: 10 April through 1 May and 15 September through 15 October.

Prothonotary Warbler Protonotaria citrea
Prothonotary Warbler is a limited breeding species in the county with nesting records extending back to 4 May 1935 when Grimes collected eggs from at least one nest (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994). They are extraordinarily rare in winter with maybe a handful of winter reports, including one on 30 December 1973 (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994). They normally arrive in the area the last week of March and are most often observed through the second week of May. In fall, reports spike from mid-August through the last week of September and are gone by the first week of October.

In migration, look for them at any of the wooded hotspots like Reddie Point Preserve or Fort George Island. In breeding season, look or listen for them deep in Seaton Creek Preserve, Thomas Creek Preserve around the little dock, or along the creek at Julington-Durbin Creek Preserve. Their remaining breeding habitat is very limited, so please refrain from using playback to call them out – it is unnecessary, as you will see them with a little patience and will get to hear their beautiful song live and in person.

Swainson’s Warbler Limnothylpis swainsonii
Swainson’s Warbler is an extremely difficult species to find in Duval County despite the fact they were once (and perhaps still are) a breeding species here. Sam Grimes did some study on the breeding population of Swainson’s and collected eggs from a nest as far back as 18 June 1935 (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994). Literature suggests that their preferred breeding habitat is “cane”, but there is an account in the Auk (1935) of Grimes demonstrating them on territory on 3 April singing in “caneless woods where its prominent companions were Hooded Warblers and (not yet arrived) Acadian Flycatchers”. In the early 1990’s Peggy Powell noted breeding hadn’t been detected since the mid-1970’s, and on 27 April 2005, Noel Wamer reported just his second observation for Duval County and noted the species formerly nested “many years ago in the swamps along Thomas Creek that is the northern boundary of the county”.

In summary – they used to nest here but breeding hasn’t been documented in decades. While there is limited accessible habitat remaining, I have long believed there is still a distinct possibility they still breed here as much of the Thomas Creek “corridor” remains today. I believe deep in Seaton Creek Preserve is the best place to search for them on territory, and finding them anywhere in the County would be tremendous – which is precisely what Dave Foster and I did on 1 May 2016! We were checking a spot we found last year with favorable habitat and found two Swainson’s singing vociferously around 10:30AM.

Other observations are very scarce and include nineteen found dead at the TV towers downtown on 8 October 1957 and a sight report on 4 September 1967 (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994). “Modern” reports include one by Paul Sykes on Fort George Island 10 May 2002 (Pranty, 2002), 17 September 2007 at Theodore Roosevelt Preserve (observer: Dylan Beyer), 16 September 2011, 1 May 2015, 29-30 March 2015 at Spanish Pond, and most recently on 1 May 2016 in North Jacksonville. Other than the 2016 audio recording, there are no known verifiable specimens, photos, or recordings of the species here since the 1957 tower kill.

Tennessee Warbler Oreothlypis peregrina
Tennessee Warbler is a migrant species that is rare in spring and can be variable (but fairly common) in fall. It’s a rather drab and nondescript species that seems to reflect that persona in the record books. There is one notable report in the literature; an immature noted in winter on 5 December 1983 (Hoffman, 1984).

In spring they’ve been known to occur between the first week of April through the first week of May. They’re much more expected in fall, beginning around the second week of September and peaking around 2 October. Early fall migrants may appear as early as the last few days of August, and late ones through around 22 October. They don’t seem to prefer any certain hotspot, but most observations come from Fort George Island and Reddie Point Preserve.

Orange-crowned Warbler Oreothlypis celata 
Orange-crowned Warbler is a winter resident species that can be found during migration, but should not be expected during summer months. The species suffers from being rather drab and thus not considered very “sexy” to many, and a lack of historical observations seems to support that notion. The first documented report is from 12 May 1962, which was perhaps noted as a rather late individual (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994). Another early notable is from 13 September 1964; a bird Stevenson (1965) described as “the earliest on the Florida mainland”.

While some Orange-crowneds do arrive in late September, they really shouldn’t be expected until around 15 October and then remain throughout the winter. They’re virtually gone by late March and after April 1st any lingering individuals would be rather remarkable. They don’t seem to favor any particular habitat and can be found fairly reliable when visiting any of the local hotspots from coastal Little Talbot Island SP to the more inland locations like Westside Industrial Park.

Nashville Warbler Oreothlypis ruficapilla
Nashville Warbler is most likely an annual migrant and winter visitor, but is missed in more years by dedicated birders than seen. Howell (1932) noted a specimen collected way back on 13 March 1869, making it one of the oldest known documented species in any family. That record was also noted at the time as the only known Florida record. It seemed to be unknown locally to Grimes and others during the 1920’s and beyond – until January 1972, when one of three noted as wintering in the state occurred here (Stevenson, 1972). This was also thought to be the first winter record. Peggy Powell observed one (singing, no less!) 11-12 April 1983 (Kale, 1983). Julie Cocke reported one on 19 February 1986 (Ogden, 1986), and one occurred at Imeson on 11 November 1994. Cocke had one again from 6 January-25 February 2006 (Anderson, 2006), and another later that year on 11 November 2006.

Despite the aforementioned accounts, the species is more known as a fall migrant whose peak is from 15 September through the last week of October. Based on a limited dataset, most of those observations seem to occur from 29 September through 7 October, so that would be the most likely time to see one. The species is virtually unrecorded in spring other than Peggy’s April report. Reddie Point, Hanna Park, Fort George Island, and the paved loop trail at Blue Cypress Park are the most obvious places to look.

Connecticut Warbler Oporornis agilis
Connecticut Warbler is an extremely rare species in Duval County and there are just a few reported observations. The first is from 8 October 1964 and another comes from 20 October 1974 (Edscorn, 1975). They are a very late spring migrant, and the two reported spring observations reflect that: 10 May 1995 by Roger Clark and 8 May 2013 by Donald Pridgen; both those coming from Theodore Roosevelt Preserve. Since Connecticuts are known to favor leafy understory, places like Spanish Pond, Theodore Roosevelt Preserve, and the trails of Fort George Island are the places to look.

Mourning Warbler Geothlypis philadelphia
Mourning Warbler is a significantly rare species in Duval County with just a handful of noted observations. Robertson (1967) noted one seen by Ted Allen on 26 December 1966 as “unprecedented”, which I conclude to mean it was the first county report. Stevenson & Anderson (1994) classified Allen’s observation as “not accepted”. The only other reports are both from Julie Cocke who reported one from her home on 24 September 1974 (Edscorn, 1975) and again over twenty years later on 4 November 2005 (Pranty, 2006). The species is more abundant in Florida in fall, so the best strategy would be to search for them throughout October and the first week of November in areas with dense undergrowth like the trails of Fort George Island, deep in Seaton Creek Preserve, and Theodore Roosevelt Area.

Kentucky Warbler Geothlypis formosa
It is very rare to see Kentucky Warbler in Duval County in any season; there is a report only about once every four or five years. The oldest report I’ve found comes from Julie Cocke’s observation on 18-20 May 1985 (Kale, 1985), which is also one of the very few known spring reports. Fall observations include 1 September 1987 (Atherton & Atherton, 1988), 29 September 2001 (R. Clark), 24 September 2003 (R. Clark), 3 October 2006, 3 August 2007, 29 September 2007, and 1 October 2011. Due to their nature, I’d suggest the best places for them might be Seaton Creek Preserve, Theodore Roosevelt Preserve, and Cedar Point. Fort George Island is the obvious choice and most of the known reports are from there.

Common Yellowthroat Geothlypis trichas
Perhaps indicative of its name, the Common Yellowthroat is not very well documented in county history and there are actually no notable reports or breeding accounts even dating back to Grimes’s work in the early part of the 20th century. They are a fairly “common” year-round resident here, and reported observations suggest a migratory movement each spring and fall that supplement the local population. Their numbers seem to surge from the first week of April through the first week of May, and again from 15 September through around 20 October. They can be quite difficult to locate in late July through 1 September, but they are around.

The species is fairly widespread throughout the county, but are most reliable in the coastal areas and hotspots along the St. Johns River. The males really are spectacular and for some reason aren’t truly “appreciated” by most birders, which is perplexing since those same observers go crazy for a very similar looking Kentucky Warbler!

Hooded Warbler Setophaga citrina
Hooded Warbler is a summer resident breeding species that can be relatively easy to find in the appropriate habitat. The earliest report is from 8 June 1932, followed by another on 28 April 1936 (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994). In 1970, Sam Grimes reported they were declining as a breeding species since the 1950’s and found them to be rare in summer by then (Ogden, 1970).

Today, look for them beginning around the first of April at local hotspots like Reddie Point Preserve and Fort George Island. They can be heard singing in dense and often damp wooded areas from mid-April through at least August, and can continue to be found through about the last week of September. They’re very scarce in October, and there are no known winter observations.

Preferred locations to find them are the back trails of Seaton Creek Preserve (see Locations), Theodore Roosevelt Preserve, the Cary State Forest, along Otis Road, and along the Thomas Creek tract.

American Redstart Setophaga ruticilla 
The earliest report of American Redstart I’ve come across is from 12 June 1962, which was probably recorded due to the month of the observation and not because it was the first ever seen here (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994). There is also an old winter record from 9 January 1986 (Ogden, 1986). The species is a fairly common and reliable migrant in both spring and fall, where they will tend to migrate back through as early as the last week of July. In spring, look for them in any local hotspot from 10 April through mid-May; in fall from 10 September through 20 October. The peak annually from 15 September to 15 October, where their numbers are almost double what you may encounter in spring.

The highest count is from 8 May 2011 when I observed over 400 on Fort George Island during a fallout; I estimated over 90% of those seen were adult males.

Cape May Warbler Setophaga tigrina
Kale (1984) noted a Cape May Warbler reported on 14 March 1984 as an early county record. The species can be found in both spring and fall migration, but they are around four times as abundant in spring. Look for them beginning around the end of the first week of April through the first of May. In fall, they can be scarce but found around 22 September through 20 October will some effort. There are no known summer or winter reports of the species. The classic warbler hotspots like Reddie Point, Fort George Island and Spanish Pond are excellent places to view them.

Kirtland’s Warbler Setophaga kirtlandii
There is one documented record of Kirtland’s Warbler in county history, and it’s a bit tough to stomach by today’s standards. In early May 1930 or 1931, Grimes shot one and collected it; apparently this was also his first attempt at preparing a study skin and failed (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994). Kirtland’s is perhaps the most coveted warbler in America and while you should not expect to see one in any season, always keep looking.

Cerulean Warbler Setophaga cerulea
Cerulean Warbler is either a very rare or just very undetected species in Duval County, with less than ten known observations. Prior reports come from 21 May 1962 (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994), 9 May 1977 (Kale, 1977), 13-14 August 1978 (Edscorn, 1979), 24 April 1982 (Kale, 1982), 9 September 1984 (Atherton & Atherton), 25 August 1987 (Atherton & Atherton, 1988), 30 July 2005 (Powell, 2005), 28 September 2008 (Clark), and 8 August 2015 (K. & M. Dailey).

While they are extremely rare in spring, I suspect the species is an uncommon but regular migrant that passes by in the dog days of summer before birders get motivated for the fall migration. Ceruleans are known to migrate through the area in early to mid August, so I think it’s a matter of getting out there and looking in suitable habitat – the old growth oaks at places like Fort George Island and Cedar Point Preserve are perfect (just be prepared for hordes of biting insects). It is as unlikely to see them locally in September or October as it might be to see one in spring, so get out there early in the season.

Northern Parula Setophaga americana
Northern Parula is a common to abundant breeding species in the county, typically arriving the last week of February and remaining through around the third week of October. There is at least one report in the winter season every year or two. Breeding records go back at least as far as Grimes’ observation from 14 April 1930 (Howell, 1932). Other notable early reports include 6 June 1934 and a winter observation from 27 December 1959 (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994). The species can be found throughout spring, summer, and fall at any of the noted local hotspots.

Magnolia Warbler Setophaga magnolia
Early Magnolia Warbler reports include 27 May 1959, 17 November 1969, and 22 December 1974 (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994). These were undoubtedly recorded due to the late spring and fall dates, and the December observation is the first known winter report. On 19 May 1985, Julie Cocke observed another late spring migrant (Kale, 1985).

Magnolias are another migrant warbler that is significantly more abundant here in fall than in spring. In fact, there are very few verifiable spring records and one shouldn’t really expect to see them in that season. In fall, they tend to arrive around the third week of September and peak around 15 October. They are statistically gone by Halloween.

Bay-breasted Warbler Setophaga castanea
The first account of Bay-breasted Warbler I found is from 24 September 1963 (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994) with another following on 8 October 1987 (Atherton & Atherton, 1988). The species would be incredibly rare here in spring, in fact I’m aware of no verifiable spring reports in the county’s history and just a couple reports including 20 and 21 April 1975 (Kale, 1975).

In fall, they are also extremely uncommon and are missed more often than seen in most years; I’d say I average seeing them 3 out of every 5 years here. The good news is their window of passage is extremely predictable – concentrate on them from 12-19 October, with intense concentration on the 12th through 14th. They seem to favor the tops of oak canopies, which is okay since they’re a relatively large warbler and slow-moving. Along the trail leading from the parking lot at Theodore Roosevelt is good, as is the back marsh loop trail at Reddie Point Preserve.

