Pine flatwoods dominate the landscape at Branan Field and species adapted for this fire dependent community are abundant. Look for the mounds of sand that mark the burrow entrance of gopher tortoise burrows.

photo gopher tortoise and bachelor button
P.J. Jones -
Young gopher tortoise and Bachelor Button

Animals such as indigo snakes, eastern diamondback rattlesnakes, gopher frogs, pine snakes, and Florida mice find refuge within these burrows. Look for them near burrow entrances or observe tracks left behind in the soft sand. Eastern bluebirds, woodpeckers, southeastern kestrels, pine warblers and brown-headed nuthatches are common residents of pine flatwoods. Listen for the distinctive calls of the eastern towhee and Bachman's sparrow. White-tailed deer and wild turkey are occasionally observed.

Scientists from the University of Florida are conducting research at Branan Field on upper respiratory track disease (URTDS) in gopher tortoises. Visitors may notice enclosures marking study sites located just off main trails. Please respect the boundaries of these sites.

 

Wildlife Spotlight: Bachman's Sparrow

Photo Bachman's Sparrow by Peter May
© Peter May

One of the most beautiful sounds of the southern pinelands is the song of the Bachman's sparrow. From exposed perches, the male sings its long, varied song, sometimes described as "h-e-e-e-e-re kitty kitty kitty kitty." The song is one of the best ways to locate this secretive sparrow whose grayish-brown plumage helps it blend into the grass and saw palmetto understory of Florida's open pine woods.

Bachman's sparrows breed from the central mid-western states south to Oklahoma, Texas, and Florida. The population shifts to the southern parts of this range from September to April. Between April and July, females build well-concealed, cup-shaped nests of woven grasses on or near the ground. Bachman's sparrows eat grasshoppers, crickets, spiders and other invertebrates, and seeds from pines, grasses and fruits.

In Florida, look and listen for Bachman's sparrows in appropriate habitat as far south as Lake Okeechobee. Both sexes have a grayish-brown back streaked with black, a buffy breast and whitish belly. The male's song usually begins with a simple, clear whistle, followed by a musical trill. Male birds sing most actively from March through June each year.

The loss of native pine grasslands and the exclusion of fire have caused a decline in the population of Bachman's sparrows throughout the southeast.

 

Wildlife Viewing Tips



FWC Facts:
Spring and summer are the best times to listen for the elusive 5-inch Bachman's sparrow. Their song begins with a loud, clear whistle followed by an extended trill.

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