Tag Archives: Anhinga

Birds and a turtle and an otter, oh my

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I spied on half the gallinule family and a terrapin on Saturday morning. They were in the reeds at freshwater pond at Indian RiverSide Park, Jensen Beach.

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I think this turtle is a Red-eared Slider, a member of the pond turtle/ marsh turtle family.

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The gallinule chicks are growing up fast.

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Beaks and legs are very different from the adult.

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Much time was spent preening the feathers.

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Was this vocalization directed towards the turtle?

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All birds looking up (in that one-eyed way I remember from my backyard hens), while the turtle continues to watch the gallinules.

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Amazing red and yellow color match between the turtle’s face and tail and adult gallinule’s beak and legs.

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Birds of all species hang close together at this pond, but do the birds and reptiles hang close together too?

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Speaking of coexisting with reptiles, I wondered if this White Ibis lost a leg to an alligator.

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One more photo of the gallinules. What spectacular toes!

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Nearby, Little Blue Heron gets its stalk on.

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A woodpecker flew onto this old tree. I’m guessing it’s a juvenile Red-bellied Woodpecker. It will grow a lovely scarlet cap soon!

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Anhinga perched on one pathetic little tree branch, or root. The park people need to leave more dead wood around the pond.

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This Anhinga is a female, with the light brown neck.

I also walked the boardwalk into the mangrove swamp. It was a breezeless 90 degrees and it felt like 100 in the humidity…

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But I saw an otter! The River Otter, Contra canadensis, lives in and near fresh water in a large part of North America, including throughout Florida except the Keys.

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This looks like a yawn but it may have been a crunch. I could hear it eating something, fish or crab?

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Sharp little teeth, cat-like whiskers, elf ears and a body like an aquatic dachshund… what a strange and wonderful animal.

Also, don’t mess with them… they bite! River otters in Florida got into multiple fights with kayakers last winter.

Sunday morning pond loop

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I looped the pond at Indian RiverSide Park on Sunday morning and kept track of the birds I saw for an eBird checklist: LINK.

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White Ibis, ten of them, preening mostly.

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Ibises plus an Anhinga drying his wings in the sun.

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The morning light was lovely. Birds are a great way to start the day!

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White Ibis close up.

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Paying attention to feathers.

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Florida Mottled Ducks, I believe.

There were 14 of them.  But I marked them on the checklist as Mallard/ Mottled because I was not 100 percent sure that there were not a few hybrids mixed in.

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The Wood Ducks were still there from the day before.

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The Mottled Ducks were parading past the Wood Ducks.

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Four Wood Ducks, all young/ non-breeding males?

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The duck scene got even busier when a couple of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks flew in.

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Duck city.

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The handsome and interesting Black-bellied Whistling Ducks.

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Side-by-side duck comparison.

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Then the little not-duck, a Common Gallinule, came across the pond.

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It checked in on my side of the pond then paddled back to the reeds on the other side.

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When I walked to that side of the pond I witnessed a charming parent-child moment, as the adult and chick shared a nibble of a little green plant.

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Common Gallinule chick.

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There were four chicks and two adults in the reeds.

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Audubon: Common Gallinule

Adaptable and successful, this bird is common in the marshes of North and South America. It was formerly considered to belong to the same species as the Common Moorhen, widespread in the Old World. The gallinule swims buoyantly, bobbing its head; it also walks and runs on open ground near water, and clambers about through reeds and cattails above the water. Related to the American Coot and often found with it, but not so bold, spending more time hiding in the marsh.

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Funny, fluffy little creatures.

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This is their part of the pond.

Streamlined water bird

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Stop me if I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m completely fascinated by the fact that… Anhingas don’t have nostrils!

They do not have external nares (nostrils) and breathe solely through their epiglottis.

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I photographed this fine fellow yesterday morning at the Indian RiverSide Park pond.

In order to dive and search for underwater prey, including fish and amphibians, the anhinga does not have waterproof feathers, (unlike ducks, which coat their feathers with oil from their uropygial gland). Because the anhinga is thus barely buoyant, it can stay below the surface more easily and for longer periods of time.

If it attempts to fly while its wings are wet, the anhinga has difficulty, flapping vigorously while “running” on the water. As do cormorants when drying their feathers, the anhinga will stand with wings spread and feathers fanned open in a semicircular shape, resembling a male meleagrine, which led to the anhinga being referred to colloquially as the “water turkey” or “swamp turkey.”

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I used to think Anhingas were ugly, or at least funny looking. I’m beginning to think they are beautiful, actually, in their own strange way.

A few more birds from the causeway park

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One of the fishing piers at the west causeway under Jensen Beach bridge, looking north at the Indian River Lagoon. Guys were netting fish. A couple of members of the heron family were lurking nearby.

