Past The 1000 mark




We banded our 1000th bird over the weekend, a Common yellowthroat, shown here with the Sunday crew. We hit this mark a little bit earlier than usual due to steady days of banding activity. Daily captures have been generally ranging between the mid teens and 60something, with 77 birds banded on Sept 22 due to overnight rain over the Atlantic coming up and intercepting south-bound migrants near Cape Florida. There seems to be a steady stream of migrants moving through the area overnight and the amount we capture each day seems related to the position and intensity of nocturnal convection over the Gulf Stream. A front is finally forecast to come down Florida this week, but so far it appears that the front will not make it as far south as here, so we continue with the hot humid days for the forseeable future. Still, it could launch a large flight of birds in our direction that then keep going past it, unless there is heavy rain along the boundary.


New species are in the neighborhood with the pre-dawn skies filled with Swainson’s thrush calls and the nets continue to fill up with Ovenbirds. This particular one was originally banded here in 2012 and is returning for at least a fourth winter. Many Ovenbirds overwinter in the woods at Cape Florida.

Here are some more photo highlights of recent days: an adult male Chestnut-sided warbler in fall plumage from Saturday….


….and a Yellow-throated warbler, also banded Saturday.

YTWA 2 092416_MA.JPG

Top 10 as of Sept 26:

1050 total captures of 35 species

  1. Ovenbird -247
  2. American redstart -180
  3. Worm-eating warbler -152 (previous high 142 in 2014)
  4. Black & white warbler -99
  5. Northern waterthrush -80
  6. Black-throated blue warbler -60
  7. Blue-gray gnatcatcher -42
  8. Common yellowthroat -39
  9. Swainson’s warbler -28
  10. Prairie warbler -27
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Local Specialties

We have caught 629 birds of 30 species as of Sept 15. Migration slowed down through our region in the last week, but a large new wave of birds was making its way down the state and had arrived at the latitude of Melbourne and Cape Canaveral by sunrise this morning. We are hoping these birds will be over Miami tomorrow morning and that some will stop by the hammock at Cape Florida, although there is little chance of overnight rain showers to encourage more to land. The second half of September is normally when migration really gets rolling, and the diversity of captures increases. Our first thrush, a Veery, also arrived today.


We have banded two of our local specialties this season. It is very unusual to catch Black-whiskered vireos in the fall at our location (springtime is a different matter) but a male was still singing around the netting area when we opened up in August. We eventually caught him on the 3rd of September. They are very similar to the Red-eyed vireo, but with a longer bill, browner overall plumage and, of course, the black whisker.


Yesterday we banded our second ever Mangrove cuckoo, with the first banded just last year. This species seems to be increasing at the park in the last several years, possibly as the trees planted since Hurricane Andrew (1992) have grown and matured. This bird was a hatching-year in heavy molt and was not in migratory condition yet, indicating that he is local.

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Worm-eating warbler days


We always seem to post photos of birds like this, an adult female Kentucky warbler, because they are unusual and get everybody’s attention. However, the last few days have looked more like this:


Worm-eating warblers and Black & white warblers have been moving through in good numbers; in fact Worm-eating is our number one capture for the season right now as we close in on 500 birds banded so far. They are early migrants and their numbers will be exceeded by Ovenbirds , Black-throated blue warblers and American redstarts as the season wears on. Worm-eating warblers have a unique head pattern among North American wood warblers and are specialists at picking insects out of dead rolled-up leaves.

Here are totals for yesterday and today:

Sept 6/7
TOTALS: 60/67
Worm-eating warbler: 21/20
Black & white warbler: 10/19
Ovenbird: 11/11
American redstart: 9/5
Northern waterthrush: 4/2
Black-throated blue warbler: 2/2
Swainson’s warbler: 0/3
Prairie warbler: 1/0
Yellow-throated vireo: 1/0
Yellow-throated warbler: 1/0
Common yellowthroat: 0/1
Kentucky warbler: 0/1
Northern cardinal: 0/1
Northern parula: 0/1
Traill’s flycatcher: 0/1


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A great start to the season!

