Nyctanassa

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I saw a brown heron-like bird fly past me and land in a tree by that pond I like in Indian RiverSide Park.

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Some sort of juvenile Night Heron – probably Yellow-crowned, I thought.

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Oh hey, what’s in the same tree? An adult.

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In the animal kingdom, among back-boned animals, their Class is Aves, Order: Pelecaniformes, Family: Ardeidae (herons), Genus: Nyctanassa. The Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Nyctanassa violacea, is the only surviving species in the genus, as the Bermuda night heron is extinct.

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The name comes from Ancient Greek words for “night” and “lady” or “queen”, referring to the yellow-crowned night heron’s nocturnal activity and its beauty.

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The other night herons around here are Black-crowned and their genus is Nycticorax (“night raven”) with two species on earth living and the rest prehistoric or extinct.

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It was Saturday evening and the park was pretty busy, but these birds were not spooked.

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Big eyes, like the ones in stuffed toys.

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Audubon…

More solitary and often more secretive than the Black-crowned Night-Heron, the Yellow-crowned is still quite common in parts of the southeast. Particularly in coastal regions, often feeds by day as well as by night. Its stout bill seems to be an adaptation for feeding on hard-shelled crustaceans — it is called “crab-eater” in some locales.

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A good look.

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The adult flew down and stood by the water for a bit, but I left before I saw it catch any dinner.

White feathers

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Great Egret yesterday morning at Indian RiverSide Park in Jensen Beach, Florida.

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Preening feathers.

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Every single feather on a Great Egret is white.

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From All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology…

The elegant Great Egret is a dazzling sight in many a North American wetland. Slightly smaller and more svelte than a Great Blue Heron, these are still large birds with impressive wingspans. They hunt in classic heron fashion, standing immobile or wading through wetlands to capture fish with a deadly jab of their yellow bill. Great Egrets were hunted nearly to extinction for their plumes in the late nineteenth century, sparking conservation movements and some of the first laws to protect birds.

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Morning light is just right for egret photos.

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I positioned myself to get the light on the bird and a nice background too. I was sitting in the grass, and hoping I chose a fire-ant-free spot.

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What a beauty.

This pond at the park a couple of miles from home is a great spot for birds, especially this stump. It should have a wildlife live-cam focused on it to keep track of the birds that use it!

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Great Egrets are fairly common around here, but I’m glad I took some time again to really look and appreciate this magnificent white bird.

Snakebird

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Anhinga around 7 p.m. last night by the pond at Indian RiverSide Park.

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The anhinga (Anhinga anhinga), sometimes called snakebird, darter, American darter, or water turkey, is a water bird of the warmer parts of the Americas.

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The word anhinga comes from the Brazilian Tupi language and means devil bird or snake bird.

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There are four species in in the Anhingidae family of water birds, distributed worldwide mainly in warm places. They are in the order Suliformes, along with their cousins the boobies, gannets, frigatebirds, cormorants and shags.

Mangrove birds

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A Northern Cardinal among the mangroves? Wonders never cease.

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I was walking on this boardwalk next to a creek that flows into Manatee Pocket in Port Salerno a couple of days ago.

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I saw this immature cardinal hopping around in the mangroves with an adult. I guess cardinals really can live pretty much anywhere.

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Also in the mangroves: a Green Heron.

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Green Herons are common and widespread, but they can be hard to see at first. Whereas larger herons tend to stand prominently in open parts of wetlands, Green Herons tend to be at the edges, in shallow water, or concealed in vegetation. Visit a wetland and carefully scan the banks looking for a small, hunch-backed bird with a long, straight bill staring intently at the water.

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Across the creek, some sailboats. I am a collector of boat names and places.

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Did this one sail across the ocean??

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A short walk away, a large boat shed with a cool mural.

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Wikipedia Port Salerno

In the 1920s, a small settlement was created in the southern shores of St. Lucie river inlet. It was named “Salerno” because the main settlers were emigrants from the Italian city of Salerno.

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Also out for a walk, a couple of Mourning Doves.

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I do love a nice little stroll with my bird camera!

We ought to take outdoor walks, to refresh and raise our spirits by deep breathing in the open air. — Seneca

Haney Creek hawk

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At Haney Creek Park in Stuart yesterday, I spotted a hawk perched in a bare tree.

