Tag Archives: birds

Barn Owl

Barn Owl - Fish and Wildlife Comm

Barn Owl – Fish and Wildlife Comm








The Barn Owl or sometimes referred to as the Common Barn Owl was spotted on Sanibel Island for the first time since 2005 according to the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF). Barn Owls are important to ecosystems because they feed upon unwanted rodent populations such as rats and keep their numbers in check.

Sanibel Island has a rat problem because I have seen their numbers increase and recently had to fix my car engine which was used by a Rice Rat as its nest. The rat apparently was looking for a warm and hidden place to make its nest and the inside of my car engine made a good place for it to hide out. It cost me over $300 to have the rat debris removed and cleaned out.

Barn Owls are whitefish or pale in color with rounded heads and medium in size. They are nocturnal birds that hunt mainly at night with very keen hearing skills and excellent low vision eyesight abilities.  They can swoop down and catch mice and eat them whole. They do not pass their food or prey through their digestive tracts but instead cough up the digested food through their mouths as pellets. The pellets are used by ecologists as useful information for what owls are eating in their habitat.

Barn owls make a hissing noise which you can hear on the All About Birds website. If you visit their website. Click on the sound tab and choose one of the sounds it makes. Barn owls are usually found in abandoned barns, marshes, prairies and agricultural areas. The Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation advises residents on the islands not to use rat poison around their homes because it is then ingested by owls which causes harm to the owls.

Photograph was used, courtesy of the Fish and Wildlife Commission.








Red Cardinal

Red Cardinals are supposed to be good luck when you see them and this summer there has been no shortage of Cardinals appearing in many places I have visited. I normally write this blog for SW Florida but I have been staying on Long island for most of the summer. Red Robbins seem to be the dominate bird species in my area of Eastern Long island but Red Cardinals have been flying around frequently and making their calls or songs as song birds do.

The Red Cardinal that I photographed above was in the Elizabeth Morton Wildlife Refuge located in Noyac, New York. Noyac is located near Southampton, New York and the preserve which is part of the U.S. National Wildlife Refuge system consists of 187 acres that is located on a narrow peninsula that juts out into the Little Peconic Bay. It is definitely worth the visit because of the beautiful views of a forested nature preserve and the beaches and views of the Peconic and Noyac bays. I also saw several wild turkeys walking along the nature path.

The female Red Cardinal is bright red all over except for the black patch on its face. The male cardinal has a brownish color over its red body. They both have sharp and short bills and a red crest on the top of their heads. They live in nests in short bushes, wooded forests, and backyards with birdfeeders.

You can hear the call and song of the Red Cardinal by visiting the All About Birds website and clicking on the sounds tab and then choosing either of the green arrows below. They make a loud whistling sound with a distinctive series of whistles.

Click on either of the 2 photos above for larger images



Snowy Egret

         The Snowy Egret is a small white heron with an impressive plumage of white feathers. Another distinctive feature are their yellow webbed feet and black bills. Its feathers were once prized by the fashion industry for decorating women’s hats. In 1866, the Snowy Egrets feathers were worth $32 an ounce which was twice the price of gold at the time.

The Snowy Egret became an endangered species because of the popularity of its feathers and organizations like the Audubon Society had to step in to protect this bird from extinction. The Snowy Egret population has increased in significant numbers and are no longer listed on the endangered list but are still on the list of bird species of “high concern.”

            The Snowy Egret has migrated to northern states and can be seen in many states in the northeast, along the Gulf Coast and in the western portion of the U.S.  Wading Birds like the Snowy Egret spend much of their time foraging for food such as small fish, insects and crustaceans in shallow water streams, swamps, marshes and tidal flats. They inhabit and feed on freshwater and saltwater fish.

            Snowy Egrets lay about 3-5 eggs per year and both the male and female birds take turns incubating and feeding their young. It takes about 20-25 days for the eggs to hatch and they leave their nest. The oldest Snowy Egret on record was 17 years old. It was banded in Colorado and found again in Mexico.

            I see Snowy Egrets on the beaches near Sanibel Island, the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge and along roadways in shallow drainage swales. Good websites to see more pictures of this bird is the All About Birds website and the Audubon Society.






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.




Birds of Florida – Laughing Gulls

click on images for larger pictures

Laughing Gulls are saltwater shorebirds that are seen near coastal areas, salt marshes and sometimes near urban environments and agricultural areas. I saw these birds flying near the Sanibel Causeway searching for fish to eat. They dive into the water when they spot their prey and grab them with their sharp bills. They are very graceful birds when they fly and seem to use the wind drafts to hang in the air and glide slowly looking for fish. They have an impressive wing span. They are called laughing Gulls because of the sounds they make, ha, ha, ha. You can learn more about these birds and hear an audio clip of their calls by visiting the All About Birds website. Click on pictures for larger images of the birds.






