Observations from home
As surely as these human "snowbirds" flock to the sunshine state, many common bird species call Florida their winter home as well. While not as sexy perhaps as tales of far flung adventures, sometimes it's fun to take a closer look at the common birds.... and none are more common (or at least noticeable) these days around Florida than American Robins. Their squealing calls can be heard everywhere as flocks fly overhead and feed in shrubs nearby.
In stark contrast to my Northern experience I became aware that while it's still technically winter in Florida, birds are definitely starting to act as if it were spring. Our first returning spring migrants (Purple Martin) returned on schedule in early January, and Swallow-tailed Kite should be reported any day now. Resident birds are singing and establishing territories, and some courtship is evident. Robins are getting into the act and singing occasionally as well even though they will not stick around to breed.
The robins move through the area in large, noisy flocks finding and eating ripe berries mostly but they will also root for insects on lawns and will come to the bird baths for water. They aren't an unusual species, but when 100 or more are on your lawn it does offer you the opportunity to study subtle plumage differences between the varying ages and sexes at close range.
American Robin in Brazilian Pepper. digiscoped with Leica D-Lux2 and APO Televid scope
recycled Brazilian Pepper fruit
A preferred food source is the invasive exotic plant Brazilian Pepper. The robins come through in waves and strip the ripe berries from December through March. After a day or two, the large flocks have typically cleaned out the berries in your area and move on to another neighborhood, park, etc. It's nice to see that the introduced exotic actually offers some benefit in the way of food, but unfortunately the plant's seeds will get dispersed further (see below)and more native habitats will be obliterated by this incredibly hearty shrub.