PINELLAS SPECIALTIES: Pinellas County, located along the western Gulf Coast, has an impressive checklist of 388 verified species. We hope the information given below will be helpful in locating a few of the most sought-after birds. Often times information about these species can be found on the Recent Sightings page. If you're from out-of-town you may be interested in the newly published A Birder's Guide to Pinellas County. It is available at www.Stpeteaudubon.org or at www.Clearwateraudubon.com
DUCKS: There are two species of wild, AOU-recognized ducks that breed in Pinellas and they both can be found year 'round; Wood Duck and Mottled Duck. The former is most often seen at Eagle Lake Park in Largo and at wetlands and small ponds in or around the Brooker Creek Preserve. It is not a common species. Mottled Ducks, meanwhile, are found more frequently but in recent years hybridization with feral Mallards has made the identification of pure Mottled Ducks problematic. Look for entirely yellow bills, no white in the tail and a blue-green speculum with a white bar along the trailing edge. Pure Mottleds are more easily found in the northern half of the county.
Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, though increasing in number in the three adjoining counties, are still big news here. They have not been found to breed and when reported are often around for just a few days, though there are some exceptions to that rule. Reports in recent years have been from the Roosevelt Wetlands, Kapok Park in Clearwater and at Lake Seminole. They are mostly seen between April and September and only casually the rest of the year.
Typical wintering ducks begin to arrive by late October and are mostly gone by the end of March. The best sites for seeing ducks include the north duck pond on Tierra Verde just before reaching Fort De Soto Park, Crescent Lake near downtown St. Petersburg, the Pinellas County Dump Lake off of 118th Avenue in north St. Petersburg and the William E. Dunn Water Reclamation Facility off of Alt. U.S. 19 in northwest Palm Harbor. Marshy areas like the Roosevelt Wetlands, Kapok Park and Lake Seminole Park will often host a few puddle ducks.
MAGNIFICENT FRIGATEBIRD: From mid-April to mid-October frigatebirds are mostly seen at Fort De Soto Park and in lesser numbers at Honeymoon Island State Park and along the beaches. They do not nest here and a few occasionally remain throughout the winter - almost always in the Fort De Soto Park area. After paying the 35-cent bridge toll just before entering Fort De Soto look over to the left (east) and notice the large mangrove island in the distance. This is where they roost throughout the summer. You may park along the road after crossing the bridge or park before reaching the bridge by driving down the little dirt road on the right (can't miss it).
LEAST BITTERN: An uncommon to common breeding species found throughout the county where cattails and shoreline vegetation abounds at freshwater locations. They arrive in early April and can be found quite easily for the most part through August. A few over-winter. Best locations; Lake Seminole Park, Possum Branch Preserve, Carillon Business Center, Roosevelt Wetlands and John Chesnut Park.
ROSEATE SPOONBILL: As beautiful and unique as this species is the visiting birder might be surprised to find one along a roadside ditch or where a retention pond is being dug. They can be seen from your car nesting/roosting at Bird Island at Coffeepot bayou in northeast St. Petersburg, at the ponds at the main traffic light at Tierra Verde, at Fort De Soto Park, Lake Seminole Park and at North Shore Park near downtown St. Petersburg. North county locations such as Honeymoon Island State Park, Philippe Park and Three Rooker Bar (boat access only) are also good possibilities. This species is less common in late fall and winter.
SHORT-TAILED HAWK: Just a few years ago this species was a county rarity, but since they were found nesting at Sawgrass Lake Park in 2008 they are much more often reported. There was no nesting attempt at Sawgrass in 2011 as far as what is known. The best months of the year to see one of these beauties is from late February through July, though one was located for the first time on the St. Petersburg CBC in December 2010. Other locations where this species was seen recently include Kapok Park, Dunedin Hammock and Brooker Creek Preserve, where it may very well nest.
PURPLE GALLINULE: An irregular summer resident with recent sightings noted at the Roosevelt Wetlands, Sawgrass Lake Park and Kapok Park, By no means is this species a guarantee at any time. Watch the Recent Sightings page for it.
LIMPKIN: A decade or so ago this species wasn't nearly as abundant as it is now. Part of the reason may be the exotic and invasive Island apple snail, an easily found food source for Limpkins found throughout the southern half of Florida. The best locations for Limpkin are Kapok Park, Cliff Stephens Park, Lake Seminole Park and John Chesnut Park.
SHOREBIRDS: Pinellas County has plenty of shoreline and thus, shorebirds, especially from August thru April. Check both the East Beach Turnaround and North Beach at Fort De Soto Park, the north end spit at Honeymoon Island State Park or from the viewing platform behind the park's Visitor's Center, the Dunedin Causeway, Lassing Park and North Shore Park near downtown St. Petersburg and the section of beach just before the bridge at the Courtney Campbell Causeway.
