Tag Archives: birds

Learned a new tern

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Tern at Blowing Rocks Preserve yesterday.

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I think this is an immature Sandwich Tern.

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A view north along the beach with calm, receding waves. The woman on her knees was digging up lots and lots of one particular kind of shell.

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This helo flies, but not like a bird. It’s only got one “wing” and that wing spins around overhead, how strange.

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It was a lovely day to just sit and watch the waves. And we did.

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Kapow!

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I watched this little bird for a bit and realized I didn’t know what it was, so I snapped a few photos. I was sort of tern-like, but smaller and chubbier than the other terns. Also, it was skimming fish off the surface, not diving.

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I posted a couple of pics to What’s This Bird and got the answer: it was a young Black Tern!

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Audubon.org

Forages in flight, dipping to surface of water or shore to pick up items, sometimes pursuing flying insects in the air, seldom plunging into water after prey.

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In breeding season it is a beautiful charcoal gray with a black head and white butt (see pic here).

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A small, graceful marsh tern, black and silver in breeding plumage. In its choice of surroundings, it leads a double life: in North America in summer it is a typical bird of freshwater marshes, but in winter it becomes a seabird along tropical coasts.

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Bird #186 has been added to my collection.

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.

Wood Ducks!

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I visited my most productive little birding pond, at Indian Riverside Park, late this morning and got a new bird for the blog, the sweet little Wood Duck.

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This is not the full-on iridescent patterned breeding male but a young and/or non-breeding male, according to my online research. Cornell Lab: Wood Duck overview.

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There were four Wood Ducks together on the pond. I think they are all non-breeding males, with the red eyes.

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One seemed to be preening another.

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Audubon.org: Wood Duck

Beautiful and unique, this duck of woodland ponds and river swamps has no close relatives, except for the Mandarin Duck of eastern Asia. Abundant in eastern North America in Audubon’s time, the Wood Duck population declined seriously during the late 19th century because of hunting and loss of nesting sites. Its recovery to healthy numbers was an early triumph of wildlife management.

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The map on the site shows they are common in all seasons in this area.

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Wood Ducks! Bird 183 on the blog life list.

Birds at Sanibel pier

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A sign near the Sanibel City Pier.

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Wonder if the Osprey is eating one of the Frequently Caught.

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Birds were standing around on the beach, waiting for people to catch fish.

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Not this bird, though.

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In a tree near the pier, a couple of egrets arranged themselves for comparison, Great and Snowy.

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In another branch, a juvenile Reddish Egret!

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Perched on a railing right next to me, a young Snowy Egret.

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Egret and husband on the city pier, yesterday.

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Great Egret in a tree.

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The Reddish Egret at surf’s edge with a Snowy.

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The Snowy on the railing had funny legs, black in front, yellow in back. I guess it is changing from young to adult.

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Birds looking for bait.

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Snowy Egret is letting me stand next to it.

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Close up.

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See what I mean about the legs.

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Here’s the Snowy Egret legs I’m used to.

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Side by side comparison.

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Great Egret still in the tree, looking sort of slinky yet majestic.

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Osprey still working on that fish.

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Love this shot, and that sea eagle’s eye!

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Lazybirding at the local pond

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I guess I’ll just change the name of this blog to the Indian RiverSide Park Pond Blog.

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But you can see why I go there: I watched all these birds while sitting cross-legged in one little spot on an ant-free patch of grass, with my German Shepherd in a down-stay beside me.

A birdy place in the not very birdy season of Florida summer. And within my 5-mile radius.

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This photo is like a natural history museum diorama of wetland bird life!

Left to right: juvenile White Ibis; Black-bellied Whistling Duck; Tricolored Heron; Mottled Ducks.

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They had no problem sharing space. I took these photos Friday around 7 p.m. The park was busy, including a softball semi-final game with extra cars and people.

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A male Mottled Duck, Anas fulvigula, with a bit of blue secondary feathers (wing patch, speculum) showing on the wing.

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The ibis was the busiest, probing here and there, and the duck the least busy, standing with zen-like calm.

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The ibis was carrying a little minnow around for a while.

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Such a diversity of water loving birds here in wet Florida.

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The Black-bellied is quite a different looking duck from the mallards and mallard-like Mottleds I see regularly. And funny that it is standing in the water.

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Two very different bird beaks.

The beak, bill, or rostrum is an external anatomical structure of birds that is used for eating and for preening, manipulating objects, killing prey, fighting, probing for food, courtship and feeding young.

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Neat illustration on Wikimedia Commons.

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The Tricolored Heron is a sleek and slender heron adorned in blue-gray, lavender, and white. The white stripe down the middle of its sinuous neck and its white belly set it apart from other dark herons. This fairly small heron wades through coastal waters in search of small fish, often running and stopping with quick turns and starts, as if dancing in a ballet.

