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Identifying five specialty birds of Florida

“Cape Sable” Seaside Sparrow, adult. April in Everglades National Park, Florida. Photo by Brian E. Small
“Cape Sable” Seaside Sparrow, adult. April in Everglades National Park, Florida. Photo by Brian E. Small

Florida has always beckoned as an escape for winter-weary northerners, but it beckons to birdwatchers, too, especially in spring. It’s perennially regarded as one of the top destinations for traveling birders.

Isolated by water on three sides, the Florida peninsula has allowed the evolution of many bird subspecies found nowhere else in the world. One of the most distinctive races is the “Cape Sable” Seaside Sparrow, limited to the southern tip of the peninsula. It was regarded as a full species from its discovery in 1918 until it was lumped with other Seaside Sparrow races in 1973. Currently it is isolated by both distance and habitat: Unlike other Seaside Sparrows that are limited to salt marshes, the Cape Sable nests in freshwater marshes. However, the “Dusky” Seaside Sparrow, an extinct subspecies, used to inhabit both freshwater and salt marshes in its limited range in east-central Florida.

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Kenn Kaufman

Kenn Kaufman

Kenn Kaufman is an expert birder and naturalist, a talented artist and photographer, a world traveler, and the author of many books about birds and other wildlife. His column “ID Tips” appears in every issue of BirdWatching. Kenn is also a field editor for Audubon Magazine and a contributor to Birds and Blooms. His work first appeared in Birder’s World (now BirdWatching) in April 1988. Visit his website, Kaufman Field Guides.

Kenn Kaufman on social media

Brian E. Small

Brian E. Small

Brian Small is a Los Angeles-based bird and nature photographer whose photos appear in the “ID Tips” column in every issue of BirdWatching. His work has been published in Time, The New York Times, Audubon, Nature Conservancy, National Wildlife, Wildlife Conservation, and many other publications. His photos also illustrate many field guides, including Kenn Kaufman’s Birds of North America, a series of state bird identification guides published with the American Birding Association, and his own Eastern and Western photographic field guides to the birds of North America published in 2009 with author Paul Sterry and Princeton University Press.

Brian E. Small on social media