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Little Blue Heron on a light post.

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LBH.

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Great Egret near the boat ramp.

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Both heron and egret appear to have breeding plumage still.

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Looking toward the mainland, I spotted an Anhinga drying its feathers, its back to the sun, in classic Anhinga pose.

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Feathers and palm fronds.

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An Osprey was fishing the Indian River Lagoon. That’s the Florida Power & Light nuke plant in the distance.

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Osprey, boat traffic on the Intracoastal, and Nettles Island.

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Anhinga was not happy with the dog and me being so close. We gave it some room to keep sunning.

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You can almost count its feathers from this angle!

Say ah, Anhinga

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Anhinga at Indian RiverSide Park.

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I am Anhinga, hear me roar!

At first glance I thought it was a cormorant because of the thick neck. But it has a straight pointy bill and cormorants have a downward curve at the tip of their bills.

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Was it trying to swallow a big fish? I really have no idea.

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It had its mouth open the whole time I was taking photos. It wasn’t actually making any sound (like roaring).

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This is a female or juvenile, with the light brown neck and upper body.

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Long neck.

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See how the feathers are wet – looks like wet dog fur, almost. They aren’t waterproof like  a duck’s feathers and need to dry after swimming. One reason Anhingas don’t live in cold places, I guess.

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Good swimming feet.

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The Amazed – no, Amazing! – Anhinga.

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.

Birds, the Beast and Blue Cypress

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Our sweet ride awaits, the bug-eye green boat that is the Marsh Beast. Birdwatching by airboat, oh yeah! We did that yesterday morning.

Audubon of Martin County organized the trip with Captain Kenny Elkins of Marsh Beast Airboat Tours.

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Our trip was in Blue Cypress Conservation Area, west of Vero Beach, an hour north of home. INFO and MAP

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We could get a really nice view of some birds from the boat, like this Anhinga at rest.

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Guys fishing and an osprey nest.

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Two juveniles and one adult in this photo.

Captain Kenny said this is one of the few nests with juveniles still in it.

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Another airboat coming in for a look.

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We saw lots of Ospreys during our trip.

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Ma or Pa Osprey.

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The Osprey kids’ brown feathers have more white on them than the adult.

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That’s a fine young bird!

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Osprey at rest. Big wings like a cloak.

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Osprey in motion…almost a great photo!

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We came upon some small black fuzzy creatures in the floating vegetation.

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They are seemingly running on top of the water.

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They were Purple Gallinule chicks, we were told.

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Long legs and long toes make them look funny if you are more used to hen chicks than swamphen chicks.

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Looks like a little wetland roadrunner.

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There’s an adult.

A beautifully colored bird of southern and tropical wetlands, the Purple Gallinule can be see walking on top of floating vegetation or clambering through dense shrubs. Its extremely long toes help it walk on lily pads without sinking.

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On the move.

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Iridescent.

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More chicks.

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Adult coming in for a landing.

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Purple Gallinule chicks.

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Coming up on an alligator.

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Alligator spotting is an important part of any airboat trip in Florida, right?

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A Least Bittern!.. a new bird for me.

A tiny heron, furtive and surpassingly well camouflaged, the Least Bittern is one of the most difficult North American marsh birds to spot.

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What a beauty!

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Thanks to its habit of straddling reeds, the Least Bittern can feed in water that would be too deep for the wading strategy of other herons.

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I think this is a male, because its back and crown are almost black. Females’ crown and back are brown, according to Cornell.

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A short flying hop to some new reeds.

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Shake it off.

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Thank you for posing, little bittern.

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Common Gallinule.

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We watched one big gator for a while.

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And he watched us.

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Scenery.

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Great Blue Heron in a mat of water hyacinth.

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We investigated an area I’ll called Egret Town.

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Great Egret.

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Three Greats.

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Big wings, big feathers.

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Great Egret wingspan is four-and-a-half to five-and-a-half feet.

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Another Common Gallinule.

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It was nice to have a breeze when we were on the move on a typically warm Florida summer morning.

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Nice golden slippers, Snowy Egret. Another one of those just-missed-it action photos, oh well.

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Birds and beast.

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American Coot.

Captain Kenny said they are normally here in winter, not summer.

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Coot relocating.

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Decorating the tree a bit early this year, in Egret Town.

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Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets.

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More gallinule chicks.

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An older gallinule chick among the lotus?

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These lovely lotus are native plants, we learned.

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Lotus blossom.

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Anhinga in the treetops, my last bird of the trip.

Palm Beach Zoo, part 1

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This bright little parrot is a Rainbow Lorikeet.

My husband and I visited the Palm Beach Zoo yesterday and our first stop was the Lorikeet Loft, a relatively new interactive exhibit where you can enter the aviary and feed the birds.