We banded this American redstart today that may be a gynandromorph; a bird with both male and female characteristics. This condition can be caused by a bird possessing both testes and ovaries. We have captured several Black-throated blue warblers with this plumage aberration over the years, but this is the first redstart we have seen. The bird looks largely like an adult male, but has a grayer wash to the head, some green and orange in the back, and the flight feathers are brownish rather than black.

Abundant nighttime rainfall was largely responsible for the respectable 225 birds banded in late August. The popcorn Gulf Stream thunderstorms usually died down shortly after sunrise so we were able to run the nets, although some days were soggier than others. Nothing unusual was moving through the area, but it will be interesting to see if circulation around the backside of TS Hermine brings us a larger pulse of migrants later this week. Early-season migrants generally seem to move down in a steady, light stream and are less front-driven, probably because fronts rarely make it this far south in August. The flow of migrants will keep building up throughout September and peak in early to mid-October.


August Total: 225 birds of 17 species

American redstart: 49

Worm-eating warbler: 33

Ovenbird: 30

Black-and-white warbler: 27

Blue-gray gnatcatcher: 24

Northern waterthrush: 23

Prairie warbler: 10

Common grackle: 8

Northern cardinal: 6

Black-throated blue warbler: 4

Swainson’s warbler; 3

Yellow-billed cuckoo: 2

Northern parula: 2

Alder flycatcher: 1

Great crested flycatcher: 1

Red-eyed vireo: 1

Prothonotary warbler: 1

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Fall 2016 season underway


The banding station opened on August 16 with 3 birds captured while the nets were set up. Since then there has been a steady stream of migrants heading down through south Florida, with American redstarts and Black-and-white warblers among the most abundant. Rainy overnight weather in recent days has intercepted the southbound migrants, and most of our captures have been very fat. They will stay here and wait for better weather before continuing on south. Oddly, as a much-anticipated tropical wave approached us and finally made tropical depression status south of Key West, the weather today was the sunniest it has been all week. 153 birds banded so far!

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Wrapping up a fantastic fall season!

We certainly can’t tell that fall is turning into winter by our weather; it is still steamy out and we did not have a single cool morning the whole season. The final week was excruciatingly slow as we only banded between 4 to 6 birds a day. We waited for a windshift associated with a dissipating front to pass through before shutting the station down completely on Nov 11, and we were rewarded with a couple of new species for the season and we passed the 2300 mark for only the second time ever in 14 falls of banding. There are likely more late neotropical migrants to the north of us still because of the unusual weather.

MYWA 5_111115_MPThe above photo shows three Myrtle warblers; a hatching-year female on the right and two hatching-year males on the left. This is the common wintering warbler species in the southern US, and they can persist much farther north than other warblers because they can digest the wax coating on waxmyrtle fruit. Myrtle warblers are also very flexible in their foraging techniques so they can utilize most available food sources.

Below are two more signs of ‘winter’ in south Florida. The left bird is a Blue-headed vireo originally banded by us in spring of 2014, so he is returning for at least his third winter in BBCFSP. We don’t band too many of these in the fall, but they are fairly abundant in the woods by late winter and early spring (we only have banded in spring for 5 seasons in collaboration with researchers). The bird on the right is a Savannah sparrow who missed our nets but got us all excited anyways because sparrows of any species are unusual at Cape Florida until later in November or December.BHVI-4_111015_DSSAVS 3_111115_RD

