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Posted February 16, 2017 | 8:34 AM

Four Places to View Florida's Fantastic Flocks

Winter is the best time to see non-native species in Hillsborough County

Snowbirds aren't the only wintertime visitors to Hillsborough County.

Migratory species - the kind with feathers and wings - take advantage of the area's warm weather and abundant food. Hillsborough County parks and preserves are great places to see them.

When it's cold up North, flocks of warblers, goldfinches, American robins, and white pelicans are among birds finding temporary refuge along Tampa Bay's coasts and in the County's interior. Enthusiasts and casual observers are likely to spot birds often associated with places hundreds of miles away.

This year's migration has been particularly large.

Here are four Hillsborough County locations where migratory birds are prevalent, and a few of the well-travelled species you might see there:

  • Lettuce Lake Park: This 240-acre tract east of the University of South Florida campus is Hillsborough County's most popular park. Bird-watching is a favorite activity, and wintertime migrations offer some of the best viewing. Look for various warblers, hermit thrushes, Eastern phoebes, catbirds, and belted kingfishers, among other species.

  • Cockroach Bay Preserve: A series of mangrove islands dot Tampa Bay's shallow southeastern coast, from the mouth of the Little Manatee River southward. In winter months you might see peregrine falcons, merlins, American kestrels, yellow-breasted chats, and white pelicans.

  • Upper Tampa Bay Park: Look for Carolina chickadees, belted kingfishers, hermit thrushes, pied-billed grebes, and various migrating ducks.
  • Edward Medard Park: You might see cedar waxwings, bobolinks, ruby-crowned kinglets, American robins, and warblers (palm, pine, yellow-rumped, and orange-crowned).

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Not sure where to go or what birds you might see? Guided tours are available. See the Tampa Audubon Society web site for field trips, or check out the Hillsborough County events calendar.

Whether you're a devoted ornithologist or a casual bird-watcher, it's a fine time to be outdoors, looking skyward. Migratory birds provide a once-a-year viewing experience for Hillsborough County residents, and a slice of home for those other snowbirds, our human friends from other regions of the country and nations.