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My first thought ID-wise was that it looked like a member of the Buteo family. But it seemed to be too small to be, say, a Red-tailed Hawk.

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Trying to get closer, but not too close. My husband and dog respectfully lagged behind. Good boys!

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Getting a better look. Tail seems pretty long, and because it was smallish I decided it might be an Accipiter like a Cooper’s Hawk. Looking online when I got home, the colors resembled an immature Cooper’s.

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But I am not that confident about hawks so I posted a couple of these pics to What’s This Bird? on Facebook. I wrote: “Immature Cooper’s Hawk? Midday at Haney Creek Park in Stuart, FL.”

First reply: “No, notice how far down the tail the wingtips come, and how narrow the bands on the tail are. This is a red-shouldered hawk.”

Okay, cool. So Buteo it is, specifically Red-Shouldered. Smaller than red-tails.

Second reply, from one of the 8 people who manage the membership, moderators, settings, and posts for What’s This Bird: “And notice the pale crescents in the wings. And the reddish shoulders. Seriously. They are visible here.

Seriously?.. birders are such know-it-alls. And the beginning birder needs to be prepared to take a few hits to the ego. Smiley-winky face.

Anyway, this bird doesn’t look that much like any of these photos of Red-shouldered Hawks on All About Birds: Red-shouldered Hawk Identification. But I guess that’s the beauty and challenge of hawk watching.

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Take off! Big, broad wings… I bet that’s a Buteo hawk thing.

Note to self: read up on Buteos today. And look at hawk photos and videos, specifically Cooper’s and Red-shouldered.

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Something to eat down there in the grass? The hawk scuffled around for a moment, was still with its head down, then flew off and we continued our walk on the one-mile-ish trail that loops the park.

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Radar and John on the sandy trail ahead.

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A faraway dead-treetop bird got me excited for a minute because I thought it might be a rare Florida Scrub Jay. I have never seen one, but they do exist in this area of Florida, and this type of scrubby habitat.

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Got closer, got a better look, heard it sing, and when it flew off I could tell it was, in fact, the ubiquitous state bird of Florida (and Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas): the Northern Mockingbird.

Local bucket list bird

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Today I finally spotted some of the peacocks of Rio, Florida. I have read and heard about them since I moved here.

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We were driving on Dixie when I glanced down the road with the awesome name and there they were. U-turn and quick diversion down the dead end street.

(Checking a map it appears we were actually in Jensen Beach here, at the edge of Rio. And in my 5-mile radius, incidentally.)

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Absolutely no fear of the car or the woman hanging out the window with her camera. Curiosity, but no aggression… now that breeding season is over.

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Peacock feathers!

Indian Peafowl are native to India but have been widely introduced to other parts of the world. The birds in Rio are descended from a flock kept by movie star turned philanthropist Frances Langford.

Here’s a local news story from last March: Peacocks ruffle some feathers in Rio, but most say they’re part of town’s charm

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So blue!

Not truly wild birds, but I’m totally counting these feral fellows on my sidebar. Bird #179!

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No need for pink flamingoes on this front lawn. Ornamental peacocks are present.

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Feather eyespots.

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A couple of members of the next generation.

Wake up, birds!

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Good morning, night heron.

I saw this  juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron on the mud flats by the Snook Nook bait and tackle shop in Jensen Beach the other morning.

This location is within my 5-mile “local bird” radius. (More on 5MR birding HERE at the Bourbon, Bastards, and Birds blog.)

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I like the pattern of little triangles on the feathers.

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The pier behind the bait and tackle shop is a popular resting spot for a variety of Indian River Lagoon birds. Great Blue Heron wades below.

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Gulls and White Ibis.

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These Laughing Gulls seem to be just waking up.

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Tern hanging with the gulls. I think it’s a Sandwich Tern because the bill is dark and maybe tipped with yellow. The light isn’t great for getting the colors, but Royal Terns have orange bills that are pretty bright.

A bird of marine coasts of the southeastern United States and the Caribbean, the Sandwich Tern is readily identified by its shaggy crest and yellow-tipped black bill.

One of my summer bird goals is to learn more terns.

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Bird holding still. Always good for my level of photography skill!

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Yo! Does this night heron need a cup of coffee or what?

Sea eagle, bone breaker

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Osprey, Pandion haliaetus, atop a Norfolk Island pine across the street from the Snook Nook, Jensen Beach.

