Daddy Warbleson on Beach Boulevard.

Ten years ago, the Warbleson family – Daddy, Mama, and six youngsters – arrived in St. Petersburg. At the time of their arrival, they were quite the celebrities. Mayor Rick Kriseman celebrated them and the Tampa Bay Times featured them in an article on Christmas Day, 2014. The story goes that the youngest Warbleson, Buddy, got lost somewhere along Beach Drive and the family fanned out to find him. Mama Warbleson looked at the Vinoy, and Daddy at the Birchwood. Betty, Bethany, Brian, Beatrice, and Benny took up positions at North Straub Park, South Straub Park, the Museum of Fine Arts, the 200 block of Beach Drive, and the Museum of History, respectively. Brochures were printed and distributed to encourage people to look for all eight members somewhere along or near Beach Drive.  

The Warblesons are not people, of course. They are little bronze warblers, bird sculptures “hidden” in plain sight along or near Beach Drive, and were the brainchild of local high school student, Molly Doyle. She thought of the idea for a “Birds on Beach” scavenger hunt and enlisted the support of the city and the various locations where the little bronze birds were to perch. Donna Gordon, a renowned local sculptor, honored in 2012 as the Raymond James Financial Woman Artist of the Year, designed and produced the casts. Each of the eight birds is unique and its features exemplify the places where the birds are located, such as the mustache on Buddy at the Dali, and the paintbrush in Brian’s beak at the MFA. 

Daddy Warbleson took a tumble recently, but was patched up and set back in his place.

Unfortunately, only five of the family members remain on their original perches. The first Warblesons to disappear were those in the two Straub parks. It’s believed they were removed by the city, but their whereabouts are unknown. The remaining six family members stayed in place until recently: Mama Warbleson disappeared during recent renovations to the front of the Vinoy; Daddy Warbleson was “birdnapped” this past November from the historic Lantern Lane mailbox in front of the Birchwood. Fortunately, Daddy was discovered in the bushes a few weeks later, a little bruised and with a missing leg. The crew at the Birchwood was able to mend him and he has reclaimed his position outside.  

At one time, searching for the eight Warblesons was a fun way to explore the Beach Drive area and learn from the website or the free brochures about the rich history of the area, but it seems now most people don’t know about the scavenger hunt. Recently, however, Birds on Beach brochures were edited and reprinted, and are available at the St. Pete Store and Visitors Center on 2nd Avenue North. And since the original casts of Donna Gordon are still available, hope remains that local businesses, museums, or other entities might be interested in highlighting their organization with a clone the lost three and restore the Warbleson family to its original eight. 

In the meantime, five of the warblers are still in their original locations after almost ten years and locals and visitors are invited to embark on this “bird quest” adventure to find Daddy, Brian, Beatrice, Benny and, of course, Buddy. Peter Rowell