SEASON TOTAL: 2318 birds of 66 species

  1. Black-throated blue warbler: 386
  2. Ovenbird: 370
  3. Gray catbird: 269
  4. American redstart: 266
  5. Common yellowthroat: 172
  6. Worm-eating warbler: 131
  7. Black & white warbler: 107
  8. Northern waterthrush: 82
  9. Northern parula: 56
  10. Painted bunting: 55
  11. Prairie warbler: 53
  12. Red-eyed vireo: 38
  13. Western palm warbler: 35
  14. Swainson’s warbler: 34
  15. Swainson’s thrush: 32
  16. White-eyed vireo: 30
  17. Blue-gray gnatcatcher: 26
  18. Northern cardinal: 22
  19. Magnolia warbler: 13
  20. Chuck-will’s widow: 12
  21. Gray-cheeked thrush: 11
  22. Indigo bunting: 11
  23. Traill’s flycatcher: 10
  24. Great crested flycatcher: 6
  25. Wood thrush: 6
  26. Cape May warbler: 6
  27. Hooded warbler: 6
  28. Veery: 5
  29. Acadian flycatcher: 4
  30. Tennessee warbler: 4
  31. Common ground-dove: 3
  32. Eastern wood-pewee: 3
  33. Alder flycatcher: 3
  34. Myrtle warbler: 3
  35. Prothonotary warbler: 3
  36. Rose-breasted grosbeak: 3
  37. Sharp-shinned hawk: 2
  38. Cooper’s hawk: 2
  39. Red-bellied woodpecker: 2
  40. Northern mockingbird: 2
  41. House wren: 2
  42. Blackpoll warbler: 2
  43. Louisiana waterthrush: 2
  44. Kentucky warbler: 2
  45. Summer tanager: 2
  46. Scarlet tanager: 2

and single individuals of the following species:

Green heron, Red-shouldered hawk, White-crowned pigeon, Mangrove cuckoo, Eastern phoebe, Eastern kingbird, Gray kingbird, Blue-headed vireo, Yellow-throated vireo, Gray-cheeked/Bicknell’s thrush intergrade, Brown thrasher, Blue-winged warbler, Nashville warbler, Yellow warbler, Chestnut-sided warbler, Black-throated green warbler, Blackburnian warbler, Bay-breasted warbler, probable MacGillivray’s warbler, Yellow-breasted chat, and Lincoln’s sparrow.

WCPI 4_102715_RD

A huge THANKS to all the volunteers that make the Cape Florida Banding Station happen. The amount of dedication and the hard work you all put in is incredible! Another huge THANKS to all the Adopt-A-Net sponsors without which we would not be able to replace worn nets and other equipment as easily.

SWTH_103115_MAYou can go now. Good luck and enjoy your migrations!

-Michelle Davis

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Old bird!

This Northern cardinal is 2 months older than the boy holding him!

Lucas is same age_MP

We have had a good year for returning birds, defined as birds banded by us during other seasons. (We call birds banded by others but captured by us recoveries.) 23 birds of 9 species were returns in 2015 so far. Five Northern cardinals and 3 Common ground doves are residents that stay at BBCFSP year-round, while the balance were birds that came to spend the winter here from points north. These wintering birds include 7 Ovenbirds, 2 Gray catbirds, 2 Common yellowthroats, and one each of Blue-gray gnatcatcher, Black-and-white warbler, and Western palm warbler. The returning Great crested flycatcher could be either a resident or a winter visitor.

Return data gives us information about the longevity of birds in the wild and about the suitability of the habitat for overwintering. BBCFSP has proven over the years to be an excellent location for Ovenbirds to spend the winter, and they usually make up most of the non-resident returns. Some of these birds live to be fairly old and return here year after year. The oldest individual we have caught so far is the Northern cardinal pictured above; he was banded as a hatching-year bird in Sept 2005, making him 10 years old. The record known age for a Northern cardinal is the wild is 16 years! The Ovenbirds were all originally banded between 2010 and 2014, the catbirds are from 2010 and 2011, and the balance were mostly from 2013 and 2014.

RSHA 6_110115_MP

We had a little bit of excitement the other day when a Red-shouldered hawk hit one of the nets, carrying with it iguana prey. We were able to grab the bird and band it, although we had to release this powerful bird before a lot of photos were taken. These talons can hurt!

RSHA taking flight_MA

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