Is it wrong of me to always think “they’re not that green” and wish the Green Heron had a different name?
The Chunky Skulking Heron? The Slate-Capped Purple-Necked Heron? The Lurking Heron?
This one was at Indian Riverside Park the other day.
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. Their harsh skeow call is also a good clue.
At another part of the pond, an Anhinga was perched for feather drying.
The most common bird in the park, Columbia livia, the Rock Pigeon.
Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets and Egyptian hieroglyphics suggest that pigeons were domesticated more than 5,000 years ago. The birds have such a long history with humans that it’s impossible to tell where the species’ original range was.
Royal terns subsist primarily on small fish, four inches or less in length, which they seize by hovering in the air and then diving into the water below. Crabs are another favorite food, as are oysters. Sometimes royal terns will fly close to the sea’s surface, scouting for schools of small fish and then dipping their bills repeatedly into the water to secure their meal.
The large (18 to 21 inches long) and striking royal tern is easily recognized by its size, white body, pale gray wings, crested black cap, and orange bill. The only bird it may be confused with is the even larger Caspian tern, but that bird has a blood-red bill and no visible crest. Royal terns are graceful fliers for their size. Slim, with long, pointed wings and a wingspan that reaches nearly 4 feet, they have delicate, deeply forked tails and are well designed for life on the wing.
I spied on this tern from the east causeway a few days ago.
Sanderlings on jetty rocks at the Fort Pierce Inlet.
A little further west along the inlet, we found Black Skimmers resting on a narrow white beach along with some Laughing Gulls and Ruddy Turnstones.
A distinctive-looking bird with short legs and a long bill. It’s hard to see their eyes, positioned as they are in the black-feathered part of their heads.
A long-winged bird with stark black-and-white plumage, the Black Skimmer has a unique grace as it forages in flight. Skimmers feed by opening the bill and dropping the long, narrow lower mandible into the water, skimming along until they feel a fish. Then they relax the neck, quickly closing their jaws and whipping the fish out of the water. Because they feed by essentially by touch, they can even forage at night. The world’s three species of skimmers are the only birds on earth that feed in this manner.
Little Blue Herons are little white herons when they’re young.
They turn “blue” as adults.
These two birds were wading and fishing near each other at Green River in Jensen Beach, Martin County, Florida yesterday.
I saw my second Swallow-tailed Kite of the year there. The first was a couple of miles south at Haney Creek the day before. They are coming back from winter in South America.
The lilting Swallow-tailed Kite has been called “the coolest bird on the planet.” With its deeply forked tail and bold black-and-white plumage, it is unmistakable in the summer skies above swamps of the Southeast. Flying with barely a wingbeat and maneuvering with twists of its incredible tail, it chases dragonflies or plucks frogs, lizards, snakes, and nestling birds from tree branches. After rearing its young in a treetop nest, the kite migrates to wintering grounds in South America.
I spotted an American coot. They are winter birds at Green River, so I guess it’s still “winter” for coots.
We spooked some Cattle Egrets who were plucking insects from the grass on the berm where we were walking.
My dogs were off leash there and the older wiser one was being obedient but the younger one was distracted by all the moving living things and her own zippy energy, so she had to be re-leashed.
Common Gallinules look a bit like coots, but they live and breed in these ponds year round.
White Ibis flyover.
The weather has been beautiful – that’s March for ya.
This is Artie. He is a Great-horned Owl who lives at Treasure Coast Wildlife Center. He’s one of the educational birds traveling to schools and events in the area or being featured on tours of the center.
I took the photos for a “Superb Owl” contest and fundraiser promoted on Facebook. It ran the week before Super Bowl Sunday and the winner was announced that day.
Here is a side view of Artie. And yes he always looks this fierce, however he is actually feeling inside.
He was hit by a car and has an injury to his right wing that makes him unable to fly, so he cannot be returned to the wild. Brake for owls, people!
He was the first owl I handled at TCWC, as we volunteers and the rehabbers bring the birds from the mews to the display area (weathering yard) daily. I was a bit clumsy with him because I was a bit afraid of him, and I get the feeling he doesn’t really like me that much. I hope he changes his mind as I improve my owl-handling skills!
Dusk is a blind Barn Owl who is still very good at flying around his enclosure in the display area. He is utterly silent in flight, with special feathers adapted for that sneakiness. You wouldn’t want to be a mouse wandering around in his enclosure at night.
Luna is a male Barred Owl who is partially blind but can fly, so he is a little tricky to catch in the mews. He likes to have his head scratched and that is one of the tricks to keep him from flying off while I (hopefully) quickly and skillfully clip onto his jesses.