Blackburnian Warbler Setophaga fusca
Blackburnian Warbler is a fairly uncommon fall migrant that can be missed in more years than observed, even by ardent local birders. One reported on 10 August 1975 was recorded as the earliest arrival in state history at the time (Edscorn, 1976). Other old notable observations include wintering birds reported on 30 December 1972 and 22 December 1974 during the CBC, and a late one noted by Peggy Powell on 26 November 1976 (Edscorn, 1977). It’s worth noting that there are no known accepted spring observations in county history.

Look for them from the first of September onward; they peak around 1 October and trickle through the rest of that month. What I like about Blackburnians is that I’ve noticed they tend to forage rather low much of the time, allowing you to enjoy them without crippling your neck scanning the treetops. I’ve often watched them in low vegetation including strands of goldenrod bordering park trails.

Yellow Warbler Setophaga petechia
Stevenson and Anderson (1994) include an account of three Yellow Warblers on 1 June 1969, but they should not ever be expected here in the middle of summer. In fall, they arrive in early August and can be best found through September at locations bordering freshwater – think the willows around Hanna Park’s central lake, the ponds at Westside Industrial Park, and the fringes of ponds at Sheffield Regional Park, Reddie Point, or M&M Dairy. They are much less common in spring but can be found with some effort from late February through early May. Most observations are from 7-21 September. On 8 January 2017, Jeffrey Graham provided the first winter record of the species at Westside Industrial Park.

Chestnut-sided Warbler Setophaga pensylvanica
Chestnut-sided Warbler is extremely unlikely in spring but can be found each fall with a bit of effort. It’s also one of the warblers that may occur occasionally in winter. The earliest report is from Ray Edwards on 13 October 1968; known winter reports include 18 January 1972, 25-28 December 1987 (Ogden, 1987), and 3 December 1998-February 1999 (West & Anderson, 1999). Julie Cocke noted a rather late fall migrant on 4 November 1984 (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994) and an early fall migrant was reported from Reddie Point Preserve following a front on 7 September 2014 (a bird Dave Foster and I observed). There is but one unverified spring report from the Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens on 24 April 2014.

In fall, start looking for them around the middle of September through mid-October; they peak around 15 October locally. Any of the local migrant hotspots will work for this species, particularly Reddie Point Preserve.

Blackpoll Warbler Setophaga striata
Blackpoll Warbler is a common to abundant late spring migrant that unfortunately has the reputation of being the bearer of bad news – they are often regarded as the messengers that signal spring migration is over. They are extremely rare in fall and shouldn’t really be expected in that season but there are a handful of fall reports, including 8 October 1964 (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994) and Graham Williams’ record of one on 13 November 2015. Look for them in any of the local hotspots after 15 April, then they peak around 8 May. They are virtually gone by 1 June. On 8 May 2011 I observed over 250 Blackpolls on Fort George Island along with the aforementioned American Redstart fallout; this is certainly the highest reported total of the species in county history.

Black-throated Blue Warbler Setophaga caerulescens
Black-throated Blue Warblers are fairly common spring and fall migrants that have also been known to occur in late fall and winter. Early winter records include 22 December 1968 on the CBC , 28 November 1970 (Stevenson & Anderson), 4 November 1984 by Peggy Powell, (Atherton & Atherton, 1985), and 7-9 November 1989 by Julie Cocke (Atherton & Atherton, 1989).

In spring begin looking for them around 5 April through 10 May, and in fall from 7 September through the last week of October. They’re equally abundant in each season’s migration and are well-spread throughout the county. You’re sure to see one at places like Fort George Island or Reddie Point.

Palm Warbler Setophaga palmarum
Palm Warbler is a wintering species that can be found starting in fall around mid-September and although their abundance peaks on 15 October, remain through the first of May. There are no known verifiable summer observations. Both the “western” and “eastern (yellow)” forms occur here and in my experience the “westerns” are significantly more abundant. Look for them throughout the county in winter, but particularly areas with large grassy fields like Julington-Durbin Preserve, Sheffield Regional Park, Hanna Park, or Ringhaver Park.

Pine Warbler Setophaga pinus
Pine Warbler is a year-round breeding species that can be found in suitable habitat (yes, mainly stands of pine trees) throughout the county. They’ve been known as a breeder since at least 1931 when Grimes published an account of locating a nest in early April one year (Howell, 1932). Stevenson and Anderson (1994) noted three birds on 21 March 1930, but I’m unsure of the context and whether that was meant to indicate early nesting.

Yellow-rumped Warbler Setophaga coronata
Yellow-rumped Warbler is an extremely abundant winter resident that arrives each year around 15 October and remains through about mid-April. There is one late report from 2 May 1981 (Kale, 1981), but otherwise no reliable summer reports. Yellow-rumped is perhaps the most abundant and widely distributed of any other species in the county; when they’re “in season” they can be found in numbers in virtually any park, back yard, or green space. They’re quite curious birds and despite their drab winter garb can be very entertaining to observe. Note that all reported observations are of the “Myrtle” variety, there are no known county reports for “Audubon’s” Yellow-rumped Warbler, which is still considered a state review species in Florida.

Yellow-throated Warbler Setophaga dominica
Yellow-throated Warbler is a fairly common breeding species that can be found year-round in suitable habitat. Early breeding records include 14 April 1933 (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994) and before that – Cory noted  a nest with four eggs on 28 April 1880 (Howell, 1932). They can be quite difficult from mid-November through February, but if you bird areas with old growth oak and plenty of spanish moss, you’re sure to stand a good chance of finding them. In late February they start singing on territory and are easily found from March through the first of June. They can be a little harder to find in the heat of the summer months, and then pick back up through the fall season. Places like Fort George Island, Theodore Roosevelt, Fort Caroline, Cedar Point Preserve and Hanna Park are all favorable.

Prairie Warbler Setophaga discolor
Prairie Warblers are a regular and common migrant that can also be found with some difficulty in winter. Stevenson (1982) included a wintering bird in his report that was observed intermittently from 12 January to 1 February 1982, and since then there is about one winter report each year. An early spring migrant on 11 March 1960 was unusual (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994), as they tend to arrive about ten days after that each year and pass through until the first week of May. In fall, begin looking for them around 1 August through 1 November. They are roughly equivalent in terms of abundance in spring and fall. This another migrant that can be found throughout the county in virtually any of the places you’ll find yourself birding.

They are extremely uncommon in summer, but Virge Markgraf had two singing on Black Hammock Island on 20 June 1976; Ogden (1976) noted there was no known nesting record here which remains true today.

Black-throated Gray Warbler Setophaga nigrescens
There is but a single report of the extremely rare Black-throated Gray Warbler in county history. Noel Wamer noted one wintering through at least 2 January 1974 (Stevenson, 1974). No precise details beyond that are available.

Black-throated Green Warbler Setophaga virens
Black-throated Green Warbler is a very uncommon spring migrant and is somewhat uncommon in fall. In spring observations span from around 13 April to 1 May, and in fall the best time to look for them is beginning 20 September through the month of October, with the 20-30 October really being the peak. In addition to being an uncommon migrant, the species is also a very uncommon winter resident producing a number of winter records, the first being 28 December 1971 through 10 March 1972 (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994). Other winter records include 5 December 1973 – 14 January 1974 (Stevenson, 1974), 3 December 1975 – 4 March 1976 (Stevenson, 1976), 1979-1980 (Stevenson, 1980), 1982-83 (Hoffman, 1983), 8 December 1985 – 12 January 1986 (Ogden, 1986), 26 December 1993 (West, Wamer, & Pranty, 1994), 14 December 1998 – 8 February 1999 (West & Anderson, 1999), and 30 December 2000 (Anderson, 2001).

Black-throated Greens occur most regularly in the eastern part of the county, and seem to particularly favor old growth coastal oak hammocks. The trails on Big Talbot Island SP, Fort George Island, and Hanna Park are probably your best opportunities along with perhaps Theodore Roosevelt Preserve and the fringes of Reddie Point Preserve near the river.

Canada Warbler Cardellina canadensis
Canada Warbler is another incredibly rare species in the county, and thus is not one I can provide much advice on targeting. The earliest record is of a specimen collected on 16 September 1964 (Stevenson, 1965), followed by one reported on the CBC on 26 December 1971. Peggy Powell reported one at a birdbath on 19 September 1986 (Atherton & Atherton, 1987), and another was reported on Fort George Island 13 October 1991 (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994). Lastly, Julie Cocke reported them from her yard on 9 May 2007 and again on 1 October 2011.

My best advice is to ‘expect’ them more in fall, and based on observations across the state I’d suggest they peak between 20 September and 3 October each year, so be extra vigilant around that time.

Wilson’s Warbler Cardellina pusilla
Wilson’s Warbler is a very uncommon – but perhaps annual – migrant and winter visitor. Based on the historical records that follow, they seem to occur mostly at backyard birdbaths and around the fringes of freshwater ponds. The first one I saw in the county was actually in the small woods behind the plantation house at Kingsley Plantation, so just keep in mind they can really show up anywhere.

The earliest report is of a bird Virge Markgraf observed from 10-19 November 1973 (Stevenson, 1973), followed by Sam Grimes’ bird on 11 October 1975 (Edscorn, 1976). Edscorn (1978) noted a bird reported by Grimes, Markgraf, and Powell on 24 August 1977 as the earliest in Florida. Cocke had one winter from 3 December 1981 to 27 March 1982 (Stevenson, 1982), and again the following year departing on 10 April 1983 (Kale, 1983). Atherton and Atherton (1984) include a note of one “remaining until” 19 November 1983. Clark had one on 20 September 1986, and Cocke had another from 21-29 September 1989 (West, 1990) and again on 8 October 1995 (Wamer & Pranty, 1996). Since 2000, dates include 12 October 2000 (Powell’s yard), 12 September 2005 (Wamer’s yard), 14 February 2006 off San Clerc Road, 6 April 2013, 5 and 22 September 2015, 17-24 October 2015, and a wintering bird 23 November 2015-14 January 2016.

Most of these observations are of single birds; the only higher count is from Reddie Point Preserve when two were seen together from 22-24 October 2015.

Yellow-breasted Chat Icteria virens
Yellow-breasted Chat is a very uncommon spring migrant and very localized breeding species in the county. Stevenson and Anderson (1994) noted two as long ago as 27 May 1961, but they undoubtedly occurred long before that time. It’s a bit of a mystery to me why the species was seemingly unknown to Grimes during his breeding surveys in the 1920’s-50’s. In 1970, Ogden included one from 7 July in an area west of Dinsmore and noted they were “considered rare in interior Duval County”. Another was reported from Kingsley Plantation on 4 June 1973, and Rex Rowan observed two singing at Cedar Point Preserve on 4 May 1996, with one “doing the flight song”. I didn’t record one here until Roger Clark and I happened across a singing one at Pumpkin Hill Preserve SP on 4 May 2007. Other observations include 5 May 2007, 6-21 June 2010 in the Pine Lakes subdivision along north Main Street, 8 March-26 April 2014 at Reddie Point Preserve, and most recently a vociferously singing one at Eastport from 3-31 May 2015.

It’s worth summarizing that while the species is seen in spring migration and during the early breeding season, nothing is known locally about their distribution and abundance beyond the first week of July; there are no documented observations beyond that date through the rest of the fall or winter seasons. Look and listen for them at Pumpkin Hill, Cedar Point, Eastport Wastelands, and areas like Seaton Creek Preserve or around the Jacksonville Equestrian Center.

Sparrows and other Emberizids

Green-tailed Towhee Pipilo chlorurus
There is one record of Green-tailed Towhee in county history, a bird recorded by Samuel Ewing at Little Talbot Island State Park on the morning of 3 March 2016. I spoke with Sam that evening at the location and he said he came across the bird quite by accident; he walked the length of the park south along the beach and then was heading back to the campground along the interior paved road of the park looking for snakes. He was watching a garter snake when the towhee caught his attention. After managing a few snapshots, he fetched his brother and made it back an hour or so later where the two of them enjoyed the bird awhile longer. At the time of the sighting, the species is still a review species in the state due to its considerable rarity. Despite the efforts of many birders the next several days, the bird was only relocated by two visiting birders the following morning of the 4th.

Eastern Towhee Pipilo erythrophthalmus
Eastern Towhee is a rather common year-round resident species that can be found in all parts of the county. Both “red-eyed” and “white-eyed” sub-specific forms occur, but there is really little to no understanding of the actual distribution and abundance of one form (race) versus the other. For eBird users, I would encourage the use of the sub-specific forms when you are able to visually confirm them so that perhaps one day we’ll have a better picture of those respective populations.

Eastern Towhees can be found in abundance at Cedar Point Preserve by walking the trail past the oak hammocks and into the pine forest. They can also be found readily around the parking lot at Pumpkin Hill State Park, Betz Tiger Point, and Seaton Creek Preserve. They can also be expected at most of the other local birding hotspots, as they certainly occur at Huguenot Memorial Park, Fort George Island, and Ringhaver Park. You can also hear them calling on virtually any visit to Spoonbill Pond on Big Talbot Island.

Bachman’s Sparrow Aimophila aestivalis
Bachman’s Sparrow is a very localized breeding species that is best seen beginning in March and throughout the summer into early September. From September through the winter, they can be very difficult to hear or see as they skulk in the underbrush.

Julington-Durbin Creek Preserve is one of our excellent locations for the species; follow the trail from the parking lot just past the kiosk about two tenths of a mile in, then turn left. The field in front of you and along the right of the path hosts many breeding pairs, and in March it is quite easy to see them singing incessantly from their exposed perches. There is no need to use playback to bring them in, and please refrain from doing so.

