Questions & Answers

Where can I find a "Field Checklist of Birds of Hillsborough County"?

Can you tell me about the hummingbirds found here?
What do I do when I find a gopher tortoise crossing a busy road?
What do I do if I find an injured bird?
How do I Rescue a Sick, Injured or Baby Raptor?
How do I Locate a Wildlife Rehabilitator?
What do I do if I find a bird covered in oil?
How can we identify birds local to this area by their song?
What kind of raptors were hanging out at the top of the Sun Life Tower and cruising over downtown Tampa?
We wanted to let Audubon know we saw 2 Ivory Billed Woodpeckers in Seffner, Florida (since they're said to be extinct).
I had a huge problem on my farm with migrating cedar waxwings. What can I do?
I don't know what happened in what is usually a peaceful little pond this morning, but all these birds just came out of nowhere!
The 2 feeders in my backyard used to be so active, but no more. What happened?
I'm visiting Tampa and looking for good birding spots.
I spotted a black-bellied tree duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis) in the Mosaic restoration area just north of the Alafia and thought you might want to know about it.
This bird attacks doves in our neighborhood - was is it?
We have large black ducks with red heads that we cannot identify. Can you help?
We have a baby bird from a fallen nest. Where can we take it?
Can you confirm this is a red breasted grossbeak? Will it stick around?
Can you confirm that this a pileated woodpecker and the rarity of it appearing in this very suburban environment?
Do you know what has happened to the sandhill cranes?
I'm being awakened early in the morning by the song of a Whip-poor-will. How can I make it go away?
I'm seeing a bird at my feeder that looks like the Asia-based pin-tailed parrot finch - What could it be?
What are some ways to protect birds from colliding into large expanses of glass?
Can you tell me more about the best Florida birding festivals?
I live in Northern Hillsborough, Odessa, and wondered if the Audubon is interested in the small bird count I have in my back yard?
How is a "fish hawk" or "fisher hawk" different from an osprey?


Where can I find a "Field Checklist of Birds of Hillsborough County"??

Click here for the list in pdf format.

Can you tell me about the hummingbirds found here?

Read all about the hummingbirds in this area here and find out about the the kind of things you want to be planting in the late spring/early summer to attract them to your yard during their winter migration south. 

What Do I Do When I Find a Gopher Tortoise Crossing a BUSY ROAD?

April and May are Gopher Tortoise breeding and nesting season so often times tortoise are on the move searching for mates or more suitable habitat. As more and more of our natural land gets developed, Gopher Tortoise (a species in decline) are caught in a grid of roadways. This unfortunately leads to Gopher Tortoise trying to cross busy streets. What should you do if you find a Gopher Tortoise crossing a road and it appears to be in danger or injured? Here are 5 things to remember. 

  1. If the tortoise is not injured and simply needs assistance making it across a busy road to safe habitat on the other side, simply pick it up and move it in the direction it was going across the road.

  2. If the Gopher Tortoise is in grave danger with roads and development on all sides, contain the turtle safely out of harms way and call FWC at 850-487-3796 to find your nearest Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission regional office and have them address moving the turtle to a safe living area. Do not take the turtle with you.

  3. If the Gopher Tortoise is injured you may pick it up and transport it for treatment to a veterinarian. Or call the nearest Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission regional office to find a wildlife rehabilitator in your area.

  4. Do not put the tortoise in the water. Gopher Tortoise live on high, dry land.

Q. What do I do if I find an injured bird?

If you need help rescuing a injured bird:

Hillsborough County

Nancy Murrah 813-205-1851
Barb Walker 727-798-2385

Pasco / Pinellas County

Barb Walker 727-798-2385

Polk County

Reinier Munguia 863-797-7374

Q. How so I Rescue a Sick, Injured or Baby Raptor?

Q. How do I Locate a Wildlife Rehabilitator?

Q. What do I do if I find a bird covered in oil?

An Important Reminder: washing, handling, and other rehab efforts for all the affected birds and other wildlife is being handled by trained professionals (not volunteers). Audubon volunteers are doing a number of support activities for those professionals, and we are putting local volunteers ahead of anyone else in that process due to the emergency and often logistically challenging nature of the requests that we receive for help. Please understand that this will be a long-term investment of our time and resources and we expect to need volunteer assistance for months to come.