I did feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment after I patiently stalked and gently caught him the first time. In the mews the birds have their own solo enclosures and are “free to move about the cabin”! In the weathering yard they are clipped to their perches for their own and each others’ safety.
Leela is also a Barred Owl, partially blind, and Luna is her boyfriend. When he gets carried out to the weathering yard, she is usually there first and she hoots and hoots! They get perched near each other.
The Barred Owl’s hooting call, “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?” is a classic sound of old forests and treed swamps. But this attractive owl, with soulful brown eyes and brown-and-white-striped plumage, can also pass completely unnoticed as it flies noiselessly through the dense canopy or snoozes on a tree limb.
Leela is also flighted and a couple of the rehabbers are very skilled at catching her in mid-air. I admire them!
Olga is a gorgeous queen. She’s a Great Horned Owl and the largest owl at TCWC.
GHOs are the largest owl in Florida and female raptors are usually about a third larger than the males. She’s got a fractured right wing.
TCWC hosts children’s birthday party and the party boy or girl gets to choose a bird to come out and meet the guests. Olga is a frequent and impressive choice!
Beautiful feather pattern. And check out those talons! When you go to pick her up, she hisses and bites the leather falconer’s glove once, then allows you clip her and slide the glove under her from behind to step up on.
In general, owls step backwards on and off the glove and hawks and others step forward onto the glove. I do not know why!
Ruby is an Eastern Screech Owl, the smallest breed of owl in Florida. Her coloring is “red morph” rather than gray morph. She has a wing injury and gets perched out in the mini-mews.
If a mysterious trill catches your attention in the night, bear in mind the spooky sound may come from an owl no bigger than a pint glass.
Kali is also an Eastern Screech Owl and she was the WINNER of the Superb Owl contest, with the most points. One donated dollar equaled one point.
She is a lovely petite red morph. About one-third of Screech Owls are red like her. She is missing an eye. When I pick her up, it’s like picking up a feather! I cannot feel her weight at all.
I spotted these two at a local elementary school as kids were getting out in the afternoon. They don’t care about people being near.
Sandhill cranes are almost four feet tall – taller than many children.
They have a distinctive red patch of bare skin on top of their heads, feathers of a soft gray color, and pretty red-gold eyes.
Two subspecies of sandhill crane occur in Florida. The Florida sandhill crane (G. c. pratensis), numbering 4,000 to 5,000, is a non-migratory year-round breeding resident. They are joined every winter by 25,000 migratory greater sandhill cranes (G. c. tabida), the larger of the two subspecies. The greater sandhill crane winters in Florida but nests in the Great Lakes region.
There is a small wetland adjacent to this school. It may be home for these two. I think they are resident birds. In this area north of the St. Lucie River and near the Savannas, In Stuart, Jensen Beach and Port St. Lucie, I see Sandhill Cranes all year, with chicks following them around in spring.
Sandhill Cranes mate for life.
Sandhill Cranes are omnivorous, eating insects and larvae, snails, amphibians and reptiles, small mammals, seeds, berries and tubers.
A weird and wondrous bird was paddling the pond at Indian Riverside Park last Friday, an American White Pelican.
Brown Pelicans are abundant but White Pelicans are seen far less often. They are winter visitors to Florida and in this county usually hang around by Lake Okeechobee. This was the first time I’ve seen one out here by the coast. Maybe the west wind blew him here.
I went after him with my camera. First I had to navigate the White Ibises underfoot.
Also underfoot, a Muscovy duck.
I circled the whole pond, following the pelican, till he came back to near where I first saw him. He and a fisherman were considering each other.
He was dip fishing which is the way White Pelicans get their fish dinner, as opposed to the dramatic dive of the Brown Pelican.
A scoop of scooped up water and fish.
Then the pelican presses its bill against its chest to squeeze out the water, leaving only fish in there, ready for swallowing.
There is something a little swan-like about them, except those beaks… which are 12 to 15 inches long!
The American white pelican rivals the trumpeter swan, with a similar overall length, as the longest bird native to North America. Both very large and plump, it has an overall length of about 50–70 in (130–180 cm), courtesy of the huge beak which measures 11.3–15.2 in (290–390 mm) in males and 10.3–14.2 in (260–360 mm) in females. It has a wingspan of about 95–120 in (240–300 cm). The species also has the second largest average wingspan of any North American bird, after the California condor.
They usually weigh between 11 and 20 pounds. That’s a big bird.