Glossy Ibis – Florida Birds

Glossy Ibis

Glossy Ibis







Glossy Ibis   (Plegadis falcinellus)

The Glossy Ibis wading bird as you can see from the picture has dark plumage, chestnut-bronze, and green and purple iridescent feathers which are more easily seen on a sunny day.  It has a long curved bill which is also dark in color which sets it apart from it’s white cousin which displays white feathers and an orange bill. They can often bee seen feeding for crayfish in freshwater marshes, swamps, and streams. According to the Audubon Society, the Glossy Ibis crossed the Atlantic from Africa to South American the 19th century and moved northward by way of the Caribbean. It is now distributed along the coastal regions from Maine to Texas. The Glossy Ibis also feeds on fiddler crabs, insects and the poisonous water moccasins in it’s fresh and salt water feeding habitats.I saw this Ibis along a slow moving drainage canal in Ft. Myers.

click on image for clearer picture



Florida Birds – Anhinga


Anhinga (female)
Anhinga (female)


Anhinga (male)

Anhinga (male)

Anhinga swallowing fish

Anhinga swallowing fish

I had the opportunity to see some Anhinga’s  the past few weeks not far from where I live and get pictures of them with their distinctive webbed feet, colorful white and black feathers and method of eating fish.  The first picture shows the Anhinga standing on some pipes of a storm water drain waiting for a meal to drift by. You can see their impressive webbed feet which makes them such good swimmers. They can also fly long distances without flapping their wings. The female bird has a brownish neck whereas the male bird in the 2nd and 3rd pictures has a black neck. The Anhinga spears their prey with their bill and swallows them whole. The 2nd and 3rd pictures shows the bird maneuvering a fish it just caught, about 6-7 inches long, into it’s mouth. Anhinga’s are often seen standing with their wings outstretched in the sun because their wings become saturated with water and do not have the oil glands like other birds to keep their feathers dry. I have a another post in this blog showing an Anhinga in this kind of spread wing display. Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds to learn more about Anhinga’s. There is an audio clip where you can listen to their sounds.

Click on a picture to get a larger image


Birds of Florida – Mottled Ducks

Mottled Duck

Mottled Duck






Mottled Ducks

Mottled Ducks







Mottled Duck  (Anas fulvigula)

I saw and photographed these Mottled Ducks in a drainage canal off Six Mile Cypress Pkwy in Ft. Myers near the Lee County Sports Complex. I have seen some amazing variety of birds there in this unlikely place of bird watching. Today I saw White Egrets, Blue Herons, White and Glossy Ibis’, and an Anhinga. Mottled Ducks are hard to distinguish from feral Mallard Ducks because they are close relatives and look similar. The Mottled Duck is one of the few non-migratory birds or water-fowl that inhabit the Florida Peninsula. I loved looking at the brown and white stripped bodies of the ducks and their yellow bills. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission is worried that the population of native Mottled Ducks are being destroyed by their breeding with feral Mallard Ducks. Go to the Florida Fish and Wildlife website to learn more about these birds and help you distinguish the difference between them and Mallards.

click on pictures for larger images


Florida Birds – Woodstork and Roseate Spoonbill



Woodstork and Spoonbill

Woodstork and Spoonbill







I was lucky enough to see a flock of birds feeding in a shallow drainage swale off the Six Mile Cypress Pkwy in October on a cool  morning. I have never seen the Woodstork and Spoonbill together but they often inhabit and feed in the same areas. There were other birds wading in same area like the White Egret, Blue Heron, White Ibis and Little Blue Heron.

The Woodstork is listed on the U.S. list of Endangered birds mostly because of the destruction of wetlands in Florida and its loss of habitat.  It has white feathers, black bill and legs and pink feet. There are 6 species of stork in the world but the Woodstork is the only one to breed in the U.S. They feed by submersing their bills in the water and grabbing prey including small fish, amphibians and reptiles when they touch its bill. The Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve located across the street from where I spotted these birds is an 11 mile wetland swamp and hardwood forest where Woodstorks generally nest and call home.

The Roseate Spoonbill is distinguished by its bright pink color and bill that is shaped like a spatula. They are wading birds like the Woodstock and feed on small fish and other organisms. They have very sensitive nerve endings on their bill which they swish back and forth in the water until a fish comes in contact with it. The Roseate Spoonbill was once prized and hunted for their feathers but it is illegal to hunt them now. They have made a comeback in numbers and are not on the endangered list but still are listed on the Florida “threatened” list. There are two websites that I like which give detailed information about these birds. One is the “Birds of North America” by Cornell University. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission also always has good information about birds and other wildlife.

click on images for larger view




Florida Birds – Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron ( Ardea Herodias)

The Great Blue Heron is a wading bird found all over North, Central and South America. It is found near freshwater wetlands where it nests and forages for food,  mostly fish but also eats amphibians, reptiles and insects. They have slow deliberate movements and wade along a lake, river or swamp until it sees its prey. It then strikes and grabs its prey with it’s long bill and swallows it whole. The Blue Heron can sometimes kill itself by trying to swallow something too large. The Great Blue Heron can be distinguished from the Little Blue Heron and Tri-Colored Heron by it’s long slender neck which can be curled into an S shaped curve during flight or before it strikes it prey. It’s deep blue and grayish color is beautiful to look at and makes a sharp contrast to the grass and banks of wetlands it lives in. It is one of my favorite birds to look at. Carolus Linnaeus, the father of taxonomy or the naming of animals and plant species, listed the Great Blue Heron among thousands of other species in his famous Systema Naturae published in the 1800’s.  I found some great pictures of the Great Blue Heron at Bing’s Website of Images .  I also like the All About Birds Website by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

click on image to larger view