Q. How can we identify birds local to this area by their song?

A: The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology has an excellent email-available "library" of birds and bird songs that you can listen to "on line". I recommend also that you check the Florida Ornithological Society website for the list of birds that have been observed in Florida. That will help you narrow down the bird songs to consider on the Cornell website as possibly singing in your yard. Check out some of the birds that nest here, as Carolina Wren, Red-eyed Vireo, and Prothonotary and Parula Warblers, among others. You can also eliminate the herons, gulls, ducks, owls, hawks, and some of the other major families, as they don't sing in this way. This might leave you with less than 100 species to check, but that's not too bad a chore, I think.

Hope this helps.
Ann Paul

Q: What kind of raptors were hanging out at the top of the Sun Life Tower and cruising over the downtown Tampa area?

A: Downtown Tampa, and also Miami and Atlanta, have tall buildings with sharp drops and strong updrafts, almost like angular cliffs would be, if we had those in Florida. During the winter, when many turkey and black vultures migrate south, these tall buildings become popular roost sites for these "snow birds". The vultures spread out over the adjacent counties during the day, travelling far to look for carrion. But at night, they need a safe spot to sleep, and the downtown tall buildings offer that. In addition, the strong updrafts created by the temperatures of concrete streets below, make it super easy and efficient for vultures to become airborne. From the ground, it's a lot of work to beat wings to gain flight speed. From the top of a tall building in Tampa with a nice updraft, it's just a factor of spreading wings and gliding away, no energy required. Plus, no predators up there, no coyotes, foxes, or raccoons that might be interested in a free meal, even if it is a vulture.

There are other winter roosts in our area that are popular for wintering vultures, including Audubon's Alafia Banks Bird Sanctuary, located in Hillsborough Bay, and a mangrove forest located on Tampa Electric property near Newman Branch, just south of the Big Bend power plant. Where people develop houses near sites that vultures have used for winter roosts in the past, we get some real conflicts, as the new human neighbors usually are not too happy when the visiting vultures which might have used that spot for a long time each winter, come south for the winter.

Of course, the reason that vultures migrate south is that it's hard to find carrion to eat when the world is snow-covered. Generally, most of these winter visitors will be gone to hunting carrion northward when it warms up in New England, Ohio, and Canada again.

Thanks for your interesting observation!
Ann Paul

Q: We wanted to let Audubon know we saw 2 Ivory Billed Woodpeckers in Seffner, Florida (since they're said to be extinct).

A: Thank you for your note and enthusiasm about seeing some woodpeckers in your yard in Seffner. Because Ivory-billed Woodpeckers have not been seen anywhere in Florida for over 70 years, I would suggest to you that the birds you saw in a neighborhood, probably working the old oak and palm trees, were Pileated Woodpeckers, large, handsome crested woodpeckers related to Ivory-billeds. I always feel privileged to see Pileated Woodpeckers. They are so attractive. The males have sport the red crest, as do the females, but the males also have red all the way from the crest to their bill across the top of their heads, and a red whisker-line below their cheeks. Pileateds have all black backs, and a dashing white stripe down the side of their face and neck, with white on the underside of their wings. Flight is swooping, with wing-beats interspersed with glides. They prefer mixed forests with older trees. They eat ants, termites, larvae of wood-boring beetles, and fruits and nuts. The main territorial call is a high pitched kuk kuk keekeekeekeekeekkuk. They will also drum sharply for territorial defense. They make their nests in a dead tree cavity or in the dead branch hole of a live tree, although sometimes they will use a power pole, about 15-80 feet above the ground.