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One cup of “nectar” (which is low-iron apple juice) is $2. Hold your arm out and a lorikeet, one of about 40 loose in the aviary, will perch and sip.

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Is this great or what? Much better than just staring at animals on the other side of a fence.

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Nestbox #8 with a friendly lorikeet coming to the front door.

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I focused mostly on birds during our visit, unsurprisingly. Some, like this Tricolored Heron, were wild birds choosing to visit the zoo for its bounty of food resources.

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Heron head shot.

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This bird was fishing by dancing across the water and grabbing fleeing fish off the top.

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It made several passes across the water like this while we watched.

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But we didn’t have all day to watch a small native heron when there were other more exotic animals to see.

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The Laughing Kookaburra is the largest member of the kingfisher family. I learned the Kookaburra song when I was in Girl Scouts a hundred years ago and so it’s a bird I “know” but have never seen.

I’d love to see one in the wild, but of course I’d have to go to Australia for that.

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A predator of a wide variety of small animals, the laughing kookaburra typically waits perched on a branch until it sees an animal on the ground and then flies down and pounces on its prey. Its diet includes lizards, insects, worms, snakes and are known to take goldfish out of garden ponds.

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Fennec foxes were eating lettuce when we stopped by their enclosure.

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Crunch, crunch! went the little desert fox from North Africa.

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The Chestnut-breasted Malkoha is a large cuckoo from Southeast Asia.

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It was inside an aviary you could enter… staring out rather forlornly, in my opinion.

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Patagonian cavy, or mara. This seeming cross between a rabbit and a small donkey is actually more closely related to a guinea pig. But it also reminds me a little of my dog.

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Another wild bird making itself at home in the zoo.

IMG_4481-2Anhinga hanging out near the maras.

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Nearby, the largest member of the guinea pig (cavy) family and largest member of the order Rodentia… the capybara.

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One of a number of Eurasian Collared-Doves we saw wandering around the zoo, representing the classic bird category “Pigeon at the Zoo.”

With a flash of white tail feathers and a flurry of dark-tipped wings, the Eurasian Collared-Dove settles onto phone wires and fence posts to give its rhythmic three-parted coo. This chunky relative of the Mourning Dove gets its name from the black half-collar at the nape of the neck. A few Eurasian Collared-Doves were introduced to the Bahamas in the 1970s. They made their way to Florida by the 1980s and then rapidly colonized most of North America.

I have been keeping an eye out for one of these doves. I was almost as excited to “get” it (with my camera) as I was to see any of the captive birds – which I’m not counting on my Photo Life List sidebar. Eurasian Collared-Dove is #174.

Morning at the pond in the park

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Common Gallinule this morning at Indian RiverSide Park a few miles up the road from us, in Jensen Beach.

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I saw a couple of adults and a juvenile together in this pond the other evening, but did not have my camera.

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This morning I found the “baby” off by itself, fluffy yet independent.

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Common Gallinules eat vegetation, seeds, snails, and insects. They pick sedge, grass, pondweed, duckweed, and flower seeds from the water surface or just below the surface. Gallinules flip over leaves with their feet to grab snails and insects hidden below.

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I went looking for gallinules and I also found a strange, new duck.

The Black-bellied Whistling-Duck is a boisterous duck with a brilliant pink bill and an unusual, long-legged silhouette. In places like Texas and Louisiana, watch for noisy flocks of these gaudy ducks dropping into fields to forage on seeds, or loafing on golf course ponds. Listen for them, too—these ducks really do have a whistle for their call. Common south of the U.S., Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks occur in several southern states and are expanding northward.

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Just two, together.

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Unique color pattern.

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks are dark overall: a chestnut breast and black belly are set off by a bright-pink bill and legs, grayish face, and broad white wing stripe, also visible in flight.

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Florida bird #89 for me.

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“Hey, don’t forget about me. People feed squirrels in this park, you know.”

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An Anhinga was near the ducks.

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A dark body stealthily swims through a lake with only a snakelike head poking above the surface. What may sound like the Loch Ness monster is actually an Anhinga, swimming underwater and stabbing fish with its daggerlike bill. After every dip, it strikes a regal pose on the edges of shallow lakes and ponds, with its silvery wings outstretched and head held high to dry its waterlogged feathers. Once dry, it takes to the sky, soaring high on thermals stretched out like a cross.

Whoever writes the descriptions at Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a wizard wordsmith, a pleasure to read.

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They really are strange looking birds.

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A Mottled Duck, mallard-like and common in Florida, near the two exotic-looking whistling ducks.

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Here’s the young ‘un again.

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Looks like a cross between a chick and duckling.

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At one point, an adult gallinule crossed the pond calling and calling… I would guess for its adventurous teenager.

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The juvenile ignored the calls and kept exploring and foraging.

