Bird Board

TAS Tour of the Florida Keys and Dry Tortugas, May 2-4

Nine birders joined Paul Bithorn and me for Tropical Audubon’s annual three-day birding tour to the Florida Keys and Dry Tortugas. Though we only encountered a couple of brief rain showers during the tour, we had to deal with brisk winds throughout. While the cool breezes made for comfortable birding conditions on land and even on the ferry ride to the Dry Tortugas, such was not the case on the return voyage to Key West. Sustained northeast winds of 20 mph made the passage through Rebecca Shoals a real roller coaster ride!

Day One of the tour began at Doc Thomas House, where participants saw the first of nineteen species of warblers tallied during the tour. En route to the Keys, we tried for Mangrove Cuckoo at Black Point Park, but none cooperated. Stops in Key Largo included the Card Sound Bridge, Carysfort Circle and Dagny Johnson Botanical State Park. Around Marathon, we birded Grassy Key, Marathon Airport, Sombrero Golf Course, Marathon Government Center, Ohio Key and No Name Key. Several Key Deer were spotted at the latter location. After checking into our Key West hotel and dinner on Stock Island, we made a visit at dusk to Key West Airport, where an Antillean Nighthawk flew across the road inches from the lead van!

Dry Tortugas National Park was our only stop on Day Two. The relatively smooth ride out allowed for excellent sea watching conditions. Pelagic species seen along the way included Northern Gannet, Brown Booby, Audubon’s Shearwater and Bridled Tern; flocks of Sooty Tern and Brown Noddy appeared as we approached the national park. The ferry passed close enough to Hospital Key to allow for spectacular looks at the Masked Booby colony. Once on Garden Key, we scoured every patch of foliage both inside and outside Ft Jefferson, producing a nice selection of neotropic migrants still lingering from a front-related fallout a few days earlier. A cooperative Antillean Nighthawk was photographed inside the fort, another was later found near the north coal docks. An immature White-throated Sparrow, first spotted by Paul and later photographed at the new bird fountain, was the most unexpected find of the day. After several scans for Black Noddy at the north coal docks, we finally hit pay dirt an hour before departure! Though rough seas on the return to Key West minimized sea watching opportunities, eagle-eyed Russ Titus still managed to spot a couple more Audubon’s Shearwaters.

Our morning on Day Three was spent at Ft. Zachary Taylor State Park and Indigenous Park on Key West, where we added a few more migrant songbirds to our trip list. A stop at Boca Chica Key Beach added several shorebirds to our list, including White-rumped Sandpiper. A pre-lunch stop on Sugarloaf Key failed to produce a Mangrove Cuckoo; a possible Acadian Flycatcher was heard while searching. An afternoon stop at Marathon Government Center added Roseate Tern, missed on Day One. We weren’t as lucky at Sombrero Golf Course, once again failing to find a Burrowing Owl. Northern Flicker and Pileated Woodpecker were spotted along the 18-mile stretch between Key Largo and Florida City. A late-afternoon return to Black Point Park finally produced Mangrove Cuckoo, the last Keys specialty we still needed. Two Egyptian Geese were at the Cave Swallow spot at SW 216 Street and Florida’s Turnpike, our last new bird of the tour and a lifer for two participants!

The following 131 species were tallied during the tour:

Egyptian Goose
Muscovy Duck
Pied-billed Grebe
Audubon’s Shearwater
Masked Booby
Brown Booby
Northern Gannet
Brown Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Magnificent Frigatebird
Great Blue Heron (white morph)
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Tricolored Heron
Reddish Egret
Cattle Egret
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
White Ibis
Roseate Spoonbill
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Red-shouldered Hawk
Broad-winged Hawk
Peregrine Falcon
Common Gallinule
Black-bellied Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Black-necked Stilt
Spotted Sandpiper
Solitary Sandpiper
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Ruddy Turnstone
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Western Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
White-rumped Sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher
Laughing Gull
Herring Gull
Royal Tern
Roseate Tern
Least Tern
Bridled Tern
Sooty Tern
Brown Noddy
Black Noddy
Rock Pigeon
White-crowned Pigeon
Eurasian Collared-Dove
White-winged Dove
Mourning Dove
Common Ground-Dove
Red-masked Parakeet
White-eyed Parakeet
Orange-winged Parrot
Black-billed Cuckoo
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Mangrove Cuckoo
Common Nighthawk
Antillean Nighthawk
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Gray Kingbird
Loggerhead Shrike
White-eyed Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Black-whiskered Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Fish Crow
Purple Martin
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Bank Swallow
Cave Swallow
Barn Swallow
Gray-cheeked Thrush
Swainson’s Thrush
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Common Myna
Worm-eating Warbler
Northern Waterthrush
Black-and-white Warbler
Orange-crowned Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Hooded Warbler
American Redstart
Cape May Warbler
Northern Parula
Magnolia Warbler
“Cuban” Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Palm Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
White-throated Sparrow
Scarlet Tanager
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Blue Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Painted Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Boat-tailed Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Sparrow


Nancy Freedman
about 6 years ago

Thanks Brian and Paul. It was a great trip!

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