Common throughout Marion County year round, the male Red-winged Blackbirds are sharply attired with snappy red and yellow shoulder bars. That’s one easy way to tell the difference between these birds and the somewhat similar Common and Boat-tailed Grackles. Their distinctive trilling call is a familiar soundtrack for wetlands.
Bird of the Week: Yellow-breasted Chat
The Yellow-breasted Chat is a rarity in Marion County, with less than 20 reported sightings on Cornell University’s popular eBird app. This one appeared along the new Shackleton Trail at Carney Island Recreation Area on Lake Weir last year during a bird walk with the local Audubon Society. It was an unexpected and exciting find. To join an Audubon bird walk, get more information at MarionAudubon.org.
Bird of the Week: Downy Woodpecker
The downy is the smallest woodpecker in Marion County and can be found in neighborhoods and forests all over town. It also visits feeders. The charming downy looks almost identical to the Hairy Woodpecker, which is a larger and has a longer bill. But the Hairy Woodpecker is only seen a few times a year in our area, mostly in the Ocala National Forest.
Bird of the Week: Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks
These little zebra-striped ducklings at the Ocala Wetland Recharge park grow up to look quite different. The adult ducks are colored chestnut and black with a pink bill and legs. They’re common year-round in Ocala, and in flight the adults can be recognized by their white wing stripe as well as their silly whistling calls.
Bird of the Week: Wood Duck
The male wood duck, with its colorful tartan appearance, is one of the most beautiful birds you’ll see in Ocala. They are a common and year-round resident. Wood ducks nest in tree cavities as high up as possible. They’re also fast flyers, reaching speeds of up to 30 miles per hour. You’ll find them on the Silver River as well as in downtown Ocala at Tuscawilla Park.
Bird of the Week: Prothonotary Warbler
Richard Nixon’s ascent to the presidency was in some small measure due to this stunning yellow bird. The rare(ish) prothonotary warbler is named for the yellow robes worn by papal clerks, called prothonotaries. During the 1950 perjury trial of communist spy Alger Hiss, Richard Nixon corroborated a government witness by getting Hiss to brag about spotting a prothonotary warbler near the Potomac River. That trial put Nixon on the road to the White House. Prothonotary Warblers visit Marion County between March and October. A great place to see them during that time is to kayak the Silver River, where they can sometimes be seen singing along the water’s edge.