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Bird Island bird spies

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Ahoy, Bird Island!

Four of us old friends, aboard a 21-foot Hurricane deck boat nicknamed “Little Tanny” for the color of its canopy, went exploring yesterday.

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We stayed outside these signs that mark the boundary of the rookery/ bird sanctuary on an island in the Indian River Lagoon just to the east of Sewall’s Point, FL.

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Arrow points to the location of the little island full of birds.

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Roseate Spoonbills caught our attention with their bright pink wings.

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According to Cornell Lab of Ornithology…

The flamboyant Roseate Spoonbill looks like it came straight out of a Dr. Seuss book with its bright pink feathers, red eye staring out from a partly bald head, and giant spoon-shaped bill. Groups sweep their spoonbills through shallow fresh or salt waters snapping up crustaceans and fish.

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Brown Pelican and spoonbill.

  • Roseate Spoonbills get their pink coloration from the foods they eat. Crustaceans and other aquatic invertebrates contain pigments called carotenoids that help turn their feathers pink.

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Bird Island is a special place… for birds with preposterous bills.

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Roseate Spoonbills nest in colonies with egrets, ibises, and herons, typically on islands or over standing water. They nest in mangroves, Brazilian pepperbush, willows, sea myrtle, and other shrubs near the water. They tend to put their nests in the shadiest part of the tree or shrub, up to 16 feet high.

They lay 1 to 5 eggs, incubate them for 22 days, and the chicks stay in the nest for 35 to 42 days. There are just a few spoonbills on Bird Island right now.

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A mild chaos of comings and goings. Wood storks are nesting in greatest numbers.

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Yesterday morning, on a walk before boating, I got lots of photos (like this one) of Wood Storks that had flown the short hop from Bird Island to Sewall’s Point to break off branches for nesting material. (I will post those photos later.)

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Wood Stork in flight.

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Wood Storks showing off their best side.

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Next: a very exciting find, spotted by Lisa, a Reddish Egret, a first for me!

A medium to large heron of shallow salt water, the Reddish Egret comes in a dark and a white form. It is a very active forager, often seen running, jumping, and spinning in its pursuit of fish.

And…

There is little information on Reddish Egret population trends or numbers, but the species appears to be declining. The North American Waterbird Conservation Plan estimates a continental population of 6,000-10,000 breeding birds, rates the species about a 15 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, and lists it as a Species of Moderate Concern. Reddish Egret is on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List, which lists bird species that are at risk of becoming threatened or endangered without conservation action.

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John maneuvered the boat around to the northwest side of the island and we spotted a few Magnificent Frigatebirds, usually seen soaring high over the beach or ocean.

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This appears to be a nesting pair.

Males have a bright red pouch on the throat, which they inflate like a balloon to attract females. Females unlike most other seabirds look different than males with their white chest.

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The frigate bird with a white head is a juvenile.

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Frigatebirds, wood storks, cormorants… this mangrove tree has it all going on.

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  • The breeding period of the Magnificent Frigatebird is exceptionally long. Males and females incubate the eggs for around 56 days, and once hatched, chicks don’t leave the nest until they are about 167 days old. Even after they leave the nest, females continue to feed them until they are one year old.

Each pair only lays one egg.
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Not sure if this is a male or female. Maybe it is incubating an egg and the mate is away feeding.

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Magnificent Frigatebirds eat primarily flying fish, tuna, herring, and squid, which they grab from the surface of the water without getting wet. They also eat plankton, crabs, jellyfish, and other items on the surface of the water including discarded fish from fishing boats.

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The young ‘un.

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Frigatebirds soar effortlessly over the ocean rarely flapping their long, pterodactyl-like wings and using the long tail to steer. Though they are frequently seen soaring, they are masters of pursuit. They chase other birds including frigatebirds, forcing them to regurgitate their recent meal, which they scoop up before it hits the water. Their gracefulness ends as soon as they head towards land, where they awkwardly perch in low shrubs and trees. Their strong toes help them hold onto branches, posts, and boat masts, but their small feet in combination with their short legs makes it nearly impossible for them to walk on land. On land, males often flutter the balloonlike throat sac (or “gular pouch”) to cool off. Males and females also regulate their body temperature by holding up their wings up to sun themselves. To get airborne, they flap a few times and use the wind to help lift them into the air.

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Meanwhile, a few branches away, Wood Storks are cuddling.

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They almost make this Great Blue Heron look small.

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Wood Storks and Magnificent Frigatebirds.

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We watched these birds for a while then traveled south to Peck Lake and the Hobe Sound Wildlife Refuge and later up the St. Lucie River to downtown Stuart. Lots of boat traffic but it was still a nice way to spend a day on the water.

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Last bird I photographed on Bird Island: an Anhinga.