The other reliable location for them is in the Duval County portion of the Cary State Forest, which can be accessed from the Nassau County side off US 301 or from the Duval side at the Garden Street entrance. From this entrance, drive in a mile or so until you see the appropriate habitat (low palmettos under pine trees) and search for them. The Cary Forest is accessed by relatively flat dirt roads and a four wheel drive or high clearance is not really required to traverse the area, but use good judgment and avoid flooded areas or you may find yourself stuck in a very remote area.

Field Sparrow Spizella pusilla
Field Sparrow is an uncommon but annual winter resident that can be found with some effort from about the second week of November through the first week of April; there are no known records from May through October.

Look for them around grassy areas like along powerline cuts, the edges of fields and dunes, and in sandhill areas like Pumpkin Hill Preserve SP. The brushy trails at Reddie Point Preserve in spring is a good place to search as well, but the absolute most reliable spot for them is along the edge of the dunes on the south end of Little Talbot Island SP off A1A. You will usually see only one to three in any given place; the most reported from a single location was five that I observed at Little Talbot on 23 December 2011.

Chipping Sparrow Spizella passerina
Chipping Sparrows are winter residents and can be commonly found at backyard feeders throughout the County. Unless you have access to someone’s backyard, search for them on the grounds of Blue Cypress Park, the picnic table areas at Little Talbot Island State Park, and around the fishing dock and playground at Sheffield Regional Park. On the west side of town, look for them at Taye Brown Regional Park and the parking lot and softball fields of Ringhaver Park.

Clay-colored Sparrow Spizella pallida
Clay-colored Sparrow is probably an annual winter resident or transient species, but there are actually very few reports to support that theory. Winter observations include Virg Markgraf’s 4-12 December 1974 report (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994), her 22-26 November 1978 bird (Edscorn, 1979), and her account of three birds 4 February 1974 (Stevenson, 1974). On 12 December 2000, Roger Clark reported 3 from Little Talbot Island SP (Pranty, 1999), and other winter reports include 3 December 2004 (Anderson, 2005). While precise records aren’t available, there were many reports from 2000-2010 in winter along A1A on Little Talbot Island (Clark, pers communication, 2010).

Other observations of the species are from spring; curiously there are no known fall records. Spring observations include 29 Apr 1968, 23 April 1980 (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994), 26 April 1997 (R. Clark), March 1999 (Pranty, 1999), 23 April 2013 (D. Pridgen), and most recently one enjoyed by many observers at Reddie Point on 20 April 2013 (first reported by R. Rowan).

In winter, the best place to look for them would be the edge of the dunes at the south end of Little Talbot Island SP – check from the parking lot inside the park or along the edges of A1A that runs through the middle of the property. In spring, history suggests the third week of April is the time to look and I’d suggest areas like Little Talbot Island, Reddie Point Preserve, Imeson Center, Julington-Durbin Creek Preserve, and along the road at Helen Floyd Cooper park in Mayport.

Lark Sparrow Chondestes grammacus
Lark Sparrow is an extremely uncommon winter transient in Duval County with just ten or so reported observations dating back to 26 December 1965. The second report was from 30 December 1972 and the next two came about five years apart during the Christmas Bird Counts on 2 January 1977 and 26 December 1983. In 1994, Roger Clark reported three individuals on 10 November and a single bird on 3-4 December a few weeks later (West & Pranty, 1995). Rowan (1995) noted one at Imeson Center on 7 October 1995 and two more at Huguenot from 9-17 October that same year. Peggy Powell reported one on 21 September 1996 (Wamer, 1997), and Laura Johanssen observed one on 15 March the following year.

The next report came from the 1998 CBC on the 26th of December; it was ten more years until another was recorded on 27 September 2008 (providing just the second fall record). The 2008 bird was found on the grounds of Kingsley Plantation during one of Roger Clark’s field trips and delighted me and two dozen other observers as it worked the leaf litter around the parking lot. Recent records are from Eastport in north Jacksonville; I photographed one off Eastport Road on 25 & 26 April 2015, and on 15 November later that year, we were birding with Marie C when she spotted one on the same property. That bird remained through 21 November. While I wouldn’t expect this species in any season or year, logical places to keep an eye open for them would be as you’re birding local hotspots like Little Talbot Island SP, Reddie Point, Eastport Wastelands, Julington-Durbin Creek Preserve, or Imeson Center.

Grasshopper Sparrow Ammodramus savannarum
Grasshopper Sparrow is a very uncommon to rare winter resident that is missed more often than found in a given year, and are more often heard than seen. The latest Spring seasonal record also happens to be the oldest / earliest sight record in the county – 8 May 1886 (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994). In 1967, a bird observed by V. Markgraf from 2-8 May tied that late date (Stevenson, 1967). Modern day reports range from the last week of October through the last week of April, with no observations from May through mid-October.

There is really no reliable location for them from year to year, but the best place to start your search is the south of Little Talbot Island SP. Park in the southernmost parking area and check for them around the high grassy areas surrounding the parking lot and the boardwalks leading to the beach. The brushy areas around Imeson Center have been good for them in recent years, and on 31 October 2015 Marie and I found a very cooperative one at Eastport Wastelands in N. Jacksonville.

Henslow’s Sparrow Ammodramus henslowii
Henslow’s Sparrow is a very rarely reported species that is undoubtedly more abundant than the handful of reports would indicate. The earliest known report comes from a bird collected by K.L. Painter at the base of the TV tower in downtown Jacksonville on 12 April 1961 (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994), followed relatively closely by another report on the 1961 and 1965 CBCs. There was a spate of observations some 33 years later when Roger Clark recorded five of them on 7 January 1994 (West & Pranty, 1995), three were reported later that year on 22 September 1995 (West, 1996), and six more in a “wet powerline cut” near Otis Road (Rowan, 1995) on 19 November 1995 (Wamer & Pranty, 1996). Clark observed five on 3 December 1995 at Mecklenburg Dairy Farm (Rowan, 1996). On 4 November 2014, Clark photographed one at the picnic pavilion along the family beach area at Huguenot Memorial Park, providing the first verifiable record since that specimen collected over fifty years prior.

There is still plenty of suitable habitat for the species left in the county; I would suggest the damp areas around the powerline cut in the Cary State Forest along the Duval/Nassau County line, the end of Shark Road East on Black Hammock Island, and the marshes along A1A on Little Talbot Island and around Spoonbill Pond.

Saltmarsh Sparrow Ammodramus caudacutus
Although they surely occurred in the area for much longer, the earliest report of Saltmarsh Sparrow is one reported by Robert Loftin at Huguenot Memorial Park on 16 September 1979, which by today’s standards would still be considered notably early (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994).

There are a handful of very reliable locations to search for Saltmarsh Sparrows and these same locations will undoubtedly produce nelsoni and maritimus. My favorite place to search for them is in the tidal marshes at the end of Shark Rd E on Black Hammock Island. Park on the side of the street and put your rubber boots on, then walk out into the marsh on the northwest side of the road to look for all three species. As of this writing the area is still accessible and undeveloped, but that may change in coming years as I believe the area is privately owned.

Another reliable area is the marshes on the west side of A1A just past the entrance to Huguenot Memorial Park and behind the publicly owned Alimicani Boat Ramp at Fort George Inlet. Again, waterproof shoes or boots is recommended when looking in these areas.

Two drier options also exist for seeking out these three target species; Spoonbill Pond area and the marsh overlook at Theodore Roosevelt Area. Walk along the western edges of A1A or the fishing bridge on Big Talbot Island SP at Spoonbill Pond and around the raised observation platform at “Teddy” Roosevelt; both areas have an abundance of Seaside Sparrows and are likely to yield one or both “sharp-tailed” sparrows on any given visit in winter.

Le Conte’s Sparrow Ammodramus leconteii
Like its cousin henslowii, the Le Conte’s Sparrow is a seemingly extremely rare winter resident that I suspect is more abundant in the area than is realized. The earliest known record comes from the Christmas Bird Count on 26 December 1977, which was apparently overlooked when three found on 19 November 1995 were reported as the reputed first county record (Wamer & Pranty, 1996). Also overlooked in 1996’s report: Mark Dolan and Rex Rowan observed two at Imeson Industrial Complex from 20 December 1993 to mid-February 1994 (Rowan, pers communication, 2016). Three were observed along with six Henslow’s in a powerline cut off Otis Road on 19 November 1995; two days later Jerry Krummrich observed one in Baldwin (Rowan, 1995). On 26 December 1999, one was reported on the CBC followed by another the next year on 30 December 2000, a bird observed by Rowan (Anderson, 2001).

On 3 January 2009 one was observed along the south boardwalk at Little Talbot Island SP, a bird which I was able to relocate with Roger Clark later that day. That boardwalk leading from the parking lot to the ocean bisected perfect habitat for a couple hundred yards but it has unfortunately changed dramatically since that time and no longer appears favorable for the species. Almost seven years passed before the next report; one bird was observed at close distance by Marie and me at Eastport while we were enjoying the Lark Sparrow. In fact, we have both species in the same binocular view!

Nelson’s Sparrow Ammodramus nelsoni
Nelson’s Sparrow is found in the same habitat and season as the Saltmarsh Sparrow noted above, and I have found nelsoni to be perhaps three to four times more abundant than caudacutus. On any given search for them in the hotspots noted above, you’ll likely encounter many more of this species than the former.

Seaside Sparrow Ammodramus maritimus
Seaside Sparrow is a bit of a tricky species in Duval County, as they are year-round resident breeding species but give most casual birders the impression that they are a winter resident only. While it is true that they are easier to find in winter for most birdwatchers, they can be incredibly easy to find in summer as well if you look in the right place – the salt marsh! In winter, they can be found around the observation tower at Theodore Roosevelt Area, the fishing dock at Betz-Tiger Point, and along the edges of the marsh across from Spoonbill Pond. Two other excellent locations are just behind the picnic shelter at Alimacani boat ramp and the edge of Shark Road East on Black Hammock Island. In summer, they breed in the expansive salt marsh north of the St. Johns River, which is to say throughout the Timucuan Preserve. If you have access to a kayak, put in along any of the creeks north of Heckscher Drive or Pumpkin Hill creek and you will practically have them (and curious Marsh Wrens) jumping in your boat.

Fox Sparrow Passerella iliaca
The earliest reports of this very uncommon species comes from the 1929 and 1930 Christmas Bird Counts, where they occurred intermittently for decades until a remarkable 24 were counted on the 1960 CBC (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994). Other observations include the 1965 CBC, one by Julie Cocke on 4 November 1976 (Edscorn, 1977), 25 November 1992 (West & Wamer, 1993), and a 26 December 1998 report by Rex Rowan (West & Anderson, 1999). From 2000 to 2003, Clark located them twice around the edges of the cypress domes at Pumpkin Hill Preserve SP, but none have been reported since. This is perhaps due to a change in habitat, as those low lying areas which were once wet have been dry for many years – to the point that several large Wood Stork rookeries have been abandoned for more suitable areas.

I have never seen a Fox Sparrow in Duval County, but there are a few areas I check for them repeatedly each winter: the edges of Pumpkin Hill, the powerline clearings near M&M Dairy and Cary SF, and the swamp forest on the backside of Sheffield Regional Park.

Savannah Sparrow Passerculus sandwichensis
Savannah Sparrow is undoubtedly our most abundant winter resident sparrow, arriving in early to mid October and remaining through mid-April. You are sure to encounter them at any of the birding hotspots in the county, and they are virtually guaranteed at places like Huguenot Memorial Park or Little Talbot Island SP in winter. If you’re in the western part of the county check for them at Taye Brown Regional Park or Westside Industrial Park.

It’s probably worth noting there have been a handful of sight reports of Ipswich over the years, as early as 29 November 1964 (Stevenson, 1965).

Lincoln’s Sparrow Melospiza lincolnii
Lincoln’s Sparrow is another very rarely reported species in the county, with just a handful of observations over the last fifty years. Kale (1978, p. 997) noted that Robert Loftin collected a tower killed specimen on 4 May 1978, which was noted as “later than any previous record”, and remains the only known verifiable record in County history.

Most of the other reports are from Christmas Bird Counts, which honestly make me believe many of the reports are perhaps mis-identified Swamp Sparrows; CBC years include 1964, 1966, 1970, 1972, 1983, 1998, and 2004. Roger Clark reported one from Little Talbot Island SP on 25 November 1996, and Laura Johannsen reported one off Main Street in north Jacksonville 13 December 2008. There have been no reports since.

Song Sparrow Melospiza melodia
The oldest record of Song Sparrow is from 20 April 1959, when a specimen was collected by K. L. Painter after hitting a TV tower in Jacksonville (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994). In 1967, Robertson noted the count of 220 on the 1966 CBC was “by far” the largest CBC total ever reported in Florida. They are a common to abundant winter species that typically arrive the last week of October and remain through April; there are a handful of May reports but none over summer months.

Although they can be found throughout the county, the species is seemingly most abundant at Little Talbot Island SP, Reddie Point Preserve, Sheffield Regional Park, and Hanna Park.

