Category Archives: Birds

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egrets which are smaller than their cousins the Great White Egrets are birds that migrated over to the Americas in the late 1800’s from Africa.  They are often seen in agricultural areas with large animals that are foraging for food. They follow cattle or other large animals and wait for their hooves kick up the dirt which dislodges small insects which then become food for the Cattle Egrets. Their diet is very diverse including grasshoppers, crickets, earth worms and ticks as well as fish and frogs when they are near wetlands.

They are much smaller than Great White Egrets with short stout bodies, yellow bills and yellow legs. Their dagger like bill is uniquely adapted to grabbing small insects and invertebrates while walking along the ground or on the backs of cattle. I took the pictures of the Cattle Egrets shown above in the Ft. Myers area of Florida. There is some good information about these birds on the All About Birds website or on Audubons Bird website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

White Pelicans

White Pelicans

White Pelicans – click on picture to enlarge

 

 

 

 

 

 

White pelicans spend part of the year in Florida and then migrate back to the interior part of the continent during the spring and summer. The picture shown above is of White Pelicans congregating in Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, Florida. Ding Darling gets a lot of migrating birds during winter season and it’s a popular place for bird watchers.

White pelicans are different than Brown Pelicans by the way they hunt and search for food. They usually gather and create a circle among themselves and then herd small fish in shallow waters where they can then dip their orange bills into the water and snatch their catch. Brown Pelicans soar over the waters looking for fish and then dive and splash into the water, first stunning their prey and then grabbing them with their long bills and swallowing them whole.

White Pelicans are among the largest birds in North America and have long broad wings that are black tipped at the end. They are an interesting sight at the Ding Darling Refuge among all the other birds which include White Egrets, Herons of all colors, and White Ibis to name a few. White Pelicans breed on islands in fresh water areas in northern states. They then spend their lives  along fresh waters lakes and estuaries in northern states and Canada or coastlines and bays in southern salt water areas like Florida and states along the Gulf of Mexico. I like to learn more about the birds of North America by going to the All About Birds Website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Song Birds

Click on any Picture to enlarge

Song Birds are beautiful and colorful creatures in Florida and they attract people from all over the world who come to watch, listen and photograph them. There are over 4,000 species of Song Birds throughout the world and what distinguishes them from other birds is their well developed vocal organs which gives them the ability to produce long and elaborate sounds and songs. The pictures of the birds shown above, the Northern Cardinal, Mockingbird and Blue Jay are fun to listen to and look at as well. Some of the other common Song Birds I have encountered in Florida include the Yellow Warbler, Yellow Throated Vireo, Carolina Wren, Sparrows, and Red Bellied Woodpecker.

The All About Birds website created by the Cornell Univ. School of Ornithology produced a great website to teach birders how to identify the songs and physical features of Song Birds. I visit the All About Birds website often to learn more about the birds I see in my neighborhood and nearby preserves that I visit.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is also helpful in teaching anyone about the wildlife in Florida. They created the popular Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail website which lists places all over the state to see and photograph birds.

Song Birds sing and make their calls to attract mates and to warn other birds when intruders enter their territory. Mockingbirds are well known to protect their nests. trees and territory from other birds and predators by flying furiously through the air, scaring off unwanted visitors and giving off a loud series of screeches and sounds. They band together to form a cohesive group of birds in their territory and form a formidable defense against intruders.

 

 

 

Northern Cardinal

Click on any picture to enlarge

The Northern Cardinal in these pictures were photographed  at Lakes Regional Park in Ft. Myers, FL  and were seen over a period of several days either perched in a tree or scavenging along the ground for twigs and grasses for its’ nest.  The Northern Cardinal is an impressive bird to look at because of its’ bright red color, short sharp beak, rectangular black patch on its’ face and pointed top of its’ head. The Cardinal is a song bird and it makes a series of calls to other birds to either communicate its need for food for its young in the nest, to warn away intruders in its territory or to communicate to other birds. I have found Lakes Regional Park to be a good place to view a variety of birds.  There are over 278 acres in this park with ample tree cover and freshwater lakes that provide good habitat for birds.

The All About Birds website has a good collection of sounds and songs that the Cardinal makes. Click on the Sound Tab and scroll down to the audio clips to hear the Cardinal songs and calls.

The Northern Cardinal is a year round inhabitant of mostly southeastern states and does not migrate unlike many other birds. Its’ habitat  includes mixed hardwood forests, pine flatwoods, urban and agricultural environments and in the backyards of homeowners. Its’ diet consists of mostly seeds and fruits but eats insects as well. The female Cardinal can produce up to 3 broods of offspring per year. Seven states have named the Cardinal as its state bird.

 

 

 

Wading Birds

Click on any picture to enlarge

Wading Birds are a unique species of birds in South Florida and they can be distinguished by their long legs, long sharp bills and plumage of feathers covering their bodies. They use their long legs to wade through the shallow waters of shorelines, lakes, rivers, swamps and other bodies of water looking for fish to eat.

The most common and easily seen Wading Bird is the Great White Egret which is a large bird with long white neck, plump body covered with white feathers and a long yellow bill. Another common Wading  Bird  is the Blue Heron which is also large, has a gray-bluish body, long legs which appear like sticks and a yellow to gray bill.

One of the best natural parks and preserves that I have been to in SW Florida where you can see Wading Birds is Audubons’ Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. Located in Naples, Florida, the sanctuary consists of thousands of acres of dry prairie land and swamps that provide habitat for birds and other wildlife. The Audubon Society lists 17 species of wading birds in the sanctuary including the White Ibis, Blue Heron, Little Blue Heron, Tri-Colored Heron, White Egret, Snowy Egret, Glossy Ibis, Wood Stork, American Bittern, Least Bittern, Roseatte Spoonbill, Limpkin and Sandhill Crane.

