Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Lower Suwannee Waterfowl, Part 1

Years ago, when boning up for my new job as Staff Specialist for Migratory Bird Research in the Fish and Wildlife Service, I quickly learned that Florida is not a hotspot for wintering ducks, geese, or swans. 

Now that we live in north Florida, we occasionally see wood ducks and mottled ducks, both year-round residents. The only snowbirds we have routinely noted are small rafts of lesser scaup, seen near Cedar Key, and frequent and abundant hooded mergansers on freshwater ponds around Gainesville.

An exception was our sighting on a freshwater pond on the Lower Suwannee NWR of what in the distance appeared to be pintails. They stayed far enough away to make identification difficult. One did come close enough for us to take a fuzzy photo, which appeared to confirm the identification. Still other photos kindly provided by Tom Liebert revealed at least two additional species. I will post information about them later, when identifications have been confirmed. Meanwhile, I hope that others will add their observations.

Freshwaer pond on the refuge; zoom in to see what we believe is a pintail
A glance at the FWS graphics below offers clues why Florida is not more important for wintering waterfowl. The species breeding abundantly in the Prairie Pothole region--the continent's "duck factory"--winter in the lower Mississippi region. Lesser numbers breed in the northeast, and most winter along the mid-Atlantic coast.

Mississippi Flyway
Atlantic Flyway

1 comment:

  1. The promised Lower Suwannee Waterfowl, Part 2 may not be forthcoming soon. I visited the pond last week, and where weeks before there had been hundreds of birds including waterfowl, only a single great egret was to be seen.