Humans aren't the only animals that head north for the summer months and back here to Florida for the fall, winter and spring.
And while we sometime jokingly refer to those people as "snowbirds," there are, well, actual birds that make similar seasonal travels.
It starts in the fall with the arrival of non-resident bald eagles, birds that travel to the northeast for summer, and ends with the departure of the swallow-tailed kites — the spring breakers that just won't go home.
Some make a cross-country annual trip while others migrate here from South America or Canada.
Birds like bald eagles come here to breed and raise their young, while other species are in Southwest Florida simply to avoid cold climates elsewhere.
To celebrate our avian visitors, here is a list of five wintering birds found in Southwest Florida.
Seasonal bald eagles in Florida
Some bald eagles live here year-round, but many of them go north for the summer.
These eagles, like the famous Harriet and M15 in North Fort Myers, typically arrive in October and leave when their chicks are ready to fledge the following spring.
Florida has a dense concentration of bald eagles, with more than 1,400 nesting pairs documented, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Lee County is home to dozens of bald eagle nests, and winter is their breeding season.
Although the timing of the arrival and breeding can vary, during most seasons they clean up and reinforce their nests in October, with eggs being laid in November.
Manatee migration: Florida's sea cows will soon make their way inland for cooler winter months
The young eagles emerge from the eggs around Christmas.
"Most juveniles disperse at about 128 days of age and spend their first summer as far north as Newfoundland, with peak numbers summering around Chesapeake Bay and the coastal plain of North Carolina," FWC records say.
Florida is the only state with a breeding and wintering population of colorful painted buntings, according to FWC.
The males are among the most colorful songbirds in North America, with purple, blue, yellow, green and red plumage.
Females are much less colorful, sporting yellow to green feathers, according to FWC.
The population has declined. Buntings range from Florida to North Carolina on the East Coast and from northwest Florida to Texas, Oklahoma and Mexico to the west.
"Although causes of the rangewide decline are unknown, the narrow geographic range of the eastern population makes it vulnerable to habitat loss and fragmentation, and local extinction," an FWC website reads. "Even moderate coastal development can reduce populations by 50%."
Breeding runs from May through mid-July, and males fight aggressively for territory and mating partners.
American white pelican
The American white pelican is one of the largest birds in North America, with a length of nearly 6 feet and a wingspan of nearly 10 feet.
These massive birds are easily distinguishable from their brown cousins as white pelicans are, well, almost completely cotton white.
Their enormous beaks can measure upwards of 14 inches, and larger ones can weigh up to 30 pounds.
And unlike the brown pelican, which dives from the air for its food, white pelicans dip their beaks underwater to catch fish and other prey.
They also like to hunt in groups.
"American white pelicans like to come together in groups of a dozen or more birds to feed, as they can thus cooperate and corral fish to one another," a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service site reads. "They move into a circle to concentrate fish and then dip their heads underwater simultaneously to catch the fish."
These large shoreline birds have slender, slightly upturned bills that are pink at the base and black at the tip, according to the FWS.
"In addition to having cinnamon wing linings and an orangish stripe in their wings, their breeding plumage consists of barring across their chest," says the FWS website.
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They breed in marshes and flooded plains in Montana, North and South Dakota and parts of Canada and spend winters along both coasts and the Gulf of Mexico, roaming mudflats and beaches.
Marbled godwits will eat anything from earthworms to crabs, fish and insects.
"Shooting is a major threat, as godwits gather in large flocks during migration and winter," an FWS site reads. "In addition, degradation of habitat and disturbance of nest sites are of concern. Populations declined dramatically in the 1800s, but current populations appear to be stable."
Known mostly for their mind-bending aerial acrobatics, swallow-tailed kites arrive in Florida in February and March and will stay into the summer.
"Our most beautiful bird of prey, striking in its shape, its pattern, and its extraordinarily graceful flight," reads an online Audubon description. "Hanging motionless in the air, swooping and gliding, rolling upside down and then zooming high in the air with scarcely a motion of its wings, the swallow-tailed kite is a joy to watch."
These aerial acrobats swoop over tree canopies and above prairies, snagging all sorts of insects and likely snatching small bird hatchlings from their nests, according to Audubon.
"At one time it was common in summer over much of the southeast, but today it is found mostly in Florida and a few other areas of the deep south," the Audubon site reads.
Connect with this reporter: @ChadEugene on Twitter.
Source : https://www.palmbeachpost.com/story/news/2021/11/26/known-human-visitors-southwest-florida-also-winter-home-birds/8738186002/2142