Wading Birds were almost hunted to extinction due to the popularity of their feathers which were worn on top of womens hats. It took an act of Congress to put them on the Endangered Species list.

I have seen and photographed many of the birds shown above near my hone in Ft. Myers at parks including the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve, John Yarbrough Ten Mile Linear Park, Lakes Regional Park and the Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tricolored Heron

The Tricolored Heron –  (Egretta tricolor) –  in the pictures shown above were photographed on Sanibel Island while they were walking along the ground near a fresh water lake looking for small fish to eat. The Tricolored Heron is a medium sized bird, smaller than its counterpart Blue Heron and can be distinguished by its while belly. It was formerly known as the Louisiana Heron. It is commonly seen in the Southeastern portion of the United States in coastal areas along mangrove marshes, lakes and swamps. It is also seen in inland areas along swamps. freshwater lakes and estuaries. It’s diet consists of small fish, crustaceans, frogs, salamanders, lizards and spiders and it catches its food by stabbing it with its long sharp bill.

The Heron has an impressive wing span and is pretty to watch fly. The Tricolored Heron nests in colonies in trees and mangrove forests along with other herons and wading birds. The male constructs the nest and females are attracted to the males in this way. The female lays 2-7 eggs per year and they take about 27 days to hatch with both male and female providing help with incubating the eggs. The young birds can begin to fly within 5 weeks after hatching.

I found some good information about Tricolored Herons at the Audubon Guide to North American Birds website. I also like Cornell University’s Allabout Birds website which includes audio clips of the birds’ sounds and calls.

 

 

Wood Storks

Woodstorks

Woodstorks     –  click on picture for larger image

 

 

 

 

 

I saw and photographed this pair of Wood Storks near the intersection of Six Mile Cypress Pkwy and Plantation Rd. in Ft. Myers.  They were gathering with other wading birds to catch some small fish that were swimming by in a drainage canal that runs along the parkway. Wood Storks – (Mycteria Americana) are clumsy looking birds with large white bodies, bald heads, long curved bills and long legs. Wood Storks feed on small fish in a unique way by dipping their long bills into the water with their bill open and when they sense a small minnow or fish touching their bills they snap their bills shut in a nanosecond. It is this time of year in the fall and early winter when the water levels recede in the drainage swales, ponds and lakes and small fish are herded into a smaller area which makes them easier to catch for the Wood Storks. I have seen a great collection of Wood Storks, Great Egrets, Blue Herons, Spoon Bills and Glossy Ibis fishing and wading together.

The Wood Stork has been named a “threatened species” by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Hopefully their numbers will increase along with other threatened species as the state and environmental conservation groups work to preserve our parks and wetlands in Florida. The All About Birds website has some additional information and pictures of the Woodstork as well as an audio clip of their calls and sounds. I also like the Florida Audubon website which has a great supply of information about Florida’s Birds and conservation.

 

 

 

Great Egret

Great Egret

Great Egret

 

 

 

 

Great Egret (Ardea alba)

The Great Egret shown in this photo was wading through the shallow swamp water in the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples. The Great Egret was an endangered bird at one time because they were hunted for their feathers which were used for decorative hats. They have rebounded in number and are protected from hunting mainly due to the efforts of the Audubon Society. The Great Egret hunts for small fish, frogs and aquatic animals by wading through fresh and salt water areas and then stabbing their prey with their sharp bills. I like the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website to learn more about Florida birds. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary if you are in Southwest Florida. You will see all kinds of birds and animals that are native to Florida and there is a great visitor center and boardwalk.

click on image for larger picture

 

 

 

 

 

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

 

 

Blue Gray Gnatcatcher

Blue Gray Gnatcatcher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click on images for larger views

The Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptile caerulea) is a song bird which lets out a loud shrill when it is calling out to other birds or trying to scare away intruders from their nesting and foraging areas. It is mostly grayish with a white underbelly. It flicks it’s tail back and forth trying to scare small insects and spiders from their hiding places to eat. They are common in forests with a lot of dense tree cover like the one where I saw this one at the Six Mile Cypress Slough in Ft. Myers. This wetland park with a great 1.2 mile boardwalk to view a swampland and forest is also on the Great Florida Birding Trail. The Gnatcatcher quickly flies from tree to tree and is hard to photograph. The second picture in this post is of the bird swinging it’s tail back and forth. There are many other small birds in this swampland and wet forest which allows these small birds plenty of places to build nests and small insects to feed upon. The All About Birds website has some good additional information about the Blue Gray Gnatcatcher.

 

 

 

 

 

Yellow Crowned Night Heron

Yellow Crowned Night Heron

Yellow Crowned Night Heron

 

Juvenile Yellow Crowned Night Heron

Juvenile Yellow Crowned Night Heron

 I saw these two Yellow Crowned Night Herons at the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel. The bird with the two white stripes on its’ head is the adult Yellow Crowned Night Heron and the other is called a juvenile or immature Night Heron. It is a nocturnal bird and looks for it’s food in the mangroves or shallow waters of coastal areas of Florida and the southeastern United States. Its’ diet consists of crustaceans, small crabs, fish, lizards, snakes and other small prey. Ding Darlings Birdwatchers named this bird one of it’s “fab five” birds to see at the refuge. You can find out what the other four are it’s website. Another good source of information about the Yellow Crowned Night Heron are All About Birds published by the Ornithology lab at Cornell Univ.