Snowy Egret (Egretta thula)
I took this picture of a Snowy Egret at Bowman’s Beach on Sanibel Island. I have seen several Snowy Egrets at the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Preserve. Snowy Egrets live and breed on barrier Islands, salt water tidal marshes, estuaries and freshwater swamps. This bird was standing motionless looking out at the Gulf of Mexico seeming to wonder where its next meal was going to come from. There was guy fishing nearby and the Egret may have wondered if it was going to be treated to some of his catch. The Snowy Egret is actually a medium sized heron with white plumage, black legs and yellow feet with a long sharp bill. They stand and walk through shallow water waiting to spear small fish and aquatic animals with their bill. They were once prized by the fashion industry for their white feathers for decorating women’s hats in the early 20th century. They became a protected species when their numbers dropped and they were put on the endangered and threatened list of birds. Bird Watching is a big business in the United States and especially Florida where there are hundreds of permanent and migratory birds that live and travel to Florida. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has established a number of bird watching sites called the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail. It list the best sites in Florida to view and watch year round and migratory birds. It is estimated that bird watching generates about $4.9 billion dollars in revenue for the state annually and $54 billion nationally. People love to get out their camera’s, take pictures, collect photos and compete to have them published in books and calendars. Enjoying the great outdoors and seeing Florida’s natural preserves are added benefits of bird watching.
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