Neat bird!
Ann Paul

Q: I had a huge problem on my farm with migrating cedar waxwings. What can I do?

A: Last winter we had a weather pattern that brought flocks of Cedar Waxwings to winter in our part of Florida. In many years, that pattern doesn't develop -- we'll have other flocks of birds, as robins plaguing the strawberry farmers. I am sorry that your farm was so targeted by the waxwings last year, and I know that your solution of netting is difficult and expensive. I don't know what to offer about the neighboring developer, except to contact your local agricultural extension office for assistance.

Migrating hawks are moving through Florida now for their fall migration southward, but what you need are hawks that stay around when the blueberries are ripening. Ospreys are largely fish eaters, so they generally won't help you deter birds. Bird-eating hawks in our area of Florida include Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks, that nest in wood lots with taller trees, often taking over squirrel nests, where there are clearings nearby. Red-shouldered Hawks eat birds, but generally nest near wetlands and rivers in our part of Florida, in tall deciduous trees. Short-tailed Hawks eat birds, but they are relatively rare in our area, maybe increasing, but probably not a target to help you. Red-tailed Hawks eat birds but mostly mammals, and use high perches next to open fields to forage for prey. It might be useful to put up boxes for Southeastern American Kestrels, if you have tall posts overlooking open fields. They require boxes with exacting dimensions, but this is something I could mail you (let me know) or you could look up on the internet. Kestrels in Florida are actually listed by the Wildlife Commission because their populations are limited due to loss of pine flatwoods next to open prairies, providing holes appropriate for nesting. They eat bugs, small insects, and some small birds.

I don't have an answer for how to attract regularly foraging hawks. Some people who have a lot of bird feeders find that hawks will target the smaller birds coming to their feeders (usually we get calls from them about the hawk predation at their feeders).

One thing you might consider is contacting falconers, and offering your property as a place where they could fly their birds. Falconers always need exercise locations. Steve Peacock (work #727/849-7588) could perhaps put you in contact with local falconers.

I hope this helps.
Ann Paul

Q: I don't know what happened in what is usually a peaceful little pond this morning, but all these birds just came out of nowhere!

birds in a pondA: Interesting pictures! (click on photo) What happened is that the draw-down in your pond got to the point that there were so many fish per square foot of water that it became easy to catch fish, and these birds are more or less cooperating to eat as many fish as they can catch, through all of their various hunting techniques -- cormorants are diving and chasing the schools of fish up to the surface, where the white pelicans are dipping out bill-fulls, and the cormorants and pelicans (using their big orange feet) combined are schooling the fish over to the shorelines, where the herons and egrets can take advantage. Unfair to fish, but good for the next line of the food chain. We call this a mixed species foraging cooperative activity. Of course, each bird is acting more or less independently, for its own advantage. It's just that their individual feeding strategies overlap to the benefit of the birds and to the disadvantage of the fish. How neat that you can see it happening, right before your eyes!

The birds will reduce the fish population, until it is harder to take advantage of the abundance, and the remainder will be the ones who repopulate the pond for the next time. This also means that, as the water warms this spring, and since warm water holds less oxygen, the fish remaining in the pond will not die from lack of oxygen in the pond water due to over-population.

Thanks for sharing!
Ann Paul

Q: My 2 feeders in my backyard used to be active, but no more. What happened?

A: The broad answer is, I don't know why the birds are not visiting the feeders in your yard.

I do know that you are not the only one who is reporting the lack of birds at feeders recently -- others are seeing this as well, including over in Tampa and Brandon.

It might be that there are so many berries and seeds ripening in the woods right now (December) that the birds are taking advantage of this very healthy seasonal bounty, and will be back at your feeders when the pickings get leaner again. Do you provide water, a bird bath, in your yard? It is very dry now and providing fresh water might be a good thing for your local wildlife.

