Tag Archives: wildlife of florida

Mottled Ducks

Mottled Duck and Chicks

Mottled Duck and Chicks

 

 

 

 

 

 

I saw and photographed this brood of Mottled Ducks on Sanibel Island swimming in a freshwater pond swimming on  its way with a dozen or so chicks following in tow. It was amazing to see such a large number of chicks in one group. It is common for a Mottled Duck to have 5-13 eggs in one season.

The Mottled Duck is similar to the Mallard Duck and is in danger of becoming extinct as a unique species because of its mating with the Mallard and subsequent hybridization. The Mottled Duck has an all brown body with a lighter colored head and neck. Its habitat is mostly freshwater wetlands and wet prairies and marshes.  It also has a distinctive greenish, bluish streak on its back,

According to the All About Birds website, its diet consists of seeds of grasses, aquatic vegetation, invertebrates and small fishes. This duck is different than other duck species because it does not travel in large groups but is instead seen in pairs or by itself. Like other animal species, its main threat is loss of habitat. The U.S. has seen a large decrease in the size and number of wetlands areas over the past 50-100 years.

The Audubon Society is an organization devoted  protecting birds of all kinds from over hunting and loss of habitat. Click on their website to learn more of the Mottled Duck and the mission of the Audubon Society. You can also see a larger image of the ducks in the photo by clicking on the photo.

 

 

 

 

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.  

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Southern Leopard frog

Southern Leopard Frog

Southern Leopard Frog  –   click on picture for larger image

 

 

 

 

 

The Southern Leopard Frog –  (Lithobates sphenocephalus)  –  is found throughout Florida mainly in freshwater habitats  but it also inhabits areas within Hardwood and Pinewood forests. I photographed this one at the Calusa Nature Center in Ft. Myers where they have a good collection of amphibians and reptiles in aquariums and terrariums. I was awestruck by the spots and colors of this frog because it had brown spots all over its’ body and seemed different than the plain looking and single color of other frogs. The Southern Leopard Frog is green and brown in color and they have brown spots all over their body. They also have raised ridges on their sides, and like all true frogs they have large eardrums and webbed feet. I learned more about these frogs at the Univ. of Florida Dept. of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation website.

The Southern leopard frog is nocturnal which means they are active at night and their diet consists of insects, crayfish and other small aquatic invertebrates.  Wildlife Biologists look at frogs as an “indicator species” of the health of an ecosystem. These frogs are very vulnerable to toxins that enter their ecosystems. Toxins such as pesticides, herbicides and other pollutants can kill off these amphibians rather quickly.

The Southern Leopard frog lays its eggs in clusters that are attached to some type of vegetation. They are unique in that their call sounds like a laugh or chuckle. It would be interesting to trace back the evolutionary history of this amphibian and try to determine how it developed from other forms of life and what species branched off from this frog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Egret – Birds of Florida

Great Egret

Great Egret

click on image for larger picture

The Great Egret is a majestic looking bird with it’s white plume of feathers, tall upright stance and graceful looks when it is flying. It is easy to spot with it’s all white body, yellow bill and black legs. I photographed this one at Punta Rassa near the Sanibel bridge. It was either looking out to sea or staring at a nearby fisherman and hoping to get a treat if he caught anything. These birds were hunted to near extinction because their white feathers were sought after by hunters to supply the fashion industry with plumage for women’s hats. They were finally protected by wildlife protection laws and their numbers have greatly increased.

Great Egrets get their food by stalking their prey, either small fish or aquatic animals in fresh or salt water environments. They spear their prey with their long bills. Cornell Univ. has a website called All About Birds which contains a lot of information about this bird and others.