I love words as much as birds, so let’s do some etymology.

Wikipedia: Osprey

The genus name Pandion derives from the mythical Greek king of Athens and grandfather of Theseus, Pandion II. The species name haliaetus comes from Ancient Greek haliaietos ἁλιάετος from hali- ἁλι-, “sea-” and aetos άετος, “eagle”.

The origins of osprey are obscure; the word itself was first recorded around 1460, derived via the Anglo-French ospriet and the Medieval Latin avis prede “bird of prey,” from the Latin avis praedæ though the Oxford English Dictionary notes a connection with the Latin ossifraga or “bone breaker” of Pliny the Elder.

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With a 50- to 71-inch wingspan, Ospreys are similar in size to the largest hawks and falcons.

And did you know?…

The osprey is the second most widely distributed raptor species, after the peregrine falcon. It has a worldwide distribution and is found in temperate and tropical regions of all continents except Antarctica. In North America it breeds from Alaska and Newfoundland south to the Gulf Coast and Florida, wintering further south from the southern United States through to Argentina. It is found in summer throughout Europe north into Ireland, Scandinavia, Finland and Scotland, England, and Wales though not Iceland, and winters in North Africa. In Australia it is mainly sedentary and found patchily around the coastline, though it is a non-breeding visitor to eastern Victoria and Tasmania.

Plate 81, Fish Hawk, or Osprey, by John James Audubon. (Source)

 

True colors

Three photos from the archives, for the glorious Fourth.

red

Red.

white

White.

blue

And blue.

From this morning…

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Sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean, from Virginia Forrest Beach on Hutchinson Island, Stuart, Florida. Latitude 27.23 north, longitude 80.18 west.

Have a beautiful day… today and always.

It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.  – John Adams

Drink in the morning

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White Ibis morning drink.

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This is the time to be up and out on a July day in Florida.

I walked all of Indian RiverSide Park early this morning, including the fishing pier on the Indian River Lagoon. That’s the barrier island Hutchinson Island across the water. The park is in Jensen Beach.

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Pigeon on a railing. There are always lots of pigeons here.

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Crow silhouette on a light post.

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I am 90% sure these guys are Fish Crows, Corvus ossifragus.

Visual differentiation from the American crow is extremely difficult and often inaccurate. Nonetheless, differences apart from size do exist. Fish crows tend to have more slender bills and feet. There may also be a small sharp hook at the end of the upper bill. Fish crows also appear as if they have shorter legs when walking. More dramatically, when calling, fish crows tend to hunch and fluff their throat feathers.

The voice is the most outwardly differing characteristic for this species and other American crow species. The call of the fish crow has been described as a nasal “ark-ark-ark” or a begging “waw-waw”. Birders often distinguish the two species (in areas where their range overlaps) with the mnemonic aid “Just ask him if he is an American crow. If he says “no”, he is a fish crow.” referring to the fact that the most common call of the American crow is a distinct “caw caw”, while that of the fish crow is a nasal “nyuh unh”.

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The crows were calm, but I’m pretty good at not spooking the birds.

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Strut your stuff, little man.

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Over in the pond, I spotted just one Common Gallinule.

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Moon setting and tree flowers.

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I was pretty excited to get a shot of the gallinule’s feet, usually hiding under water or in a mat of floating vegetation.

The Common Gallinule swims like a duck and walks atop floating vegetation like a rail with its long and slender toes. This boldly marked rail has a brilliant red shield over the bill and a white racing stripe down its side. It squawks and whinnies from thick cover in marshes and ponds from Canada to Chile, peeking in and out of vegetation. This species was formerly called the Common Moorhen and is closely related to moorhen species in the Old World.

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The Common Gallinule has long toes that make it possible to walk on soft mud and floating vegetation. The toes have no lobes or webbing to help with swimming, but the gallinule is a good swimmer anyway.

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I also walked past the Mount Elizabeth Mound. It’s first incarnation was as a Native American prehistoric shell midden. More info HERE.

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The story of Mount Elizabeth also includes first settlers, a Coca-Cola heiress, nuns, tourists, a college and finally a park. The tale is told by local blogger Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch HERE.

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At the top of the mound today.

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It really is a lovely park, full of many interesting places, so close to home.

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White Ibis likes it there too.