Another factor might be stray cats. I have one hanging around my yard, and have noticed fewer birds in my yard, probably as a result. If you have outside cats, you might want to trap them (you can borrow a trap from the Animal Control office) and take them to the pound. I like cats, myself, and have two that live in my house with me, but outside in Florida, cats are skillful wildlife killers, and not native to our ecosystem. Those of us who love birds and other Florida wildlife understand that wild "feral" domestic cats are a dangerous hazard.

Anyway, don't give up! Your wildlife will return.
Good luck!
Ann Paul

Q: I'm visiting Tampa and looking for good birding spots.

A: If I were you, and visiting Tampa for a few days, I'd go to the following places to bird watch:

  1. Be sure to check the 'Great Places to Go Birding in HIllsborough County' document.
  2. Lettuce Lake Park, east of the USF campus off of Fletcher Avenue, west of Interstate 75 about 1 mile. Great boardwalk through the bottomland swamps of the Hillsborough River.
  3. Canoe the Hillsborough River. Rent a canoe from Canoe Escape, east of Interstate 75 on Fowler Avenue. Do the Flint Creek-Sargent Park stretch (about 2 1/2 hr.). It's lovely, wild, scenic, birdy.
  4. Go back to Ft. De Soto County Park at the South End of Pinellas County (St. Petersburg). Always good stuff to see there.
  5. Honeymoon Isl. State Park. Ask at the Ranger station for recent bird sightings.
  6. Along the Courtney Campbell Causeway, use the access roads, look for shorebirds, wading birds, ducks.
  7. Grand Hyatt Westshore. Go out on the boardwalk to the bay -- choose a mid tide period. Eat a meal or drink something in the bar, so you are a proper "guest".
  8. Take a ride to Shell Key from Merry Pier on South St. Peter Beach. Call Alva Sholty of the Shell Key Shuttle to arrange the trip.
  9. During the winter, when the bay water is cold, manatees congregate at the Manatee Viewing Center at the west end of Apollo Beach Road west of Interstate 75 north of Ruskin.

Have fun!
Ann Paul

Q. I spotted a black-bellied tree duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis) in the Mosaic restoration area just north of the Alafia and thought you might want to know about it.

A: Thanks for this report. I saw two at Medard Park two weeks ago, too! They are expanding in this section of Florida.

Bill Robertson and Glen Woolfenden's book, Florida Bird Species, 1992, discusses this directly with the conclusion that this species is colonizing Florida and will be slowly expanding its range, and is very possibly due from natural spread, and not necessarily from escapees. Thanks,
Ann Paul

Coopers HawkQ: We took digital photos of this bird in a pine tree in our yard. It has attacked doves in our neighborhood and we are not sure what species it is. Can you identify it?

A: This looks like a Cooper's Hawk. They are forest hawks, small and able to dark through forests and understories. They are bird-eating specialists, and I think the increase in non-native Eurasian Collared Doves in Florida is helping to foster an increased population of these hawks too. Nice bird.
Ann Paul

Q: We have large black ducks with red heads that we cannot identify. Can you help?

A: These might be Muscovy ducks, purchased at pet stores, etc. for Easter, and then when they grow up, released to live in ponds, or raised as domestic ducks. Now Muscovy breed in our area. Normally, Muscovy ducks are native to Mexico, and live there and further south into Central America, and are not part of North American bird populations. So look up Muscovy ducks in your bird book. Muscovy ducks can have iridescent green/black feathers on their wings and also a lot of white and other colors mixed into the plumage pattern. They have fleshy reddish colored regions on their heads, near their beaks.

They can breed with our native mottled ducks and with mallard ducks (mallards are also introduced as breeders to our local ponds -- normally mallards are more northern ducks, but are "taught" to migrate north by their parents -- baby mallards raised here and released into our ponds, don't know they are supposed to fly north to breed!).

