Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
est of Key West, where the Gulf of Mexico meets the Caribbean Sea, migrating passerine birds, especially warblers and vireos, make landfall at a historic national park after flying from wintering areas and staging areas in Central and South America and the Caribbean islands. From mid-April through the first 10 days in May, Garden Key attracts birders who hope for a weather system to push a fallout of migrating songbirds on the island. Among the ruins of historic Fort Jefferson, birders flock to the only freshwater source -- the fountain -- in hope of seeing Cape May Warblers, Black-throated Blues, Chestnut-sided, Blue-winged, Black-throated Greens, Yellow-throated, Prothonotary, Worm-eating and Hooded Warblers that may populate the island after a fallout, along with Baltimore and Orchard Orioles, Scarlet and Summer Tanagers, Painted Buntings and Black-billed Cuckoos.
Seabirds include Sooty Terns and Brown Noddies (that nest on Bush Key), Magnificent Frigatebirds (nesting on Long Key), Brown Boobies, occasional Black Noddies and rarer Masked Boobies. One Red-footed Booby was also present last spring. To get to the Dry Tortugas, you must hire a boat out of Key West, or join a tour group, which will ensure you access to the islands with nesting seabirds. Watch for pelagic species during the 60-mile cruise from Key West to the Tortugas, including Magnificent Frigatebirds, Audubon's Shearwaters, Northern Gannets, Bridled Terns, Roseate Terns and White-tailed Tropicbirds. For more information, contact Everglades NP (305) 242-7700; Wings (520) 320-9868; and Florida Nature Tours (407) 273-4400.
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