This is a male, with the yellowy-green bill. Females have an orange bill. Very tame little guy. Looking adorable – hoping for a bread crust, I suppose.
My birdwatching wanders yesterday morning, at the Hutchinson Marriott Resort. I was trying to get close to a few ponds and look for winter ducks.
Also yesterday I used eBird mobile for the first time. The night before I (finally) completed the free course eBird Essentials in the Cornell Lab or Ornithology Bird Academy.
Here’s me trying to zoom in on some distant gulls to figure out what species were loafing around on the golf course. (Laughing gulls and Ring-billed Gulls, it turns out.)
Over the course of the hour I watched birds, I saw three different groups of Double-crested Cormorants. There were five individuals in each group. Cormorants come in fives?
My old eyes tuned in to the fact there were a bunch of little sandpiper birds out there too. I should have brought my binoculars but I felt like carrying my camera was enough.
They flew over to a different patch of grass. I hope nobody thought I was telephoto-stalking the golf players!
A lady walking her dog advised me to keep an eye out for flying golf balls.
Ruddy Turnstones, a couple of Sanderlings, some Killdeer.
And one lone Dunlin! It’s the bird with the longest bill in the photo above. A new bird to my blog, number 218.
Five Killdeer and one Ruddy Turnstone.
A small duck caught my eye. Wished I could get closer. Like, hitch a ride on a golf cart to go private-golf-course birding! There should be such a thing.
It was a Hooded Merganser, by itself.
In another pond was a group of three Hooded Mergansers.
I’ve seen this species of duck one other time, on a pond in NH in January 2016.
Anhinga and gulls out on the golf course, with the other winter visitors. Walking around the condos I noticed license plated from Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Maryland and West Virginia.
Fuzzy, cropped in pic of a Pie-billed Grebe, also down from the frozen north.
I visited some Egyptian Geese chicks yesterday, at a pond next to Ocean Blvd in Stuart.
Or should I call them goslings even though Egyptian “geese” are really ducks?
The Egyptian goose is believed to be most closely related to the shelducks (genus Tadorna) and their relatives, and is placed with them in the subfamily Tadorninae. It is the only extant member of the genus Alopochen, which also contains closely related prehistoric and recently extinct species.
Ma and Pa and two of the five young ones.
Florida Fish and Wildlife says that the nonnative Egyptian Geese are present in Florida but not confirmed to be breeding. I think it’s time to update that assessment.
I guess these chicks are really closer to “juveniles” or “immatures” as their feathers are changing from fluffy down to real adult feathers.
After nibbling green grass they launched onto the water to nibble some pond weeds.
My Florida birdwatching Christmas carol would include “five geese a-swimming.”
I watched these birds for about 15 minutes. They tolerated my presence and even came closer, though the adults chased off the ibises that came near. I guess they have probably been fed by people and competed for that food with ibises.
Many birds are observed sunning even on the hottest days, however, and it is believed that sunning can fulfill purposes other than just temperature regulation. Sunning can help birds convert compounds in their preening oil – secreted from a gland at the base of the tail – into vitamin D, which is essential for good health. If the birds have been in a bird bath or swimming, sunning can help their feathers dry more quickly so they can fly easier, without being weighed down by excess water. It is even believed that some birds sun themselves for pure enjoyment and relaxation, much the same way humans will sunbathe.
The most important reason for sunning, however, is to maintain feather health. Sunning can dislodge feather parasites because the excess heat will encourage insects to move to other places in a bird’s plumage. This will give the bird easier access to get rid of those parasites when preening, and birds are frequently seen preening immediately after sunning. It is essential to get rid of these parasites – the tiny insects that infect feathers can cause problems for a bird’s flight, insulation and appearance, all of which can impact its survival.
After a trip to Home Depot in the Martin Square Shopping Center on US 1 in Stuart, I stopped by the pond on the northwest side to check out the duck situation.
White Ibis too, coming over to see if I have any stale bread.
The strange, warty-faced Muscovy Duck causes confusion for some bird watchers, as it’s very distinctive and quite commonly seen, yet does not appear in some field guides. Truly wild individuals are restricted to south Texas and points south, but domesticated versions occur in parks and farms across much of North America. Wild Muscovy Ducks are glossy black with bold white wing patches and are forest dwellers that nest in tree cavities. Their range expanded into Texas in the 1980s; feral populations also exist in Florida.
A feral population is well established here at the shopping center pond.