The issue is that these animals interbreed with our native mottled ducks, that are supposed to live in Florida, and biologists are very concerned that soon we will not have any real "pure" mottled ducks left, that all of them will have mated or be the offspring of either mallard or Muscovy/mottled parents. This means that we will have lost some of our natural Florida heritage. Hope this answers your questions.
Ann Paul

Q: I'm hoping that someone in your organization can help. A truck backed into a tree outside my girlfriend's house and knocked out a nest. We recovered one of the baby birds after deciding that the mother was nowhere to be found. It is a common brown bird--one that you see on just about any tree or power-line in town. The bird seems uninjured, is covered completely by feathers, but it's tail feathers seem rather short. It moves both wings freely, has taken water, and has a strong grasp.

Since neither of us have experience in caring for birds, we are trying to locate someone who does. I would be happy to bring the bird anywhere in the Tampa area.

Please contact me at your earliest convenience if you have any suggested contacts.

A: It sounds from your excellent description as if the baby bird is nearly fledged (i.e., ready to take care of itself, fly away on its own). But the parent birds know that it needs food for a couple more days to be a successful adult. They have invested a lot of time and energy to get this baby to this stage in its life. They are in the area (as territorial animals, they are always there), and will feed it if you return it to near the tree that was hit by the truck. Place it as high in the tree or nearby shrubs as you can. It will call for help, and its parents will respond.

If this doesn't work (and it might take an hour or two for them to find the youngster -- and imagine their surprise!), then try to call one of the following rehabilitators (the Wildlife Commission provides a list of licensed professionals who are kind enough to do this work):

  • Suzanne Topar, Lutz, 979-1955
  • Steven Davis, Dover, 689-4075
  • Dr. Santa Cruz, Brandon, 685-7751
  • Dr. Wellborn, Temple Terrace, 988-1189
  • Dr. Webster, Tampa, 933-6609

Good luck!
Ann Paul

rosebreast Q: I was wondering if you could confirm that this is a red breasted grossbeak. I have seen them at my feeders for the past three days now. A male and female. I thought they were migratory, but is it possible they will stay around? Thanks.

A: Yes, it is a rose-breasted grosbeak, a male. They are coming through Florida on their way back north to breeding territories in Maryland north to Canada, and west to the Mississippi region. It's great that they visited your feeders!

Ann Paul

pileated woodpecker Q: I've lived in the Dana Shores area of Tampa for about 15 years and have seen several species of woodpecker but this one really caught my attention. Can you confirm that this a pileated woodpecker and also tell me about the rarity of this particular woodpecker in this very suburban environment. I shot the picture in front of my mother's house this morning and have been both fascinated and curious about this bird, not just in its coloring but also its huge size. Thanks for any information you can give me.

A: This is an adult Pileated Woodpecker, our largest woodpecker in North America, unless the species believed long-extinct is verified as still alive, the Ivory-billed. This is not an Ivory-billed. Pileated Woodpeckers are fairly common residents in the eastern portion of North America and also live across portions of Southern Canada and even along the California coast. They are spectacular woodpecker, which eat grubs and carpenter ants, by excavating large rectangular holes. They nest in cavities made in dead trees in older forest segments. They are known residents all over Hillsborough County, and it is a pleasure to share habitats with them. Nice bird.

Thanks for your letter!
Ann Paul

Q: Do you know what has happened to the sandhill cranes? Back during the winter we had about 12 that came into our neighborhood looking for food. Little by little it dwindled down to 3 to 5 cranes. A week ago we had only 1 crane. We sure do miss them. Everyone in our neighborhood kind of looked out for them. When they flew over our houses that would let out their bugle sound. We live on a busy street, but recently had speed bumps put in. The people driving by would drive slow to let the cranes cross the road or just to watch them. Any information would be appreciated.

