Okaloacoochee Slough - Wildlife
Okaloacoochee Slough, a site on the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail, features wetlands that attract wading birds such as the glossy ibis, wood stork, herons and egrets. Pine flatwoods are home to the eastern indigo snake, Bachman’s sparrow and a variety of warblers and woodpeckers. Sandhill cranes and northern harriers use the area’s wet prairies. Watch for crested caracaras year-round, and swallow-tailed kites in the spring and summer. White-tailed deer, wild turkey, otter, bobcat and raccoon also occur here. The WMA also provides important habitat for the elusive Florida panther.
Check out other species recorded from Okaloacoochee Slough WMA, or add observations of your own, by visiting the Okaloacoochee Slough WMA Nature Trackers Project.
Wildlife Spotlight: Bachman's Sparrow
The Bachman’s sparrow is one of the signature species of mature, open pine forests, once the predominant habitat
across a broad swath of Florida and the southern U.S. Over the last century, the extent of these forests has drastically declined due to logging, conversion to other uses and fire exclusion. As a result, there have been large population declines of the Bachman’s sparrow and other species that occupy this same habitat, including the federally endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.
Bachman’s sparrows occur in Florida year-round. Their preferred habitat is mature pine forests with an open, grassy understory of wiregrass, palmetto and broomsedge, a composition typically maintained by regular burning. These forests provide sparrows with grass seeds and insects to feed on and the conditions necessary for successful nesting.
With its gray-brown coloration and habit of disappearing into dense groundcover, this shy and secretive sparrow is difficult to see. The best viewing opportunities occur in the spring and summer when the males sing to attract mates and establish breeding territories. The beautiful and distinctive song, often delivered from an exposed perch, is usually a long whistled note followed by a trill. It may be heard from February or March through the summer, mainly in early morning or late afternoon.
The range of the Bachman’s sparrow extends from Palm Beach County in Florida, north to southern Virginia and west to Oklahoma and Texas. This species is highly dependent on frequent prescribed fire that provides ample seeds and insects for food and the low, open groundcover needed for successful nesting. This management regime also benefits red-cockaded woodpeckers, gopher tortoises and other fire-dependent species.