Category Archives: Birds

Red Bellied Woodpecker

Red Bellied Woodpecker

Red Bellied Woodpecker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

            I love seeing and hearing the Red Bellied Woodpecker in nature preserves that I visit because of their bright colors and sounds which bring life to the woody forests where they live. The Red Bellied Woodpecker are a medium sized bird and has a red head with wings that are covered with black and white stripes and dots. Their belly is all white. They have sharp beaks and like a hummingbird have tongues that can extend out to grab and feed on their food.  

The Red Bellied Woodpecker that I captured with my camera in the photograph above was in the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve in  Ft. Myers, Florida where birders often go to see many kinds of birds because of the dense forest canopy. The Woodpecker makes its nest in the trunk and branches of old trees including oak and pine trees. The repeated knocking sound that you hear from this bird comes from its carving out of the wood from trees for its nest. It also makes a high pitched shrill and other distinctive sounds which make them easy to identity. You can see and hear the sounds of the Red Bellied Woodpecker at the All About Birds website which was created by the Cornell Univ. Lab of Ornithology.

            The diet of the Red Bellied Woodpecker consists of insects, spiders and nuts and seeds from plants in the forest. They also eat fruits including grapes, hackberries, oranges and mangoes. They often fly very swiftly and erratically through the tree canopy and scientists think this may be a habit which they practice to evade other birds and predators. Their nests are sometimes overtaken by Starlings who overpower them because of their size. They are commonly seen in forested areas of the Southeastern U.S

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Green Herons

The Green Heron photographed in these pictures was taken at the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve in Ft. Myers. There are great opportunities to see and photograph Wading Birds, Song Birds and other kinds of birds of Florida at the preserve. The preserve has a one and half mile boardwalk that loops around the narrow slough which winds its way around a heavily forested swamp  which provides lots of nesting and roosting areas for birds.

            The Green Heron is a relatively small size Wading Bird but has pretty colors such as a velvet green back, a chestnut brown chest and yellow legs. They perch themselves on branches or some object above shallow waters in lakes, ponds, estuaries and other bodies of water and snatch their prey with their sharp bills. They also feed upon insects, amphibians and other marine invertebrates. The Green Heron is  one of the few birds which uses tools such as lures to catch their food. They may use bread crusts, worms or insects which they drop on the surface of the water and wait for fish to come up to the surface which they then catch with their bills.

            The All About Birds website states that the oldest Green Heron found was estimated to be 8 years old when it was seen in Mexico. The website has very useful information for bird watchers and others wanting to learn more about birds in Florida and North America. They also have an audio clip of the birds sounds and calls. Birds that may look like the Green Heron in S. Florida are the Least Bittern, Black Crowned Night Heron and Yellow Crown Night Heron.  

 

 

Birds of Prey

Birds of Prey in Florida include several different species  of raptors as they are called who feed upon various kinds of wildlife. They are usually large birds with impressive wingspans and can fly and swoop down quickly to grab their prey. They are often seen perched on branches in trees or other sturdy objects looking for their next meal. They feed upon fish, small mammals, reptiles and invertebrates such as crabs.

Other birds of prey include owls, falcons, red shouldered hawks and kites. The ones I have seen live near large bodies of water where fish are plentiful and where they can use their keen eyes, and strong and sharp talons or sharp feet to grab their prey and bring their catch back to its nest or feeding ground. Their sharp bills are well adapted for tearing apart the flesh of their catch.

Birds of Prey such as the American Bald Eagle were almost hunted to extinction because of their feathers but bans on hunting and the new laws against the  pesticide spray DDT helped them to rebound in numbers. There is a center in Maitland Florida run by Audubon Florida which helps people to learn more about Birds of Prey and their lifestyles. I also like the Cornell Univ. School of Ornithology All About Birds website which has an excellent website about birds.

The American Bald Eagle and Ospey shown in the pictures above were photographed in Estero Bay this past summer while I was with a  group of naturalists taking a boat ride out of the Fish Tale Marina located on Ft Myers Beach. Click on the pictures for a larger view of the 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.