A: During the winter, sandhill cranes sort of "flock up" and will travel together in foraging groups. But the sandhill cranes that live in Florida are a special subspecies of the Greater Sandhill Crane, and are non-migratory in behavior, a bit smaller in size, and state-listed as "Threatened". These local birds nest in shallow ponds usually vegetated with pickerel reed, and during this time they are highly territorial, not allowing other sandhill cranes in their area, which is why you are seeing fewer in the spring and summer nesting season period. The population of the Florida Sandhill Crane is listed as "Threatened" because of the loss and development of freshwater wetlands in the state, and the fact they also need the adjacent healthy uplands to support food sources, as they need to walk their hatched (and non-flying) chicks out of the wetland and feed it and teach it what to eat. They need the wetland where their nest is because they use the splashing that predators would make to wake them up in the night if the predators approach, so that the adults can protect the eggs and young chicks.

Hillsborough County will post areas frequented by sandhill cranes with crane crossing warning signs, if you request them to do this. Call Chuck Coleman 964-2929.

I hope this answers your questions.
Ann Paul

Q: Recently I've been being woken up by a VERY loud bird right outside my window. It begins at 4:30 am and is fairly constant. I've done some research online and determined, by its sound/song that it is a Whip-poor-will. I was hoping someone could help me find a way to make the bird go elsewhere. I do not want to hurt it, merely to go away so I can sleep and be able to function when I get to work! I live in an apartment complex to the back against a Reserve. HELP!!!!!

A: You live next to some good native Florida habitat, and what has happened is that the Chuck-wills-widow that was spending the winter in Central America has come to its spring and summer home, to nest in the Reserve near your apartment. It has probably nested in that site for several years. Is your apartment complex new?

I myself look forward to hearing my neighborhood chuck in the spring, and I haven't heard it yet. My strategy is to count the calls, and to think about how nice it is to have a wild animal like a chuck sharing the world with me.

These are very well camoflagued birds that mostly hunt for moths at night. They nest on the ground. The bird is stating loudly that this area is its territory and for all other chucks to stay away, unless they are its mate.

Regarding making the bird stop calling, I have no suggestions, only the recommendation of closing your window and perhaps playing some soothing background noise, like a fan, to smooth over the sound or earplugs, which are actually surprisingly effective and not uncomfortable. Getting mad about this bird doing its normal behavior won't help you. It might be good to know that once the chuck has its family started, it will not call as much, or hardly at all. Other sounds of the wilderness like the Loon call (you'll need to go to the Northeast to Michigan or Canada to hear this one) or the crazy scream of the Limpkin (heard in Florida swamps) are equally noisy, and of course some of my favorite nighttime sounds are the frogs and toads after a rain, and even the alligators' bellows.

Sorry not to be able to offer more help. Of course, there is no "season" on chucks and it is illegal to hunt them. You did choose a home that overlooked a Reserve area.

Best wishes, and good luck.
Ann Paul

Q: I live in Hardee County in a small town named Wauchula. I have been observing a small group of birds that have begun to frequent my feeders. I've researched and found that a bird called a pin-tailed parrot finch looks very much like what I've seen. Unfortunately, their habitat seems to be in Asia. My question is - is it possible that they [parrot finches] might be found in Florida? If not, can you tell me if there's another bird that looks like this? Thank you for your time.

A: We are starting to see House Finches in Florida. They are small, attractive finches with long tails, blurry gray streaks on the breast. The females are gray-brown overall with indistinct streaks on the chest, and a plain head. The males have orange-red foreheads and caps, throats, and chests but brown-streaked backs. They have sort of indistinct wing bars. They come to feeders and appreciate seeds. They are mostly distributed across the rest of the U.S. (everywhere but Florida), but have had trouble competing with Starlings and House Sparrows (both introduced species), which has decreased their population size. People have seen them recently in the Panhandle, Gainesville, and Lake Placid.

Of course, in Florida we have a lot of captive birds that get out. Some of these "pets" sometimes survive and now we have a number of non-native exotic species (especially parrot and parakeet types) living and reproducing in Florida. So who knows what else could be there, and it's good to keep your mind open to all the potential options of world-wide species, especially those that are common in the pet trade.