Native to sub-Saharan Africa, the Egyptian Goose is an exotic species in North America. Their introduction and establishment is not well understood, but the species likely originated from escapees from captive waterfowl collections.
Egyptian “geese” are big and goose-shaped, but they are believed to be more closely related to shelducks. (Link.) True to their name, they are abundant in the Nile River Valley. And in ancient Egyptian art.
One of the oldest domesticated fowl species in the world, the Muscovy Duck was already being kept by native people in Peru and Paraguay when the early Spanish explorers arrived. The word “Muscovy” may refer to the Muscovy Company (incorporated in London in 1555), which transported these ducks to England and France.
Aztec rulers wore cloaks made from the feathers of the Muscovy Duck, which was considered the totem animal of the Wind God, Ehecatl.
Wild Muscovy Ducks are dark-plumaged, wary birds of forested areas. Domestic varieties—heavier, less agile birds with variable plumage—live on farms and in parks in warm climates around the world, where they can be confusing to bird watchers.
From Birds and Blooms…
Domesticated Muscovy ducks were brought to Florida intentionally in the mid-twentieth century, thought to add aesthetic appeal to lakes and ponds. Since then, they have established massive feral populations, to the point where they are considered a nuisance in some areas. Though they are native to the tropics, they can withstand cold and even freezing temperatures, and multiple urban populations of these introduced ducks exist around the U.S. The origin of the name “Muscovy” is uncertain. “Muscovy” means “from Moscow,” but these ducks are neither native to that region nor found there other than in domestication. Some link the name to certain Native American tribes, while Carl Linneaus assigned it the species epithet moschata, meaning “musk” (due to their strong gamey odor), and this may be the most logical explanation.
They did smell a bit fishy to me.
They let me hang around pretty close to them and take pics.
Compared to other species of ducks, pair formation occurs early, with nearly 80% of all individuals paired by November. Breeding starts in January, continuing through to July and usually peaking in March and April.
The male has a yellow bill, the female orange.
Coots are tough, adaptable waterbirds. Although they are related to the secretive rails, they swim in the open like ducks and walk about on shore, making themselves at home on golf courses and city park ponds.
Worth a read from Audubon.org The Sketch… The American Coot: A Tough-Love Parent.
Bills can be swords, reminds the Cattle Egret.
Cattle Egrets have broad, adaptable diets: primarily insects, plus other invertebrates, fish, frogs, mammals, and birds. They feed voraciously alone or in loose flocks of up to hundreds. Foraging mostly on insects disturbed by grazing cattle or other livestock, they also glean prey from wetlands or the edges of fields that have been disturbed by fire, tractors, or mowing machinery. Grasshoppers and crickets are the biggest item on their menu, which also includes horse flies, owlet moths and their larvae, cicadas, wolf spiders, ticks, earthworms, crayfish, millipedes, centipedes, fish, frogs, mice, songbirds, eggs, and nestlings.
Another place birds find food in the park is from people. I was across the pond and couldn’t see what she was feeding them. The dogs were doing an amazing job of ignoring the birds… for treats?
Another member of the Rallidae family (Rails, Galllinules and Coots): the Common Gallinule.
The Common Gallinule inhabits marshes and ponds from Canada to Chile. Vocal and boldly marked with a brilliant red shield over the bill, the species can be quite conspicuous. It sometimes uses its long toes to walk atop floating vegetation. This species was formerly called the Common Moorhen and is closely related to moorhen species in the Old World.
Whoa, those toes!
A couple of nonnatives, Egyptian Geese, were enjoying the feeding from the ladies with the dogs.
Ibis, ibis, goose.
There are some feral populations of Egyptian geese in the area. They are probably more closely related to shelducks than geese. They were sacred to the ancient Egyptians.
Facsimile Painting of Geese, Tomb of Nefermaat and Itat, ca. 2575-2551 from The Met.
Egyptian geese are native to Africa and were sacred to the ancient Egyptians.
Here they are on the Ocean Club Golf Course at the Hutchinson Island Marriott Beach Resort.
According to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Egyptian geese have been seen in Florida since the 1960s.
Species are present but not confirmed to be breeding. Population persists only with repeated introductions and/or escapes of individuals.
Native to North Africa and Syria. This is probably the most commonly seen exotic goose species in the wild in Florida, but it rarely breeds successfully (Florida BBA). The sightings in Florida represent escapees.
Pretty colors. I saw five of these geese while I was out on a “bird walk” yesterday in the late morning. I have seen them on or at the edge of the golf course nearly every time I have driven past too. I guess they live there.