And stabbing them with its beak, en garde! A little fencing heron.

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You can see the tip of the Black-bellied Whistling Duck’s beak turns down a bit at the end. That part is called the nail…

All birds of the family Anatidae (ducks, geese, and swans) have a nail, a plate of hard horny tissue at the tip of the beak. This shield-shaped structure, which sometimes spans the entire width of the beak, is often bent at the tip to form a hook. It serves different purposes depending on the bird’s primary food source. Most species use their nails to dig seeds out of mud or vegetation, while diving ducks use theirs to pry molluscs from rocks. There is evidence that the nail may help a bird to grasp things; species which use strong grasping motions to secure their food (such as when catching and holding onto a large squirming frog) have very wide nails.

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An ibis beak has a special addition.

The bill tip organ is a region found near the tip of the bill in several types of birds that forage particularly by probing. The region has a high density of nerve endings known as the corpuscles of Herbst. This consists of pits in the bill surface which in the living bird is occupied by cells that sense pressure changes. The assumption is that this allows the bird to perform ‘remote touch’, which means that it can detect movements of animals which the bird does not directly touch. Bird species known to have a ‘bill-tip organ’ includes members of ibisis, shorebirds of the family Scolopacidae, and kiwis.

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This young ibis was carrying this little fish around a for a while.

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Not sure what it was waiting for to gobble it up.

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The colors of the juvenile White Ibis are a nice gray brown.

When baby White Ibises hatch their bills are straight. Their bills don’t start to curve downward until they are 14 days old.

Wow! Maybe so they can break out of the shell?

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New vocabulary word…

The speculum is a patch of often iridescent color on the secondary feathers of most duck species. It is often seen as a bright patch of color on the rear of the wing when the wing is spread during flight or when the bird is stretching, preening, or landing. The color of the speculum will vary by species, as will its width and any non-iridescent borders.

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The other duck’s wing patch is off-white and looks like a stripe when the wings are at rest.

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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The Tricolored Heron is petite compared to the big ones I photograph all the time.

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Like this Great Egret a short distance away, owning its spot by the pond.

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What our juvenile White Ibis will look like when he’s all grown up.

They look like a flock of bird ghosts, spooky and cute.

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.

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.

Lazybirding June

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Gull loaf.

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A couple of young Laughing Gulls claimed a piling each at Sandsprit Park a few days ago.

Not a lot of bird action these days, with wintering birds gone and nesting season nearing the end. Or am I the lazy one?

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The grackle (Boat-tailed) is a reliable presence, easily spotted and willing to pose for portraits. This one found me, flew down from a cabbage palm, landed on a railing by the waters of Manatee Pocket and said, “HERE  I AM, LADY.”

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Yesterday evening I saw this Yellow-crowned Night Heron near the entrance of the east causeway park of the Ernest Lyons Bridge. I was riding in the passenger seat of the car, with my camera on my lap and simply asked my husband to slow down, then I leaned out the window and click! (Or whatever the digital camera sound is.) That was easy.

It’s my first photo of an adult Nyctanassa violacea! (Order Pelicaniformes, family Ardeidae.)

While not as slender as a typical heron, the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron’s smooth purple-gray colors, sharp black-and-white face, and long yellow plumes lend it a touch of elegance. They forage at all hours of the day and night, stalking crustaceans in shallow wetlands and wet fields. Their diet leans heavily on crabs and crayfish, which they catch with a lunge and shake apart, or swallow whole.

Here is a juvenile eating a crab, back in Dec. 2016 when I first moved to this exotic locale.

Black-crowned Night Herons at the zoo

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There is a small colony of Black-crowned Night Herons living, by choice, and appropriately, in the Florida Wetlands section of the Palm Beach Zoo. (MAP)

There were a number of nests in the treetops. We noticed because they were squawking overhead.

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A juvenile stands around.

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Black-crowned Night-Herons are stocky birds compared to many of their long-limbed heron relatives. They’re most active at night or at dusk, when you may see their ghostly forms flapping out from daytime roosts to forage in wetlands. In the light of day adults are striking in gray-and-black plumage and long white head plumes. These social birds breed in colonies of stick nests usually built over water. They live in fresh, salt, and brackish wetlands and are the most widespread heron in the world.

And my photo life list bird #175.

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Adults are pretty distinctive, particularly on the tops of their heads, or “crowns”… but spotted brown juvenile Yellow-crowned and Black-crowned Night Herons are easy to confuse. The yellow on the bill is an identifying feature, according to Nicholas Lund writing The Birdist’s Rules of Birding #115: Learn to Identify and Differentiate Night Herons.

Another big clue: adult Black-crowned in the trees above this juvenile!

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Night heron and turtle gaze deeply into one another’s souls… wondering the eternal questions of the animal kingdom, “Can I eat it?” and “Is it going to eat me?”