Vesper Sparrow Pooecetes gramineus
Vesper Sparrow is an uncommon winter resident species in Duval County that can be found with a little effort; they arrive the first week of November and are gone by April 1st. The highest known count comes from the 1965 CBC where an astounding 188 were tallied (Cruickshank, 1966). There are two fairly reliable locations for them – Little Talbot Island SP and Imeson Center. At Little Talbot, enter the park and then drive to the southernmost parking lot, which is furthest from the main entrance (a distance of about two miles). In winter months they are often found on the grounds or in the brushy areas around the picnic pavilions. At Imeson Center, you can find up to as many as twenty along the edges of the road bordering Turner Pond (Busch Drive). Morning is usually best; park in the median or side of the road and walk the brushy edges to find them. Overall, Vesper Sparrow seems to be found along the middle ‘corridor’ of the County, which I define as roughly along the course of Main Street as it runs north towards Nassau County.

Swamp Sparrow Melospiza georgiana
Swamp Sparrow is another fairly common winter resident whose arrival and departure mirrors melodia; that is to say they arrive the last week of October and remain throughout the month of April. There are no known verifiable records from mid-May through the first week of October. Also like the Song Sparrow, they are most reliable at Little Talbot, Sheffield Regional Park, Reddie Point, and Hanna Park.

Harris’s Sparrow Zonotrichia querula
There is one rather amazing record of this extremely rare western species in Duval County, which was well documented by Sam Grimes on 24 December 1964. The bird remained to the delight of a multitude of observers until 26 March 1965 (Stevenson, 1965).

White-throated Sparrow Zonotrichia albicollis
White-throated sparrow is a winter resident species that typically arrives the second week of November and remains through the end of April. There is only one known report outside of that date range, coming from 31 July 1963; that bird was noted as the first summer record for the entire state (Stevenson, 1963). In 1986, Peggy Powell remarked that “not one White-throated Sparrow was found that winter, continuing a decline” (Ogden, 1986), a trend that thankfully has not persisted. The species is still uncommon in winter, but can be found with some effort in suitable habitat. As with many of our winter resident sparrows, the best place to search for them is around the edges of the dunes at Little Talbot Island SP. They can also be found in brushy habitat at other popular birding hotspots like Reddie Point, Blue Cypress, Pumpkin Hill SP, Sheffield Regional Park, and Hanna Park.

White-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia leucophrys
White-crowned Sparrow is a winter resident that arrives the last week of October and tends to remain through the first week of May. The earliest reported sighting is from Mrs. H. E. Robinson on 9 Oct 1963, and the latest seasonal sighting is from 5 May 1964 (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994). This species has declined significantly in Duval County since 2005, and can now be quite difficult to find. A once reliable place for them was around the parking lot at Pumpkin Hill, but in recent years that has been hit or miss.

The absolute best place to find them today is on the south end of Little Talbot Island SP; park at the first pull off on the right once you arrive on that island (about 2/3 of a mile from the eastern foot of the bridge) and just work the edges of A1A along the side of the road and dune line. Another fairly good location for them is on the interior of Huguenot Memorial Park, just behind the playground and horseshoe area. Walk the road that is restricted to vehicular access and look for them starting about 50 yards down that dirt path. Otherwise, eBird results in recent years strongly suggest that their distribution is coastal in NE FL and become very limited even a little bit inland in the County. Therefore, I’d suggest concentrating your search for them to Little Talbot, Huguenot, Helen Floyd Cooper, and Hanna Park.

Dark-eyed Junco Junco hyemalis
Dark-eyed Junco is a rare but undoubtedly annual winter visitor and transient migrant, with the earliest known record coming from the 1953 Christmas Bird Count . The complete history of the species is unfortunately cloudy due to lack of consistent record keeping in previous decades, but CBC data suggests the species was regular in the 1960’s and 1970’s, where it appeared on all but one year’s total over an 18 year span. It became sporadic on the Count in the 1980’s, even more sporadic in the 1990’s, and was last recorded on the winter count in 2000. Other known dates include 23-29 October 1985 credited to Pat Anderson (Atherton & Atherton, 1986), 24 November 1996 (Wamer, 1997), 2-3 December 2000 (Anderson, 2001), and recorded 1-13 March 2003 by Peggy Powell (Pranty, 2003).

The only one I’ve ever seen in the County was a bird that inhabited the lawn at Kingsley Plantation in mid-April 2006. Roger Clark found and reported it; it’s particularly memorable to me because that was the first time Marie and I met Roger in person while chasing it. I didn’t know then that would lead to thousands of hours in the field birding together or such strong lifetime friendship.

A good percentage of the Juncos reported here historically have been visiting residential feeders. Outside of that, good areas to look for them in winter would include the picnic grounds at Little Talbot Island SP, Hanna Park, and places like Pumpkin Hill SP, Seaton Creek Preserve, or Eastport Wastelands. In spring migration, Reddie Point Preserve or Blue Cypress Park would be as good a place as any to be fortunate enough to see one. In any case, there are not regular and should not necessarily be expected in any year.


Eastern Bluebird Sialia sialis
We enjoy Eastern Bluebirds year-round in the Jacksonville area, where they are very evenly distributed throughout Duval County. The earliest record of the species comes from Sam Grimes, who documented a nest with four eggs on 6 April 1930 (Howell, 1932, p. 366). Today they are still a common nester that readily takes to boxes, and can be found rather easily at many of the favored local hotspots.

Look for them around the tennis courts and pond at Blue Cypress Park, the athletic fields at Sheffield Regional Park, or in the pine forests of Durbin Creek Preserve, Pumpkin Hill State Park, UNF Nature Trails, and Seaton Creek Preserve. They can be quite vocal at Boone Park in Riverside while looking for Red-headed Woodpeckers, and they’re very abundant around the Jacksonville Equestrian Center (Taye Brown Regional Park), Camp Milton Preserve, and Ringhaver Park on the west side of town. Any visit to M&M Dairy is more than likely to turn up a couple.

Veery Catharus fuscescens
Veery is probably one of our more abundant migrant thrushes, but can still be missed more often than seen. The best time to look for them is mid-April to Mid-May and the first week of September through the third week of October. They are most abundant the last week of September.

Look for Veery along the shaded trails on Fort George Island, Houston Avenue on Big Talbot Island, and in the leafy understory at Ringhaver Park. There is also an area towards the back of Reddie Point Preserve just off the paved trail that can be excellent for migrant thrushes, but the best place in Duval County for them is Theodore Roosevelt Area. Anywhere from the parking lot down the trail to the Willie Browne home site and graveyard is normally productive.

Gray-cheeked Thrush Catharus minimus
Gray-cheeked Thrush are what I’d consider very rare in spring when they’d be “most expected” the last week of April through May 10, but note that most spring observations are undocumented by photos and are usually insufficiently documented to be considered valid. They are more expected from late September through mid October, and there is but one winter report – from the Christmas Bird Count 26 December 1971. In fall, look for them at the same locations mentioned above for the other Catharus species.

*Bicknell’s Thrush Catharus bicknelli
On 10 October 1997, Noel Wamer reported a Bicknell’s Thrush (Rowan, 1997) and on 6 October 2000, Julie Cocke observed a possible Bicknell’s Thrush in her backyard, and studied the bird in direct comparison with another Catharus species (Pranty, 2001). This observation is unfortunately unable to be confirmed, but it’s quite possible she indeed had a Bicknell’s. Julie is an astute birder with decades of experience and would not make a rash judgment on such an ID.

Swainson’s Thrush Catharus ustulatus
There are a few records of Swainson’s Thrush from the last week of April but like the Gray-cheeked, almost all of those spring reports are undocumented and their validity remains a question mark. The species is much more common and likely in fall from the second week of September through about third week of October where they peak from October 12-18. A walk of the trails of Theodore Roosevelt Area, Cedar Point Preserve, Fort George Island, or Seaton Creek Preserve is your best bet for finding one during that time.

Hermit Thrush Catharus guttatus
Hermit Thrush is a fairly common winter resident that can be found on most outings from the third week of October through mid-April. They’re quite evenly distributed throughout the county and occur in most of the birding hotspots, but they are virtually guaranteed at places like Fort George Island, Theodore Roosevelt, and Reddie Point Preserve. They are also remarkably easy to find at Blue Cypress Park along the paved road leading to the fishing pier.

Wood Thrush Hylocichla mustelina
Wood Thrush is a limited summer breeding species that is probably more abundant in the area than we think. Howell (1932) noted the earliest migrant as 5 April when he loosely sighted a report sometime before 1910. In 1928, Grimes noted two nests in Jacksonville, one holding three small young and an egg on 11 May 1924 (Howell, 1932, p. 363). Another nest was reported 6 May 1933 and the eggs were collected for specimens (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994).

In more recent decades, they were noted as “well reported” during the summer of 1980 (Edscorn, 1980), and Cocke noted a late fall observation of the species from 22-24 October 1988 (Atherton & Atherton, 1989). An examination of reports from 2009 to present suggest the last week of April through early May is a good time to look for them, with observations from 3 May 2009, 28 April 2010, 1 April 2012, 27 April 2012, and 24 April 2014. In fall, the “wheelhouse” seems to be 12-16 October, with many of the recent observations coming on the 15th and 16th. A late record for the species of an individual photographed at Spoonbill Pond on 27 November 2016 and remained through the following weekend.

You may hear them first, doing the “bup & pit volleys” found on the Sibley app. I would suggest areas like the Cary State Forest, Seaton Creek Preserve, Theodore Roosevelt, Fort George Island, and Cedar Point Preserve.

American Robin Turdus migratorius
American Robin is a fairly common winter resident and a very localized breeder. Most are gone by the first of May each year, and begin arriving again the first week of November. In winter, you should have no difficulty finding the species throughout the county and at just about any local park or backyard.

Peggy Powell first noted a singing Robin in Duval County 9-13 June 1983 (Paul, 1983), and by 1984 the first breeding record was then documented (Kale, 1984). The following year, a pair fledged four young (Paul, 1985) and in 1986 there were as many as three pairs noted exhibiting breeding behavior (Paul, 1986). They have been reported annually each summer since in limited numbers, and have a consistent breeding foothold in the central part of the county from around Kent Campus off Roosevelt Boulevard through the Ortega area.

Finches, Euphonias, and Allies

House Finch Haemorhous mexicanus
It’s interesting to note the arrival of House Finch in Florida and in Duval County; Edscorn (1976) noted that they did not occur in Florida through 1975, but was obviously foreshadowing their arrival in the state as the species continued to push south from New York. The first report from the Jacksonville area came from Ron Davis in mid-December 1984 (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994). The next reported observation followed nearly a decade later in the winter of 1993 (West, Wamer, & Pranty, 1994), and they were first noted as a probable breeding species in summer 1995 (Paul & Schnapf, 1995). Four years later, House Finches were noted as established breeders during the summer 1999 (Paul & Schnapf, 1999), and they have continued in that status ever since.

Today they can be found throughout the county in most seasons, where they are frequent visitors to backyard bird feeders. Reliable places to find them are on the grounds of Kingsley Plantation, Reddie Point Preserve, Blue Cypress Park, and Huguenot Memorial Park (in winter).

Purple Finch Haemorhous purpureus
Purple Finch is another species that was reported with a little more frequency in previous decades, but they have not occurred much in the last fifteen to twenty years. Maynard mentioned seeing a Purple Finch in Duval County, which would have been sometime in the 1880’s (Howell, 1932), but the first specific observation comes from Mrs. H. Robinson on 14 May 1950.

Eight were reported on the 1963 Christmas Bird Count, and they were not recorded again until 1971 when they began appearing on the CBC almost annually from 1971-1983. In the winter of 1971-1972, Purple Finches were noted as particularly abundant during an irruption year across the southeast. Virge Markgraf reported one on 18 November 1982, marking perhaps the earliest fall county record (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994). Hoffman (1983) noted high numbers of Purple Finches in the area during the winter of 1982-1983, and there was one report from Fort George Island the following winter on 26 December 1983 (presumably on the Christmas Bird Count).

The next report came from Black Hammock Island during the 1985 CBC on 28 December. There were a few reports in January 1986, and one wintered in 1987-88 (Ogden, 1988). A decade passed before the next report when Peggy Powell noted several during the winter of 1997-1998 (West, 1998). The most recent record is from 17 December 2015 when Dennis Peacock photographed three off Interstate 10 in extreme western Duval County.

Purple Finches should not be expected in the county, as they are not a regular winter visitor but bird watchers should pay careful attention to their backyard feeders in December through February.

Common Redpoll Acanthis flammea
Since it is part of the county’s lore, I will mention that a Common Redpoll was reported on the 26 December 1971 Christmas Bird Count. According to Stevenson & Anderson (1994), the observers had a “close leisure study of all field marks”, but the record was not accepted by the state committee and remained on the hypothetical list for Florida.

Pine Siskin Spinus pinus
Pine Siskins are another highly variable species that do not occur in Jacksonville in most years. On average, they seem to occur here in just two or three winters every decade. The earliest record in the area comes from 7 February 1947 near the Duval/Clay County line in Orange Park along Route 17 (Weaver, 1948). In the winter of 1971-1972, they were noted as “numerous” in Jacksonville (Stevenson, 1972). The next known report is from 15-25 January 1973 (Woolfenden, 1973) and another followed six years later on 23 January 1979 by Virge Markgraf (Stevenson, 1979).

There are a handful of reports from the 1980’s: six on 28 January 1982 (Stevenson, 1982), 28 December 1985, January 1986 (Langridge, 1986), and again on 16 May 1986 – providing the latest known County report (the previous late date was 3 May 1972). In January and February 1988 they occurred in small numbers in Jacksonville, and a group of six were reported throughout February 1991 (Ogden, 1991).