If you decide you do have House Finches, would you let Bill Pranty ( know? He writes some papers each year on bird distribution in the state and he would be interested to know about this.

Thanks for your note!
Ann Paul

Q: What are some ways to protect birds from colliding into large expanses of glass?

A: According to National Audubon Society's Director of Bird Conservation, multiple falcon silhouettes placed across the windows will turn birds back. As they fly toward the window, the silhouettes seem to be moving, and as falcons are such effective predators, the birds' reaction is to avoid that "air space".

Striped window decals that are vertical and close together (about piano wire width and about an inch apart) resemble cages and ultra dense vegetation to birds and they will not try to fly through them. Horizontal wire window decals/shadowing will not be effective, as birds apparently perceive they could fly through that.

Large windows, especially those that provide a vista through to the other side of the building, are dangerous for birds because they don't see the glass and they apparently perceive that they can fly through that "building-forest" to the other side. Plus, birds are making these flight direction decisions very rapidly. I appreciate that you are concerned about this hazard for the birds, as it is real!
Ann Paul

Q: I must have missed the dates of your yearly birding festival; I'd appreciate you telling me. Someone at the Morro Bay Festival said yours was the best in Florida.

A: Thanks for this kind word about the Florida Birding Festival. We had a wonderful time with it for seven years, but it is not an active festival now. I suggest you go instead to the really wonderful Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival in Titusville -- -- Wed. Jan. 24 through Sunday Jan. 28. Really great line-up of speakers, field trips, nature booths, you name it! Have a wonderful time, and best wishes for great birding!
Ann Paul

Q: I live in Northern Hillsborough, Odessa, and wondered if the Audubon is interested in the small bird count I have in my back yard? I didn't know how to get involved or how to start IF it is needed by the Audubon.

A: I'm not sure if Odessa is inside the North Pinellas Christmas Bird Count circle or not. Their count was held on Sunday the 17th. Ken Rowe is the compiler. He can be reached at 727-786-2764 or the following email address.

You can ask him if you are inside the circle. If you are, I think he would be interested in any birds you saw last Sunday.

If you are not, then there are two different ways to submit your bird lists. You can join Cornell Universities' Project Feeder-watch or Project E-Bird. You can find information about these citizen science projects at; or

Thanks for your interest.
Dave Bowman

Q: How is a "fish hawk" or "fisher hawk" different from an osprey?

Credit: Joe Bailey

A: Ospreys are "fish hawks", also sometimes called "sea eagles", "fish eagle", "sea hawk". They are in a family all their own (Pandionidae), because they are so specialized to hunt fish. They are one of the most widely distributed birds in the world, occurring in Europe, Area, north Africa, China, the East Indies, and Australia, as well as the New World. They feed almost exclusively on fish, but will eat birds, etc. -- if they find a nest, they will empty it of nestlings. The toes are especially designed to grab fish, with heavy scales to hold onto wriggly, slippery, scaled and wet prey. They carry the fish's head pointed forward, to reduce resistance to the air, making flight with the prey easier. Compact plumage helps keep the birds dry during dives into the water. Females are larger than males and have a smattering of black feathers across the chest, while males are white chested. They nest in trees or other structures, near water, reusing and building nest structures larger each year, from January - June (in Fla.). Female defends the nest; the male feeds her and the young. Incubation takes about 33 days, with young able to fly at 50+ days after hatching. They reach sexual maturity at about 3 years. During the period when DDT was used heavily in the US, Osprey populations dramatically declined due to egg shell thinning (birds use the chemical DDT instead of calcium when making the egg shells in the oviduct). Also affected by chemical pollution of waterways, shooting, esp. in migration. Rare now in England and northeast US, common in Florida, esp. your area and Clearwater. They are really neat birds, and I am glad you have an opportunity to see and enjoy them.
Ann Paul