Palmetto preserve offers a glimpse at the real snowbirds

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MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. - Florida has always been a great place to enjoy wildlife, and some believe this winter's extreme cold weather up north has driven some migrating birds farther south than normal.

So what can we see around the Suncoast? We got some answers from a member of the Manatee County Audubon Society.

Dee Hanny is an avid bird watcher and member of the Manatee County Audubon Society. He loves living on the Suncoast because of the wide range of birds that can be spotted here.  “That is a Yellow-rumped Warbler. There you can see his yellow rump right there.”

On Wednesday, Hanny spent some time watching the birds from a blind at Felts Audubon Preserve in Palmetto.  “He is pretty bright for this time of year.”

One of Felts Preserves highlights and signature birds is a Painted Bunting, a small blue, red, green and yellow bird.  “It has jokingly been describe as a bird designed by committee because they couldn’t make up their mind what color it should be.”

Painted Buntings have only been found in Felts Preserve over the last four years.

Hanny says every once in awhile birds that don’t normal migrate into Florida make an appearance.

“It is what is called an irruptive migration and they are not sure why it happens.”

Last month, Hanny drove to Jacksonville to get a glimpse of a snowy owl.  “Being as far south as Florida is highly unusual. This is only the third citing on record of a Snowy Owl in Florida.”

He says a few other uncommon birds spotted in our area include Razor Bills, Black-winged Scoters and a Forked Tail Flycatcher.

Felts Preserve is open to the public year around but on the first Saturday of every month from September through March, the Manatee County Audubon Society hosts an open house from 8a.m. until noon with a guided nature walks departing at 9:30a.m.

It is located on 24th Avenue, south of 49th Street East.