A period of almost 15 years passed before the next report – Noel Wamer noted one on 4 March 2005. In March 2011 a few visited a feeder along US 17 in north Jacksonville, and it wasn’t until the winter of 2014-2015 that they occurred again. In January 2015, they could be found in large flocks in several areas including Seaton Creek Preserve, Durbin Creek Preserve, and Thomas Creek Conservation area. As many as fifteen remained at a private residence through 6 April 2015. Sporadic reports have occurred since then, with the most recent being of four birds visiting an Arlington area feeder in January 2019.

Seaton Creek Preserve is an ideal place to try for this species each year, but I would not expect to find them there in any particular winter. I’d simply suggest planning a visit there in mid to late January to look for Brown-headed Nuthatches and sparrows, and listen carefully for them.

American Goldfinch Spinus tristis
American Goldfinch are an annual winter resident, arriving as early as mid-October and remaining through late April, and in some cases – early May. Consistent with their nature, they can be a bit unpredictable to locate on a given day but can be found with a bit of effort. Fairly reliable locations include Pumpkin Hill State Park, Sheffield Regional Park, Reddie Point Preserve, and Blue Cypress Park. They are also very reliably found along the UNF nature trails circling Lake Onieda, and are frequent mid-to-late winter season visitors to residential bird feeders.

Evening Grosbeak Coccothraustes vespertinus
There are a number of county records for Evening Grosbeak, beginning in the winter of 1968-69 when the species invaded Florida by the thousands. Stevenson (1969) noted a specimen taken 9 February 1969, and Grimes reported as many as twenty in the area a couple of weeks later.

The remainder of observations all occur from 1972 through 1989. There have been no county reports in the last twenty-five years, so I would obviously not suggest that one should expect them here – but they will undoubtedly occur again during a future irruption year.

In the early 1970’s, Julie Cocke was fortunate enough to have Evening Grosbeaks visiting her backyard on multiple occasions: 21-23 December 1971 (male and female), 13-18 January 1973 (two females), and 4-20 March 1973. Additional records from the Jacksonville area during the 1970’s include 12 December 1972, 30 April through 7 May 1973 (Kale, 1973), and 12 December 1977. Woolfenden (1973) noted that they appeared in “good numbers” throughout Jacksonville in the winter of 1972-1973. In the winter of 1977-1978, they were noted as “not plentiful” by Virge Markgraf but they could be found around the county nonetheless (Stevenson, 1978).

Observations persisted intermittently throughout the next decade, with reports from January-February 1981 (Stevenson, 1981), 22-24 April 1987 (Langridge, 1987), and two birds visited S. Jarvis’s feeder the week prior to 23 December 1989 (Ogden, 1990). According to Cocke, during the winter of 1980-81 many people had Evening Grosbeaks coming to their feeders, with Dr. Cole in the Orange Park area having as many as twenty all winter!

House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Based on Howell’s (1932) notation that the species occurred as far south as Crescent City by 1886, it is reasonable to presume House Sparrows were in Duval County sometime around the mid-1880s (R. Rowan, pers comm, 2016). They showed up on the Christmas Bird Count for the first time in 1924, with a rather impressive seventy noted for a “first occurrence”. Today they can be found throughout the county in places where you’d typically expect to find them – parking lots, gas stations, and urban areas. Fortunately they have not established a presence in most of our more natural parks and birding hotspots. If you must seek them, fairly reliable places include Riverside Park, the Jacksonville Landing, the streets of downtown Jacksonville, and along Atlantic Boulevard at the Jacksonville Beaches.

Cardinals, Grosbeaks, and Allies

Summer Tanager Piranga rubra
Summer Tanager is a fairly common breeding species in Duval County, with the earliest documented nesting occurring on 15 May 1934 when a set of eggs was collected and sent to a museum (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994). As of 2015, they are still regular (but declining) breeders in the area, and can best be found on territory at places like Fort George Island, Sheffield Park, and Seaton Creek Preserve. In mid-April, begin listening for their diagnostic ‘dripping’ call from about 1/4 mile away from the entrance to Kingsley Plantation and basically all around the surrounding area then leading up to Kingsley. At Seaton Creek Preserve, they can be found along the main trail leading from the parking lot anywhere within that first half mile, and then throughout the large area deeper into the park. In addition to Sheffield Park, you can find them along Houston Avenue on Big Talbot Island and in the pine forest of Taye Brown Regional Park.

Summer Tanagers have also been known to winter in the area as far back as 1953, and are reported from backyard feeders in town annually. Curiously, there is one known record from the month of November – a bird reported by Grimes on 5 November 1967. In early 2015, Marie and I found one in the parking lot of Blue Cypress park, but they should not be necessarily expected in winter months. Look for them readily between 15 April and early August for your best chance at finding them.

Scarlet Tanager Piranga olivacea
Scarlet Tanager are uncommon but regular migrants in the Jacksonville area, and are more often missed in any given year by local birders than seen. On 8 March 1982, Virge Markgraf reported one that was the earliest arrival in state history at the time (Kale, 1982). They normally arrive in mid-April and pass through over the next three weeks; after the first week of May they are gone. They’re more common in fall and pass through for about two weeks longer; look for them from the last week of September through the end of October. On 8 October 1966, Grimes reported a remarkable 30 birds of the species in one patch (Stevenson, 1967)! A record of one on 25 November 1974 is the latest known county record (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994). There are no known winter or summer observations.

There are scattered reports over the years at places like the UNF Nature Trails and Hanna Park, but Reddie Point Preserve and Fort George Island are the predominant locations to find them. At Reddie Point, they seem to favor the parking lot area near the Mulberry trees and the wooded trail that bisects the main and marsh loop trails. Cedar Point Preserve is another very likely spot for them, but the location is extremely under-birded.

Western Tanager Piranga ludoviciana
The earliest record of Western Tanager in Jacksonville is one that arrived 21 March 1972 and remained at least through the end of that season (Stevenson, 1972). The second known report is from 3 October 1979 (Atherton & Atherton, 1980), and another was recorded a few months later from 4-6 March 1980 (Kale, 1980); 20 years passed before the next report, which came from Julie Cocke on 7 October 2000 (Pranty, 2001). Cocke then also recorded the next one on 16 January 2004, and Clark had one on Fort George Island on 17 September 2005. Four years later, Clark had another there on 10 October 2009, and six months later Donald Pridgen reported one from Hanna Park on 30 April 2010. Carly Wainwright graciously hosted a young bird at her feeders in March 2013, and allowed many local birders to come view the bird. On the 2013 Christmas Bird Count (December 28) I found one deep in the oak hammock at Cedar Point Preserve, providing the first (and only) CBC record of the species for the county. In March 2014 and 2015, a resident in Mandarin reported one coming to their feeders, and noted that the bird was present for months both years. Most recently, a remarkable two birds visited the feeder area at the Jacksonville Zoo’s education center from 27-30 January 2016.

As you can see, Western Tanagers are rare in the county and all but two observations were of birds visiting feeders. There may be enough of a pattern to suggest September/October and March/early April are good times to keep your eyes open for them, but they shouldn’t be expected. Locals should try keeping jelly and orange feeders out in residential areas during winter to see if they can attract one – and get the word out if they do!

Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis
Northern Cardinal is one of most abundant species and can be found year-round in almost any habitat. They occur on a whopping 50-70% of all eBird checklists submitted in Duval County, and you will have no trouble finding them anywhere you find yourself birding.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak Pheucticus ludovicianus
The earliest report of Rose-breasted Grosbeak comes from 21 May 1962 and in terms of numbers, high counts include a staggering 30 on 8 October 1966 and 25 birds observed by Julie Cocke on 16 October 1983 (Atherton & Atherton, 1984).

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks closely mirror Scarlet Tanagers in terms of distribution, abundance, and timing. They pass through in spring from mid-April through the first week of May, and again in fall from mid-September through October. There are no known records in summer or winter. They commonly visit feeders in spring and fall, but perhaps the best place to look for them is Reddie Point Preserve around the parking lot and mulberry trees.

Black-headed Grosbeak Pheucticus melanocephalus
There are two reported observations of this western species in Duval County. The first was a well documented one coming to the feeders of Jessie B. Hufham from 5-11 January 1986 (Ogden, 1986), and a female visited Julie Cocke’s birdbath a few years later on 12 October 1989 (West, 1990). While certainly not to be expected, birders should carefully study any first winter or female Rose-breasted Grosbeaks to be sure Black-headeds aren’t sneaking by undetected.

Blue Grosbeak Passerina caerulea
Although they were not known to be breeders by Stevenson and Anderson (1994), Blue Grosbeaks are indeed a summer resident breeding species in Duval County and were actually noted as such by Edwards and Grimes in 1966 (Cunningham, 1966). They tend to occur from the beginning of April through the end of October, and there are two known winter records; one from 2 December 1973 and another seen by Mark Dolan at Little Talbot Island SP on 28 December 1995 (Rowan, 1996). Starting in April, they can be found along the power line cut at M&M Dairy, adjacent Sheffield Regional Park’s athletic fields, all over Eastport Wastelands, and Seaton Creek Preserve. They can also be found throughout the westside of town and Julington Durbin Creek Preserve in south Jacksonville. The males are known to sing into late August here.

*Lazuli Bunting Passerina amoena
Lazuli Buntings are extremely rare in Florida, and should not be expected in Duval County in any year. There are no known reports from Duval, but there was one reported at a feeder in Ponte Vedra Beach in St. Johns County 20-21 March 1991 (Langridge, 1991). I don’t often include species accounts from other counties in this text, but the extreme proximity to the county line of this exceptionally rare species compels me to mention it, and heck – we can presume it passed through Duval County airspace on the way to or from St. Johns.

Indigo Bunting Passerina cyanea
Indigo Buntings are mostly year round, but disappear in winter months. There’s one winter record from 24 January 1981 at Julie Cocke’s feeders (Stevenson, 1981). There are a handful of observations from February and March, but they really start arriving in April and remain through the breeding season. By the end of October they can be scarce, and the late fall record is of a single bird noted on 24 November 1973. In migration, look for them along the trails at Reddie Point Preserve, Fort George Island, and behind the athletic fields at Sheffield Regional Park. They are limited breeders and in summer they can be found with some difficulty at Sheffield Regional Park and Seaton Creek Preserve. In July 2015, I found juvenile birds around the south end of Fort George Island suggesting breeding at that location as well.

Painted Bunting Passerina ciris
Painted Buntings are one of the most sought after species in Florida, and that holds true in Duval County. The earliest record comes from 19 May 1931, when a bunting’s nest was raided for the eggs to be sent to a museum’s collection (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994). On 2 January 1969, Grimes noted one as perhaps the first known winter record in the county (Stevenson, 1969). Today they can be found throughout the year, but are more obvious and abundant during spring and summer, where males tend to sing for months on end. In winter, they tend to be found south of the St. Johns River at bird feeders while in summer the concentration is notably north of the river at places like Little Talbot Island State Park and Fort George Island. Those two locations are the absolute best bet for finding male Painted Buntings in the county. At Little Talbot Island State Park, there are unadvertised white millet feeders behind the building just past the pay station; if you strike out there just drive the road to the south end of the park and listen along the way for singing males (April – early August). The species is rather abundant on Fort George Island, where they can be found anywhere around the Ribault Club, on the grounds and Kingsley Plantation, and around the tabby ruins just after you pull onto the island.

Dickcissel Spiza americana
Historically, reports of Dickcissel include 22 March 1962, 4 March-5 April 1965, 1969 CBC, 30 April 1971, 6-16 November 1973, one that wintered from 1972-73, 28-29 October 1976, and one that lingered from 1 March – 5 April 1981 (Kale, 1981). Today, Dickcissel remains an extremely rare species in Northeast Florida and shouldn’t be expected in Duval County, although one was photographed in the western part of the county on 9 March 2011 and another observed near Theodore Roosevelt Preserve on 9 May 2013.  Marie and I carefully observed a juvenile at Reddie Point Preserve on 7 September 2015 (which happened to be my 300th species recorded in the County!). K. Eldredge at photographed one at Spoonbill Pond on 31 January 2016 and I had one flyover in east Jacksonville on 15 March 2016.

While many reports are from individuals visiting feeders, the report from 1971 is of three birds collected after striking a TV tower downtown (Kale, 1971).

Chickadees, Titmice, and Nuthatches

Carolina Chickadee Poecile carolinensis
Carolina Chickadee can be found year-round throughout the county, and although they breed in many locations they can often be missed in regular locations at certain times of year. The peak time to observe them is between mid September and mid October, suggesting either post-breeding dispersal or some fall migration or movement, as there is not an appreciable difference in the number of reported observations that time of year (in fact there are less field reports / eBird checklists than in spring). The earliest recorded nesting date is from 27 April 1930 (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994).

They are fairly reliable coastally along Big Talbot and Little Talbot Island State Park, Fort George Island, and Hanna Park. They are also regular at places like Taye Brown Regional Park, Sheffield Regional Park, and Reddie Point Preserve.

Tufted Titmouse Baeolophus bicolor
Tufted Titmouse is a year round breeding resident species, and is extremely abundant in virtually every corner of the county. As with the Carolina Chickadee, Titmouse abundance and frequency inexplicably peaks from mid September through October. There are high concentrations of them at places like Fort George Island, Cedar Point Preserve, and Reddie Point Preserve. Stevenson and Anderson (1994) noted a nest raided of its eggs as early as 13 May 1934.