WHITE-WINGED DOVE: Only in the past decade has this species become an established breeder in Pinellas County. There are found more easily in spring and summer when it's distinctive "wooing" is heard. The two most reliable locations in St. Petersburg is the 2500 block of 8th Street North and the 1800 block of 12th Street North. In Clearwater they can be found east of McMullen Booth Road at Drew Street, near the entrance to Moccasin Lake Park and also just northeast of Missouri Avenue and Lakeview Road near downtown.
PARAKEETS: Both Monk and Black-hooded Parakeets are widespread in Pinellas with the Black-hooded perhaps a bit more prevalent in the southern end of the county. Monk Parakeets build large colonial stick nests that can be found at water towers, electrical substations, light poles at ballfields and also at the base of some Osprey platforms. Black-hooded Parakeets are cavity nesters and often utilize abandoned woodpecker holes and especially those within dying or dead palm trees. Both species are very noisy and are usually heard before they are seen.
You may find Monk Parakeets at Dunedin Hammock, downtown Clearwater, Cliff Stephens Park, Crescent Lake Park, Pass-A-Grille and at any local ballfield. Black-hooded Parakeets can be found in and around Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, Gulfport Marina, Dunedin Hammock and especially at Lassing Park located at the east end of 22nd Avenue Southeast in St. Petersburg.
A third species of parakeet, the Blue-crowned Parakeet, is also a free-flying species found in Pinellas, but so far the population doesn't seem to have expanded much beyond 50 or so individuals.
MANGROVE CUCKOO: There is no reliable site to find Mangrove Cuckoo in Pinellas County. When they are reported it is usually between April and June and often times at migrant traps like Fort De Soto park or Honeymoon Island State Park. Years ago this species nested at those locations. Weedon Island Preserve hosted a breeding pair (or two!) a decade or so ago, but that does not seem to be the case any longer. These three locations, as well as at Caladesi Island and the area between the Gandy Bridge and the St. Petersburg / Clearwater Airport, have enough habitat to host a Mangrove Cuckoo pair, but much of it is inaccessible.
BLACK-WHISKERED VIREO: As far as what is known this species has not nested in Pinellas County since the late 1990s. Habitat does exists, but so do Brown-headed Cowbirds. Almost every spring one is seen during migration at either Fort De Soto Park or Honeymoon Island State Park.
BROWN-HEADED NUTHATCH: This habitat-restricted species was thought to be extirpated as a Pinellas breeding species until a family was found at the north section of Brooker Creek Preserve in early June 2011. This area is not open to the public. Unless extensive pine forest management takes place at Brooker (the only location where any habitat actually exists for this species) the chances of you seeing this species in Pinellas is slim and none.
WARBLERS: Only five species of warblers nest in Pinellas; Northern Parula (common, almost anywhere north county), Pine Warbler (uncommon, John Chesnut Park and Brooker Creek Preserve), Yellow-throated Warbler (uncommon, John Chesnut Park), Prairie Warbler (uncommon, Weedon Island Preserve & Honeymoon Island State Park) and Common Yellowthroat (uncommon, Brooker Creek Preserve).
However, during both spring and fall migration many species of warblers can be found. In fact, 42 different species have been documented in Pinellas. Spring migration is primarily from April through the first week of May with the best sites being Fort De Soto Park and Honeymoon Island State Park.
In the fall the warbler migration can often be just as spectacular as spring. Fall migration lasts much longer, from mid-August through the end of October. The best locations besides the two noted above are John Chesnut Park, Dunedin Hammock, Sawgrass Lake Park and Boyd Hill Nature Preserve.
SPARROWS: Contrary to what you might find in a range map Bachman's Sparrows no longer breed in Pinellas. The last singing males found at the Brooker Creek Preserve was in 1997. Like the Brown-headed Nuthatch, it will take pine forest management to bring them back.
In winter the most abundant sparrow species found in Pinellas County is the Savannah. It prefers open areas like what are available at Fort De Soto Park and Honeymoon Island State Park. Next in abundance is the Swamp Sparrow, found just about anywhere there are thickets and along water edges with heavy vegetation.
All of the other species are hit and miss during either migration or the occasional over-winterer. The exception would be the two species with the sharp-tailed sparrow complex; Saltmarsh and Nelson's. They can be found uncommonly where there is cordgrass and spartina, a habitat that is much restricted in the Tampa Bay area. The best locations are the north end of both Fort De Soto Park and Honeymoon Island State Park, Shell Key and Caladesi Island's north tip. Please be mindful of the habitat and do not walk through it. When not disturbed the birds are easily "squeaked up" into view.