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Birds of the ‘Burg and where to find ’em

Birds of the ‘Burg and where to find ’em

brown pelican flying

Birds are the ambassadors of every city, and much like its residents, the birds of the ‘Burg know how to strut their stuff.  Here’s a sneaky Limpkin, there, a Spoonbill, gregariously socializing, and farther yon, a Brown Pelican, posted on a pier piling, slurping a fish.

There’s something so gratifying about identifying a bird, calling it by name. With so many convenient, free parks in St. Petersburg, anyone can become a birder, just like anyone can learn the names of their neighbors. Birds have unique personalities, and birdwatching can be just as satisfying as people-watching. So, if you want to get your bird on, here’s our take on the birds of the ‘Burg and where to find ‘em.

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Crescent Lake

1320 5th St N

Take a leisurely lap around Crescent Lake, and you may spy a White Ibis, flocks of Muscovy Ducks, some Starlings, maybe a Great Egret (common at lake sites), a few gallivanting Gallinules, Boat-Tailed Grackles (often called “trash birds”—what a cruel nickname). I spied an Osprey and a Brown Pelican cruising around like fishing buddies when I visited.

Boat-Tailed Grackle. Photo courtesy of Holley Short.

North Shore Park

901 N Shore Dr. NE

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At North Shore Park, you’ll see a lot of shorebirds, Plovers (cute as cotton balls), Sandpipers scavenging for crustaceans. Beautifully pinkish Roseate Spoonbills will surely be wading in the water-flats, swinging their head side to side, feeling for prey. Try to spy a White Ibis, or an Osprey circling the air, or else the ubiquitous Brown Pelican, which has been the official bird of Sunshine City since 2020.

Roseate Spoonbill. Photo courtesy of Holley Short.

Lake Maggiore

3601 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. St. S, St. Pete

If you’ve ever wondered: “what’s that green bird I see everywhere?” It’s probably a Nanday Parakeet. Recognized by its black head, Nanday Parakeets are originally from the central zone of South America, but escaped captivity in the states, and have populated Tampa Bay in huge numbers.

From the frontlines of Lake Maggiore, a colleague reports that Nanday Parakeets are indeed everywhere. “They flock almost a hundred deep”, he says. “They are really cool, but loud as [expletive].”

Nanday Parakeet. Photo courtesy of Holley Short.

Sawgrass Lake Park

7400 25th St. N, St. Pete

Visit the forested Sawgrass Lake Park to spy some Warblers, Wood-Peckers, and Spoonbills. And keep an eye out for Limpkins. My birding companion, Holley Short of the St. Pete Audubon Society, notes something unique about the Limpkins in Pinellas County. Limpkins are supposed to be secretive, reclusive birds, but here, in the ‘Burg, they are goofily conspicuous, very un-sneaky. This is indicative of how fun the ‘Burg is. Everyone turns their plumage here.  

What’s your spark bird?

A “spark bird” is the bird that impassions you about birding, often in an unexpected situation. President of the St. Pete Audubon Society, Holley Short, has a spark bird that made her change career and education tracks entirely: the Snowy Plover. Now she’s all in on birds. My spark bird is the blue jay. Both of us have a tattoo of our respective birds. Dedicated birders, we are.

Polling residents of the ‘Burg, almost everyone seems to have a spark bird story. One person recalled a harrowing event where she rescued an injured pelican (drama of animal rescue is warm in the throat); another explains that a house sparrow kept hopping on the table during his first date with his partner; one exchanged gifts of little, shiny trinkets with a crow. So, what’s your spark bird and what’s your spark bird story? If you don’t have a spark bird yet, don’t fret—get out to our parks and start birding.

Important note, new birders: birding does NOT require equipment. No whopping guide to thumb open, no telescoping lenses, no black straps strangling your neck, or cameras and binoculars swaying at your waist. You don’t even need to be able to identify the birds. You just need to enjoy them. As Holley Short says, “I’m a birder, president of the St. Pete Audubon chapter, and I don’t know ducks.” And I don’t know duck about most birds, but heck if it isn’t pleasurable to find ‘em in the ‘Burg.

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