Red-breasted Nuthatch Sitta canadensis
Red-breasted Nuthatch is a species only likely to be found during irruption years, as they were throughout the county in the winter of 2012-2013. Otherwise, there are just four or five known prior documented reports, two of which come from Fort George Island. The earliest report is from 24 April 1966 at Goodbys Lake, another comes from the 1967 CBC, and the 1968 CBC reported an unprecedented 19 birds. The next report followed on 28 December 1985 on Black Hammock Island by Roger Clark, who also observed single individuals on 3 Nov 2005 at Kingsley Plantation and on 11 Nov 2008 at his residential feeders.

Ogden (1991) noted that one reported from south Jacksonville on 10 January 1991 was the only in the entire state that winter, as was the case with one reported 2 November 1997 (Wamer, 1998). A single bird was then reported 7 April 1998 (Pranty, 1998); that bird apparently wintered at Noel Wamer’s home beginning 10 January that year (Rowan, 1998).

During the last irruption year, reliable places to find them were about 1/2 mile from the gate at Kingsley Plantation, Little Talbot Island State Park, and the Pumpkin Hill State Park parking lot. The most recent report is from 19 November 2016, where two were observed in the Cary State Forest on Jacksonville’s westside.

White-breasted Nuthatch Sitta carolinensis
White-breasted Nuthatch is one of several species that used to breed in Duval County and has since been extirpated. As early as 17 April 1930 two adults were noted as feeding young; subsequent breeding records include 2-27 March 1931 where a nest with five eggs was observed. Grimes and Shannon collected the eggs as specimens  (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994).

Five individuals were reported by Grimes on the 1943 CBC (26 December), where they also made appearances in 1944, 1949, 1961, 1969, 1974, and 1979. Since 1979, there have been several unconfirmed reports in the county, but no verifiable records. The reported observations have come from Kingsley Plantation (heard only), Hanna Park, and Little Talbot Island State Park’s campground. The most recent reports are from 19-21 February at Little Talbot; other observations are all from 27 April through 25 May, scattered across various years.

Brown-headed Nuthatch Sitta pusilla
Brown-headed Nuthatch are a localized breeding species that is fairly evenly spaced throughout the county, although they are scarce in coastal locations with no reliable habitat east of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). They do occur just west of the ICW off San Pablo Road around the William Davis Parkway area. More reliable and accessible locations include Pumpkin Hill State Park, Julington-Durbin Creek Preserve, Taye Brown Regional Park, and Seaton Creek Preserve (usually right in the parking area). The species is obviously dependent on pine forest, and all those locations afford plenty of suitable habitat.

Historically, Brown-headed Nuthatch was first noted as a breeding species on 5 March 1930, when a nest with five eggs was observed. The following year, breeding behavior and nest excavation was noted as early as 20 February 1931 (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994).

Martins and Swallows

Purple Martin Progne subis
Purple Martin is a species in serious decline in recent years and can be difficult to find in Duval County, even when searching for them. There are some early observations from February, but most arrivals are reported beginning the first week of March. They can be found throughout the spring and summer in small numbers, and are generally departed by the end of August. The best places to look for them are Taye Brown Regional Park and New World Avenue on the westside of town, M&M Dairy, and the Lem Turner Road spray fields at the intersection of Lannie Road. In mid to late June, they have been known to mass off New World Avenue near Waterworks Street, where one can see anywhere from 60-140 individuals in one group. They can be found in similar numbers along the remote areas of Pritchard Road, often massing on the power lines there.

There is a remarkable account of over 10,000 that would amass at Hemming Plaza downtown in the late 1940’s. On 12 October 1950 the trees were razed and the phenomenon ceased with the removal (Brookfield, 1951). On 5 July 1964, Grimes noted recently hatched young and the following year he noted nesting as early as 20 March 1965 (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994). In 1974, Ogden noted a roost in downtown Jacksonville of over 1,000 birds from 15 June through 30 July; perhaps this was a remnant of the roost forsaken in 1950.

Tree Swallow Tachycneta bicolor
Tree Swallow is chiefly a winter resident species that can be found from the first of September through early May. In most fall and winter months, it is by far our most abundant swallow species. Stevenson and Anderson (1994) noted one on 16 July 1960 as the earliest fall migrant in the state. Tree Swallows can be found throughout the county, but some of the better locations include Huguenot Memorial Park and Spoonbill Pond where they can number into the thousands on some winter days.

Northern Rough-winged Swallow Stelgidopteryx serripennis
Northern Rough-winged Swallow is our most abundant breeding swallow species; known to have bred in the County since at least Howell’s time in 1932 (p. 331). They arrive in early to mid-March and can be found through the middle of October; there are a handful of records into early November. They really favor nesting under tractor trailers, and find an abundance of nesting sites in this port city. They can be readily be found at Imeson Center, Westside Industrial Park, and the warehouses around the M&M Dairy.

Bank Swallow Riparia riparia
Bank Swallow is extremely rare in spring in Northeast Florida, with just a few county observations in April and early May. They are more easily found in fall migration, where they move through the area in mid to late August in their highest numbers. Having said that, you are unlikely to see more than a handful at any time during that window. The best bet for this species is to work the northwest part of the inlet at Huguenot Memorial Park along the dunes from 14-23 August.

Cliff Swallow Petrochelidon pyrrhonota
Cliff Swallow is an extremely rare spring migrant here, and a fairly rare fall migrant that is missed more often than seen in most years by local birders. The “wheelhouse” for the species is 10-17 August and the best place I’ve found to seek them out is Huguenot Memorial Park and the Lem Turner spray fields. A good plan is to target Huguenot since you can look for the almost equally rare Bank Swallow; look for both species along the dunes separating the ocean from the lagoon. I’ve seen Cliffs around the jetties all the way up to the north end of the park and around the dunes. On 16 August 2013, I recorded the highest known occurrence of the species in county history there with as many as 45 individuals. There is a single winter report of 31 December 1951 from Little Talbot Island SP (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994).

Cave Swallow Petrochelidon fulva
There are no reports or records of Cave Swallow in Duval County, but there are two reports from St. Johns County just to the south. The first was 19 December 2009 and the other 20 January 2011. I expect they will be reported one day in Duval County, thus their inclusion in this section.

Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Barn Swallow is our second most abundant swallow species behind Tree Swallow, but is absent in the winter months of December through February. They typically arrive the second week of March and can be seen through the end of November; their numbers peak in mid-August. There is one notable winter report of 23 November 1981, when a group of 15 was reported at Little Talbot Island SP (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994).

Barn Swallows are tied very closely with bodies of water, and are thus seen mainly along the coast and St. Johns River; inland they can be found at places with many ponds like Westside Industrial Park or Lem Turner spray fields. They are a limited or localized breeder in the area. The earliest noted Barn Swallow in Duval is 29 June 1924, which was then noted as a “late” date (Howell, 1932, p. 332). They were first confirmed as a breeding species on 26 June 1977, with sporadic affirmations of breeding throughout the early 1980’s (1981, 22 June 1983, and 1984).

Tyrant Flycatchers

Eastern Wood-Pewee Contopus virens
Eastern Wood-Pewees arrive in early April, but are tough to find in April and May. They are a limited breeding species, dating back to 11 June 1932 when a nest was raided for the eggs and sent to collection (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994). Stevenson and Anderson (1994) also noted that Sam Grimes collected eggs again on 21 May 1934.

Eastern Wood-Pewees are more readily observed in the fall, particularly late September through the first couple weeks of October. Hanna Park, Theodore Roosevelt Area, Seaton Creek Preserve, Cedar Point, and Fort George Island are good locations for them. Fort George Island is perhaps easiest; walk the 3 mile trail starting from the Ribault Club dirt parking lot, and about 1.5 miles in there starts to be very good habitat for them. You’ll likely hear them calling before you see them. On the westside, a brief walk into Branan Field Wildlife and Environmental Area in fall may yield them as well.

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher Empidonax flaviventris
There are just a few reports of Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, two from late September and one in April. On 28 April 1981, Joseph Wilson reported one “calling” at the Florida Community College campus on Beach Boulevard (Kale, 1981).

The species is very rare anywhere in Florida, and should not be expected in any year here, but always consider the possibility when you’re out in the field.

Acadian Flycatcher Empidonax virescens
Acadian Flycatcher is a localized breeding species, favoring habitat in western and northwestern Duval County. Grimes first described a nest containing two eggs on 5 June 1930 in Jacksonville (Howell, 1932, p. 324). They can be found at places like Thomas Creek Preserve and some of the more densely foliaged areas on the westside, such as Camp Milton. In July 2014, we discovered several calling individuals at the recently opened Seaton Creek Preserve. In September and October they start moving around a bit more and can be found at places like Reddie Point Preserve, but they are more often missed than seen.

Alder Flycatcher Empidonax alnorum
There is a well documented report of Alder Flycatcher from Fort George Island on 22 September 2001, and another by Clark from that location on 15 September 2005 (Pranty, 2006).

Willow Flycatcher Empidonax traillii
There are a handful of reports for Willow Flycatcher and most are from Fort George Island in the fall. This is a very rare species anywhere in the state, and is best confirmed by vocalization. Be very careful in studying a suspected Willow, and try to record audio or a movie if you can. The earliest report is of a “singing” bird on 24 April 1982 (Kale, 1982). More recently, single individuals were carefully studied at Reddie Point Preserve on 4 October 2015 and again there on 1 October 2016.

Least Flycatcher Empidonax minimus
After Acadian, the Least Flycatcher is perhaps the most expected “empid” flycatcher for our area and would most likely be found in the fall migration (early October). Indeed, that pattern is reflected at least back to 1969, when Grimes noted one killed by the TV tower downtown on 4 October (specimen sent to Dr. Allen at Jacksonville University (Robertson, 1970). Again, be very diligent in trying to identify any Least and photograph or record audio if you can. The best places I know of to look for any empids are the Fort George Island trail (along the old fairways) and Reddie Point Preserve, where they were reported on 20 September in both 2013 and 2014. More recently, one was reported at Eastport Wastelands 29 August 2015 and from Ringhaver Park 1 September 2015.

Eastern Phoebe Sayornis phoebe
Eastern Phoebes are a common winter resident and can be found virtually anywhere you’d be birding. They arrive the last week of September and a few linger into very early April.

Vermilion Flycatcher Pyrocephalus rubinus 
There are no records of Vermilion Flycatcher in Duval County, but there is one unfortunately obscure indication of one. Stevenson and Anderson (1994) graphically represent a winter observation of one in the County legend but there are no details in the account of the species. It is worth noting that a male was recorded on nearby Amelia Island in Nassau County on 17 April 1983 (Kale, 1984). One is certainly overdue and places like Eastport, M&M Dairy, Imeson Center, Westside Industrial Park, or the Jacksonville Equestrian Center are the places to keep in mind. It’s only a matter of time.

Ash-throated Flycatcher Myiarchus cinerascens 
There are scattered records of Ash-throated Flycatcher occurring about every 8 to 10 years. Reports have come from Huguenot Memorial Park, Little Talbot Island, and most recently from a restricted area on Army Corps of Engineer property near Blount Island. Rex Rowan found what became a well documented bird at Imeson Center from 12 December 1986 – 1 February 1987, which marked the first northeast Florida record (Ogden, 1987). On 19 December 1993, one was reported from the same location (West, Wamer, & Pranty, 1994), but it was later not accepted by the Florida Ornithological Society Records Committee. Note that all records are from the winter season, and anything that looks like a Great Crested Flycatcher in winter should be scrutinized as it is more likely an Ash-throated.

Great Crested Flycatcher Myiarchus crinitus
Great Crested Flycatchers are an abundant summer resident and breeding species in the area. They arrive in mid-March and are virtually gone by the end of September. Stevenson and Anderson (1994) note one from 7 June 1970, which may be the earliest documented record but certainly isn’t the actual first occurrence of the species here.

You can find them almost anywhere there are trees, and certainly in just about every park in Jacksonville.

Tropical Kingbird Tyrannus melancholicus  
There are two records of Tropical Kingbird in Duval County. The first was recorded at Spoonbill Pond across from the Big Talbot Island boat ramp off A1A on 26 May 1999 (Pranty, 1999). The second was found at Imeson Center on 23 November 2013 and was extremely well photographed. The Imeson bird was a one-day wonder.

Cassin’s Kingbird Tyrannus vociferans 
There is one record of Cassin’s Kingbird in the county; on 10 October 2008 Laura Johannsen photographed one that “was near the clubhouse wires” at the old Pine Lakes golf course off North Main Street (L. Johannsen, pers. communication). I recall chasing it the next day with Marie and Laura, but we were unable to locate the bird.

Western Kingbird Tyrannus verticalis 
The earliest Western Kingbird I’ve found is one reported by Ray O. Edwards from 17 September 1964 from Big Talbot Island (Stevenson, 1965). This was followed by a “late” record on 26 November 1966; birds Grimes thought may winter that year, thus suggesting the species was a regular fall migrant (Stevenson, 1967). Ogden (1991) noted one from 10 January through February 1991, and Clark reported one from Fort George Island on 5 October 1995 (Wamer & Pranty, 1996).

They are now virtually annual in Duval County, but seem to be limited to very localized places. The most reliable spot is Imeson Center at the railroad tracks just in front of the old Sears warehouse. One to four individuals are typically found here starting in November through February (once into April). Another location seems to be along the fences in Mayport, adjacent to the airfield where they’ve been recorded annually since at least 2009. Try behind the old lighthouse and across the street from Helen Floyd Cooper park, but be wary since you are ‘glassing’ a military site.

