This spring we have noticed surprisingly large numbers of small birds in our yard and the nearby neighborhoods of Anna Maria Island. We become so used to the larger great blue herons, pelicans, ospreys, egrets, ibises and wood storks that the small birds have become of particular interest.
Several kinds of smaller birds are permanent residents of the island, or visit here often. The loud, gregarious parakeets that fly overhead seem to fluctuate in numbers. We suspect that may have to do with nesting trees being cut, in particular, along the main road in Anna Maria. For whatever the reason, it was not unusual several years ago to see large flocks of these green parakeets overhead, or on a tree or building. Now they appear much less often.
The doves can be heard cooing, and often perch on powerlines along the street. They also perch on deck railings and seem to like our Bahama shutter supports.
Mockingbirds are the state bird of Florida. If you are going to have only a limited number of songbirds in your neighborhood, it’s wonderful if one of them is a mockingbird. This cheerful-sounding bird rattles off a wide variety of songs, giving the impression that there are many kinds of birds in the area.
From time to time we see small dull-colored birds that have a hint of gold on them and flick their tails. The tail flicking is the sign that these are palm warblers. This spring we notice another bird that looks similar, but has a brighter yellow color as well as a black eye band. These probably are common yellowthroats. There have been lots of them around for the past few days.
Crows can seem like a nuisance, especially if there are lots of them around. They must be admired for their high intelligence, but sometimes they are quite aggressive toward other birds. The other day we watched a crow following an osprey, for a very long time, very close to it. The osprey was carrying a fish. The crow chased it until, finally, they both disappeared across the bay into the mangroves. We’ve also watched crows attack a fledgling great blue heron on its first flight. The poor heron chick was dive-bombed repeatedly when it landed in a ficus near the crows’ nest, but it eventually managed to fly back to its own tree.
Speaking of black birds, on a recent walk we were startled to find a very small black bird with a white wing bar and white bottom fluttering around in the dead leaves of the path to the beach. We were afraid the bird was injured, but it finally flew away. We have not been able to identify it and have never seen anything like it. Please let us know if you have any idea what kind of bird this might have been.
One of my favorite small birds is the cardinal. We hear their syrupy calls from time to time on Anna Maria Island. It’s always a pleasure to spot one, especially the bright red male.
Whether you reside on or visit Anna Maria Island there are plenty of birds of all sizes to watch.