Eastern Kingbird Tyrannus tyrannus 
Eastern Kingbirds are summer (breeding) residents that arrive late March, where they can be found along the sides of Mecklenburg Dairy Farm and the parking lot of Reddie Point Preserve. They’re also fairly common at M&M Dairy and Sheffield Park about this time, and they can be found at these latter two locations throughout the summer. They are prolific breeders at Eastport Wastelands and Sheffield Regional Park. They are typically gone from the area by October 1st. The species is known to migrate in numbers through the area in early September, and record high counts include 1,100 in two hours on 5 September 1982 (Atherton & Atherton, 1983) and 865 on 1 September 1988 (Atherton & Atherton, 1989). Both of those observations were submitted by Julie Cocke.

Gray Kingbird Tyrannus dominicensis
The earliest county record of Gray Kingbird is from 3 June 1931. They were first known to be a local breeding species in 1952 (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994), and today they are most reliable at Mayport NAS where they continue to breed today. The highest count on record is ten observed by Clark at Mayport NAS on 3 July 2003 (Powell, 2003).

They are stragglers elsewhere in the county and sometimes you can get lucky and find one at places like Little Talbot Island SP, Alimacani boat ramp, Huguenot Memorial Park, or Hanna Park. They are sometimes observed around the Mayport Ferry slip, and have been observed as far inland as Arlington (Dailey, 2014). Grimes observed one on 4 September 1967, a bird he surmised was a straggler in an area where they had previously been known to breed on Fort George Island (Robertson and Ogden, 1968).

After years of attempting it, I finally managed to scope one at Mayport from Huguenot, but this technique is more of an extreme longshot. On 3 September 2014, Clark and I had one land on the gambling boat right in front of us as we passed by NAS Mayport; it remained for only a minute before heading back to base.

If you really want a Gray Kingbird, the best bet is to drive to St. Augustine where they can be found rather easily along the power lines in front of Ripley’s Believe it or not.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher Tyrannus forficatus
There are just a handful of records of Scissor-tailed Flycatcher in Duval County. The earliest known record is a bird observed by Julie Cocke in south Jacksonville on 6-7 May 1986 (Langridge, 1986). Powell noted one “near Jacksonville” on 6 February 1989 (Ogden, 1989), and Clark reported two from Huguenot on 1-2 November 1997, providing the county’s first fall record (Wamer, 1998). I believe I remember hearing about two other reports over the years, but did not record the details. On 5 July 2014, Marie and I located an adult male at the Alta Drive end of M&M Dairy near the power lines. The following year on 16 May 2015, Martha Fethe first observed an adult male in the exact same patch, presumably the same individual returning from the prior year.

Loggerhead Shrike Lanius ludovicianus
Loggerhead Shrike are included in this section as Allies. They are a fairly common year-round resident and breeding species, and can be found most of the time at places like M&M Dairy. The earliest recorded nest comes from 2 July 1925, when Sam Grimes collected eggs from one (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994). In the same account, they noted nest building occurring as early as 25 February in 1930, and Howell (1932, p. 373) referred to early nesting on 11 March 1930.


Black-bellied Whistling-Duck Dendrocygna autumnalis
The first county record of Black-bellied Whistling-Duck was a single bird reported by Carole Adams on 3 May 2003 that remained through 14 May that year (Pranty, 2003). They remained very scarce in the area until 2010 when their abundance skyrocketed. To provide some context of their rarity, there were local birders that had been birding over 30 years here and saw their first in May 2007. Indeed, the same flock of 17 on 10 May 2007 at Hanna Park provided my first county record. Back then, they were recorded every couple of years during migration at (of all places) Nassau Sound / Big Bird Island area. Beginning around 2010, I started seeing very small groups passing through M&M Dairy in early May, and from 2012 on they have been regular throughout the summer at the Lem Turner spray fields where they are now actually breeding. There is one verifiable winter record of four ducks on the Intracoastal Waterway under the Atlantic Boulevard bridge on 20 December 2015.

They also make periodic appearances at the pond off Perdue Road, but the best place to find them in Duval County is the Lem Turner spot. Heading north on Lem Turner from I-295, pull off on the shoulder just as you pass Lannie Road (there’s a stop light there). Scope the fields to the west; there are distant ponds and the ducks move back and forth. You’ll most likely only get flight shots or silhouettes, and the evening is usually best. It’s worth a quick scan of the fields behind you as well (east side), as I’ve seen them out walking around there in the company of Ibis and Cattle Egret.

Fulvous Whistling-Duck Dendrocygna bicolor
There are just a handful of Fulvous Whistling-Duck records in Duval County, with a 26 year gap between observations at one point. The first record is of seven observed offshore of Mayport on 30 August 1965 (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994). Other early records are from 1971 (R. Clark), 15 flying north on 6 September 1975 (Edscorn, 1976), and “numbers” of them 24 January 1976 – 20 miles offshore of Mayport. On 22 February 1988, Peggy Powell observed 3 at Mayport (Ogden, 1988) and it was more than a quarter century before they were reported again in the county.

Twenty-six years passed after Peggy’s report, when on 21 May 2014 a group of 12 Fulvous Whistling-Ducks were reported at M&M Dairy, stayed for 3 days, and disappeared. They (of course) showed up when I was in Minnesota on business and I was afraid I’d miss them. I can recall heading to the dairy straight from the airport and I managed to see them in fading afternoon light with my binoculars; fortunately they remained through the next morning where I could observe them at length through the scope.

About one month later on 21 June 2014, 6 were recorded from nearby Autumn Point subdivision along the retention pond. This group also was also only seen for 3 days before moving on. Same birds? Who knows, but it’s likely. It will be interesting to see if they become more regular in the coming years like the Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks.

Greater White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons
Greater White-fronted Goose has been recorded at least 4 times since 2004, and I’m not aware of any records prior to that in Duval County. On 21 Mar 2004, a single bird was reported off US-90 near the Mecklenburg Dairy farm (Clark). Six years later, two were recorded at M&M Dairy on 6 Mar 2010 (Dailey & Beyer) keeping company with the Canada Geese on the west side of the pastures. These two birds remained until 20 March. Another recent record came from the Mayo Clinic campus on 8 May 2013; this bird was only seen by one observer, posed for a photograph, and moved on.

On 22 November 2014, David Foster found a Snow Goose at M&M Dairy and while observing it, also found a group of 5 Greater White-fronted Goose in the same pasture as the birds recorded in 2010. This observation provides the only known fall record for the species in the county.

Swan Goose Anser cygnoides
Swan Goose are essentially ornamental, domestic waterfowl in the county. There is a reliable group of 4-6 individuals at the Perdue Road pond year-round, and another small group in front of Tinseltown movie theater near Hooters.

Graylag Goose Anser anser
Graylag Goose are also strictly domestic and can be found in localized areas like Perdue Road pond. I’ve also seen them move through Sheffield Park on occasion.

Snow Goose Chen caerulescens
Snow Goose are very uncommon in Jacksonville, with reports coming in about every two years. The first record I’ve been able to find came from 23 November 1930, and one of the most recent was 22-23 November 2014 at Sheffield Regional Park where David Foster encountered 4 (3 blue phase, 1 white). On 14 November 2015, Chris Bleau found a blue morph at Hanna Park, providing perhaps the earliest seasonal record in county history. Bleau’s observation was the first of many that winter, which turned out to be a record setting season in terms of numbers of observations for Snow Goose.

Other observations include (but are certainly not limited to) 28 November 1970 (Grimes) and Thanksgiving Day 2013 (Foster) at Perdue Road pond. Sightings are generally very scattered in both location and date, making them very unpredictable. I would suggest they’re best sought in winter months and probably at places like M&M Dairy, Hanna Park, and around Mecklenburg – but they’re also known to be found in brackish and even saltwater habitat like Helen Floyd Cooper or Huguenot. In fact, the earliest record of Snow Goose comes from Sam Grimes who documented two of them on 23 November 1930 along the north shore of the St. Johns river, where one of them was promptly shot (Grimes, 1943). Based on recent observations, the week before or of Thanksgiving certainly seems like a favorable time to seek them. The latest known spring date in county history is from 16 April 1967, a bird observed by Roy Edwards in Jacksonville (Stevenson, 1967).

Ross’s Goose Chen rossii
There are only a few records of Ross’s Goose; one on 23 December 1996 at Mecklenburg Farm (Clark), and 1 off Lone Star Road in January 2010. The report from 1997 is believed to be the first County record and consisted of a single Ross’s keeping company with 3 three Snow Geese; the bird remained until 12 January 1997 (West, 1997). Most recently, Chuck Hubbuch and Cathy Murphy recorded one on the lawns at University of North Florida following the spreading of thousands of pounds of grass seed on 15 December 2015. The goose remained through 10 January 2016.

Brant Branta bernicla
I have come across one early report of Brant in Duval County; Sam Grimes noted Howell’s report of a specimen taken at “Pilot Town” about 1890 and identified by “a member of the Canaveral Club” (Grimes, 1943). Pilot Town was on what is now called Batten Island; perhaps best known as the island where the Sandollar [sic] Restaurant is. On 7 November 1973, Mary Davidson photographed a single Brant in the St. Johns River, providing the first record since that report from 1890 (Edscorn, 1974). The bird was reported through the 16th of that month, and is the last Brant reported in the County – a record now spanning over 40 years.

Canada Goose Branta canadensis
Canada Goose were introduced to Duval County between 1968-1978 as part of a program by FGFWFC, where they quickly took a stronghold in breeding and population although they didn’t appear on the Christmas Bird Count until 1973. As in most Florida counties, the provenance of any Canadas today is questionable and it is difficult or nearly impossible to separate true migrants from descendants of those introduced birds (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994, p.103). They remain extremely abundant throughout the county, and if you really “need” one, drive through the University of North Florida or by M&M Dairy. There is one (sort of) interesting hybrid Canada x Swan Goose reported by David Foster in April 2014 from Westside Industrial Park, which persisted there until at least March 2016. Perdue Road pond maintains one of the highest concentrations of this species anywhere in the State of Florida, with as many as 350 individuals spending the afternoon there.

Coscoroba Swan Coscoroba coscoroba
On 17 May 1993, Peggy Powell recorded a single Coscoroba Swan at Mayport Naval Air Station; according to the report the bird was “not banded or pinioned”, but remains of unknown origin (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994).

Mute Swan Cygnus olor
In 2013, a Mute Swan was recorded at New Berlin Elementary school. This is thought to be the same individual that is usually resident at Tidewater subdivision off Cedar Point road. Any reports of Mute Swan in the county are most certainly introduced exotics or ornamental.

Tundra Swan Cygnus columbianus
There is one report of Tundra Swan located in Jacksonville Beach on 14 December 1924 (Grimes, 1943). Prior to that, Howell (1932, p. 124) noted a specimen from Jacksonville collected in 1894-95. I saw one a few times in the spring of 2010 at M&M Dairy and presumed it was domestic or otherwise “introduced”.

Muscovy Duck Cairina moschata
Muscovy Ducks are localized throughout the county and can be found year round at those locations. Some good locations are the pond behind Krystal’s on St. Johns Bluff Road, the corner of Merrill Road and University Boulevard, or the Autumn Point subdivision off New Berlin Road.

Wood Duck Aix sponsa
Wood Duck are a declining species in Duval County, presumably due to loss of habitat. They can sometimes be found at Jacksonville Arboretum, the Jacksonville Zoo (they breed under the Wood Stork colony), and around the Imeson Center ponds. The most reliable spot I know of is still the wet, swampy areas at M&M Dairy. I’m sure there are several locations in western Duval County, as well, but I don’t necessarily look for them when birding there. I do see them at Westside Industrial Park (the Limpkin spot).

Gadwall Anas strepera
Gadwall can be found from November through February, but they are rather scarce. Sheffield Park, Spoonbill Pond, and Perdue Road pond are good locations to look for them. Grimes (1943, p.16) noted two records as early as December 1939 and 1940, but admittedly did not have a personal observation of the species – “I have never seen one here well enough to recognize it”. I suspect that’s due to a combination of scarcity, the overall plain appearance of the species, the quality of optics available at the time, and the fact that he preferred a camera to field glasses.

Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope
There is one vague report of a Eurasian Wigeon in Duval County, but I was unable to find any details as to location. According to Anderson (2005), one was observed and reported in the winter of 2004 by B. Richter; the Christmas Bird Count included one on 26 December 2004, suggesting this is the same report, and if I had to speculate the bird was found on Quarantine Island under the Dames Point Bridge.

American Wigeon Anas americana
American Wigeon can be a very difficult species to find in Jacksonville. It took me many, many years to add one to my county list; in other words, you shouldn’t really expect to find one each winter without a lot of work (or luck). Having said that, with the advent of eBird alerts and more eBird users it may be easier to track them down in the future. A good place to look for Wigeon is…Sheffield Park, Spoonbill Pond, and Perdue Road pond. The first documented report of the species is sometime in the early 1930’s along a series of freshwater ponds in Jacksonville Beach (Grimes, 1943).

American Black Duck Anas rubripes
American Black Duck is a very rare species in Jacksonville, and is often mis-identified with Mottled Ducks by the casual observer. I did record them at M&M Dairy three winters in a row from 2008-2010, and did not see them again until 2015 when Dave Foster located a few at Perdue Road pond, where they wintered in 2015 and again 2016-17 and 2017-18. The first county record was noted by Sam Grimes in 1935 (precise date was not noted), where he mentioned shooting six of them on Black Hammock Island (1943). Grimes (1943) also referred to them as “A rather common winter resident in the more secluded fresh-water ponds and marshes, especially in the northeastern portion of the county”. A single bird noted by Grimes on Ricker’s Lake on 24 April 1966 was described as one of the latest in the Northern Peninsula (Cunningham, 1966). They were a regular species on the Christmas Bird Count from 1959-1980, then became sporadic at best, with 21 reported on 30 December 1989 and not again until 26 December 2009 when 8 were included on the count.

Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Mallards are ubiquitous throughout the county in all seasons, but probably 99% of the Mallards observed in the area are non-migratory local populations, and discerning the difference – even in winter – can be very tough. Simply basing the judgment on whether the birds are skittish or not is not a good field mark and should not be relied upon. No summer records would be considered for a “migratory” Mallard in Jacksonville. This is not a recent development; in 1943 Grimes noted that Mallards were noted in winter in “inaccessible fresh-water ponds and marshes”, and that only a “few” were taken each winter.

Mottled Duck Anas fulvigula
Oddly enough, this is perhaps the only regularly occurring duck species in Jacksonville that Grimes did not mention in his Birds of Duval County (1943). It’s difficult to surmise if they didn’t occur at all back then or if it was an oversight, but in 1967 it was noted that a pair raised a brood of 10 young at Jacksonville Beach – noteworthy in that it was north of the usual breeding range (Stevenson, 1967). In 2001, Noel Wamer remarked that the species is increasing as a nester since the mid-1990’s. I’m not quite sure about their distribution throughout the county, but they are fairly reliable year round at Hanna Park, M&M Diary, Spoonbill Pond, and Fort George Inlet park at the south end of Little Talbot Island. Use caution when looking at them in the field and try to ascertain whether what you’re seeing is one of the many Mallard x Mottled hybrids.

Blue-winged Teal Anas discors
Blue-winged Teal are fairly common in winter and can be found with a small degree of effort. They are also around in spring and a few linger throughout the summer, but they can be very difficult to find in June-August. They are fairly easy in winter and early spring at Perdue Road pond, Spoonbill Pond, Westside Industrial Park, M&M Dairy, and even the Jacksonville Zoo where they congregate under the Wood Stork colony.

Cinnamon Teal Anas cyanoptera
I’ve come across just one report of Cinnamon Teal in Duval County: in 1953, Thomas W. Hicks described seeing a single male in the winter several years prior on the St. Johns River (Mockford & Rice, 1953).

Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata
Northern Shovelers arrive in mid-September and can be found through April. In late April to early May, if you see them it will likely involve one to several hundred birds, as they tend to “raft up” prior to heading back north. Grimes (1943) noted that they were more common along the eastern / coastal part of the county, and that still holds true. There are very few “inland” records in the county.

They are fairly hit-or-miss at most locations, and you’ll more likely miss them even when looking for them at places like Hanna Park, Perdue Road pond, or Huguenot Memorial park. The most reliable place I know of is in a pond in the Shell Bay subdivision off Heckscher Drive, where they can be found most days each January and February. There is no direct lake access here, so you’d be relegated to glassing them from your car in between the homes.

Northern Pintail Anas acuta
Northern Pintail can be very difficult to find in Jacksonville, but in recent years a small group has seemed to favor the Perdue Road pond. That is the best place to check for them. I’ve seen them at locations like Huguenot and Hanna Park, but that can’t be relied upon.

Green-winged Teal Anas crecca
Again, what Grimes (1943) noted over seventy years ago still holds (mainly) true: Green-winged Teal are “fairly common” but relegated to mainly “shallow open-water holes in the brackish marshes”. He noted “up Pablo Creek” as a good location; I’ve never tried for them there but can attest that this species is very localized to specific habitat and most are in very remote locations. If you must have one for your year or county list, I’ve known people that will pay to get in the Zoo where one (or a handful) can be found each winter with the Blue-winged Teal. Another good strategy is to look for them offshore during sea watches in early November; indeed, Roger Clark noted “hundreds” flying south over the ocean on 18 November 2000. Spoonbill Pond has been fairly reliable in recent years.

Canvasback Aythya valisineria
Canvasback are very rare in Duval County and cannot be expected to occur even once per year. Since 2010, reports included one (or a handful) of birds at Trednick Road ponds (restricted access), Perdue Road pond, and University of North Florida. The best advice for this species is to monitor the local birding reports and eBird to see if/when one turns up. The earliest county reports are from 20 January 1917 in a marsh near the Mayport jetties and then on 16 December 1929 on the St. Johns River (Grimes, 1943). There was also one reported on the Christmas Bird Count, 24 December 1950.

Redhead Aythya americana
Grimes (1943) noted the species as a rare winter resident, with just reported observations: Earl Greene’s pair at Pablo Beach on 22 November 1925, and another 10 December 1932. They now can be found each winter in the county; some of the better locations to check are Perdue Road, Trednick Road (restricted access), and the retention ponds throughout the Tinseltown area – particularly one at 10161 Centurion Parkway N. They are fairly scarce and usually occur in low numbers here, but can be found with some degree of effort.

Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris
Ring-necked Ducks can be found starting around mid-October and are fairly abundant throughout the county. Their numbers decline sharply in April, but small groups and individuals can usually be found through May and even into June most years. Westside Industrial Park and Taye Brown Regional Park are excellent places to find them, as are places like M&M Dairy, University of North Florida, and Perdue Road ponds.

Greater Scaup Aythya marila
Greater Scaup are typically one of the latest ducks to arrive in the area, showing up around mid-November. They are difficult to find and can be even more difficult to identify properly. Huguenot Memorial Park is probably the best and most reliable place to seek them.

Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis
Lesser Scaup seem to arrive shortly before the Greaters, around the first or second week of November. They are fairly reliable at Perdue Road pond and Huguenot, and can also be found in various retention ponds around the city.

Common Eider Somateria mollissima
The earliest record of Common Eider is 25 November 1970, a bird that stayed through February 1971 (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994). The species was recorded annually from 2010-2015, with periodic reports every few years prior to that (virtually all records in winter). The best location to find them is Huguenot Memorial Park, and I’d suggest looking for them on the south side (river side) of the jetties. They are often found in the river or even on the beach where the flocks of gulls roost. It is important to note that it is best to leave your vehicle, even if it’s bitterly cold. Many seeking an Eider that has already been reported will scan from their car and miss a loafing bird along the edge of the river’s shoreline due to the steep drop off and the bank – you cannot see a resting Eider from your car or truck if it’s on that beveled edge! Other records come from the Nassau Sound area, with one recorded there 3 February 1993 (West & Warmer, 1993), and another that stayed throughout the winter 2014-2015. Most recently a young male was recorded from 6 May through the end of July at Huguenot and up to two miles up river at various locations.

Harlequin Duck Histrionicus histrionicus
I’m only aware of one record of Harlequin Duck in Duval County from 3-26 December 1988, and was included on the Christmas Bird Count that year (Ogden, 1989). It was found at Huguenot Memorial Park, which is where I expect the next one to also be recorded. If two birds in the region can form a pattern, then consider the other “local” record in nearby Nassau County came on 26 December 2013 at Fort Clinch SP. So, if you have nothing to do the day after Christmas – go look for a Harlequin!

Surf Scoter Melanitta perspicillata
Surf Scoter is a species that likely passes by offshore in great numbers, but there are surprisingly few reports in recent years. Noel Wamer used to have very good results doing sea watches from 16th Ave S in Jacksonville Beach; I would recommend scoping from that location between the second week of November and early February, from dawn to about 10:00AM. The earliest known record is of a specimen taken on 12 May 1923 at Talbot Island (Howell, 1932, p. 155). There is also one inland record from a pond in the Mandarin area on 10 November 1970 (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994). If I may inject a little personal note, this species is one that has either eluded me or I haven’t tried hard enough to see in Duval County, but I plan to amend that every winter.

White-winged Scoter Melanitta fusca
White-winged Scoter used to be rare throughout the state of Florida, and offshore of Duval County – specifically Huguenot Memorial Park – was one of the more reliable places to try to observe them. One of the earliest county records I’ve found is 21 January 1984 (Hoffman, 1984). They are still very uncommon to rare here, and I would expect you to miss them more than you would see them from year to year. The two best locations are Huguenot Memorial Park and the vantage point at 16th Ave S in Jacksonville Beach. They also turn up in odd locations like Spoonbill Pond, where Bob Richter recorded three of them from 21-23 February 2015.

Black Scoter Melanitta americana
Earl Greene’s observation of a single bird in Atlantic Beach on 17 May 1925, is the earliest documented County record (Howell, 1932, p. 156). Traditionally, Black Scoters have been much easier to see in winter starting around the first week of November. They move just offshore at low altitude in great numbers in the mornings and can be seen through a scope rather easily. For a span of several years (2012-16) a small group of 6-24 birds have remained through spring and into early summer along the lagoon at Huguenot Memorial Park. At Huguenot, scan for them offshore but also along the south side of the jetties. Scanning from the first boardwalk at the north Little Talbot Island SP parking lot or from 16th Ave S is a good bet as well.

Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis
Long-tailed Duck is another species I expect to be seen more often in Duval County, especially since they show up every couple years in St. Augustine just to our south. Regardless, I’m only aware of a handful of county records: 20 December 1980 (Stevenson, 1981), 21 February 1982 (Stevenson, 1982), 27 January through 24 February 1985 (Hoffman, 1985), 12 December 1993 by James Wheat (West, Wamer, & Pranty, 1994), 27 December 1997 (West, 1998), 20 Nov 2002 at 16th Ave S in Jacksonville Beach (Wamer), and most recently at an Arlington Pond 27 Jan – 3 Feb 2018.

The bird on 27 December 1997 was recorded on the CBC that year in the northernmost ponds of what today is Sheffield Regional Park (R. Rowan, pers comm, 2016). All other reports (except the two most recent) presumably came from Huguenot Memorial Park.

Bufflehead Bucephala albeola
Bufflehead are fairly common each winter from early November through early March, with some records extending into early April. The best places to look for them are Huguenot and the south end of Little Talbot Island SP, and the back pond at Sheffield Regional Park. At Sheffield, park by the athletic fields in the back and walk east along the footpath through the brambles; this will lead you to a very large pond where Bufflehead are found every winter.

Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula
Common Goldeneye are very rare in the county with only a couple of records in the last fifteen years. There is one record from Huguenot Memorial Park on 26 December 2011 and the others are from more interior fresh water ponds around the M&M Dairy area (26 December – 30 January 2000, 27 December 2002 (Clark), 26 December 2011 – 7 January 2012). The most recent record is from a pond off Heckscher Drive beginning 23 December 2016; the bird remained until 4 February 2017 when it was unfortunately found dead along the edge of the pond, apparently a victim of being run over by an observer too eager to drive along the perimeter of the small pond.

Historically, the species was recorded regularly through the 1990’s on the Christmas Bird Count, and before that on CBCs in 1910, 1949, 1952, and 1957. Rowan “spooked” a drake on the CBC in the late ’80’s or early 90’s at Sheffield Park (Rowan, pers comm, 2016).

Hooded Merganser Lophodytes cucullatus
Hooded Mergansers are abundant in winter, and can be found around the second week of November through early April, with a few records in very early June. They are ubiquitous in retention ponds throughout the county.

Common Merganser Mergus merganser
In 1931, Sam Grimes (1943) noted a female in a pond in Jacksonville Beach; he noted a previous record in Mayport dating back to 1926. Two were reported on the 1962 CBC, presumably from Huguenot or perhaps Little Talbot Island. It’s worth mentioning that CBC also had Least Tern and American Golden-Plover with no details and not even marked as unusual (Audubon Field Notes, 1963). In 1966, two more showed up on the CBC tally in a year which six were reported throughout the state (Robertson, 1967).

On 24 November 1976, Noel Wamer reported one from Fort George Inlet (Edscorn, 1977), and Stevenson (1979) included two in the 1978-79 winter report: a female at Huguenot on 31 December 1978 and another on 28 January 1979. The next winter two were reported from the period of 29 December – 18 February 1980 (Stevenson, 1980), and another was reported there on 18 January 1981 (Stevenson, 1981).

Clark reported one at Little Talbot Island SP on 20 November 1995 (Wamer & Pranty, 1996), and Nancy Penny observed one at the mouth of the St. Johns on 27 December 2003 (Anderson, 2004). Since then, there are only two known records: one from behind Kingsley Plantation in April 2007 (Clark), and another from Huguenot Memorial Park in January 2010 (Royce).

Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator
Red-breasted Mergansers are found throughout the winter, from early November through June. They are almost always found in salt or brackish water, so look for them at places like Little Talbot Island SP, Nassau Sound, Huguenot Memorial Park, and from the docks at Cedar Point, Betz Tiger Point, Blue Cypress and Reddie Point Preserve. In winter, you should almost always find them at any of those locations.

Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis
Ruddy Ducks are uncommon in winter but can be found with some effort. They arrive around the middle of October and stay through early March, with some lingering into April. They are very reliable at Hanna Park, Sheffield Park, Perdue Road pond, and around the Trednick Road ponds in Arlington, particularly the one adjacent Wal-Mart. Interestingly enough, there are actually reports of breeding Ruddy Ducks in Duval County –  on 2 June 1964, a female with 6 young were observed at Mayport (Stevenson, 1964). I know of no other breeding records since.