Tag Archives: Mottled Duck

A loop around the pond, and precocious goslings

I watched these two cormorants swimming and diving for fish around the edges of the pond at Indian Riverside Park the other day.

I believe the darker one is an adult and the light brown one is a juvenile. They were staying close together, diving and surfacing at the same time – the young bird mirroring the older bird.

A Blue Jay was keeping an eye on me.

Great Blue Heron at the west side of the pond.

Muscovy Duck heading toward a woman calling for her. “Lily, Lily! I brought you something.”

People feed the birds and ducks here.

Florida Mottled Ducks are closely related to the more familiar mallard. The male has a yellow bill and the female’s is orangey and darker.

Egyptian geese keeping watch over three chicks.

So cute!

Egyptian Geese are native to the Nile River Valley and other parts of the Middle East. They are yet another non-native that is beginning to breed “in the wild” in South Florida.

Oh the tiny wings!

The feathers are all down at this age. So soft.

This one stopped to rest. But not for too long.

Soon it was time to forage again. They eat a variety of plants, seeds, tiny animals and insects. Believe it or not, popcorn and bread are not very good for them.

Egyptian goslings (like the chicks of domestic hens) are precocial, born with downy feathers and ready to start feeding themselves right away, as opposed to altricial birds born naked and helpless, staying in the nest for some time, needing to be fed.

Cormorants are altricial… and so are human babies!

There’s no place like home

I brought my camera on a dog walk at Green River and there were ducks.

Florida Mottled Ducks were flying high and low, then landing here and there. This one walked across our path on the berm.

No other birds were close enough for a photo. It’s ducks for me today, I thought.

At home, I walked through the side gate to let the dog into the backyard. I looked up and saw a Bald Eagle right over our house!

I was agog, just looking. Then I remembered I had my camera hanging from my shoulder and I dropped everything else, dog leash, keys, hat, to lift my lens to the sky.

eBird mobile, ducks, geese and golf balls

Duck on a golf course.

Goose on a golf course.

Egyptian Goose to be precise.

They are native to Africa but have busted free of zoos and backyard breeders and established wild populations in Florida and elsewhere.

A Mottled Duck, a common Florida duck.

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.

Winter visitors.

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.

Ahoy, six mystery ducks!

My first Lesser Scaup, bird number 219!

In another pond I saw a bunch of floating golf balls.

Wait, do they hit golf balls into the pond on purpose? That’s weird.

Here’s my complete eBird checklist from my two-mile walk: January 29 Hutchinson Island Marriott.

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.

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.

Field trip to Platt’s Creek

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Pie-billed Grebe… “part bird, part submarine.”

A week ago, on March 21st, I went on a field trip organized by the local Audubon to Platt’s Creek Preserve, a restored wetland area in St. Lucie County.

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Incoming ducks.

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These were Mottled Ducks. We had two expert birders leading the trip, Eva Ries and David Simpson, and their identifications and commentary were so helpful and educational.

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A couple of males were fighting for a few minutes.

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A male and a female watched.

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Boat-tailed Grackles were everywhere, and the males were noisy, bold and impossible to ignore.

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When you smell saltwater on the East Coast, it’s time to look out for Boat-tailed Grackles. The glossy blue-black males are hard to miss as they haul their ridiculously long tails around or display from marsh grasses or telephone wires.

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In our party of 10, I am the one who spotted the  Bald Eagle first and I’m pretty proud of that. What a bird, look at those wings!

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Northern Harrier that appears to be pursued by a Tree Swallow? This could have just been the angle of the photo, or maybe that little bird was pissed off.

We saw a couple of harriers working the boundaries of the woods and marsh area. Very cool raptors.

The Northern Harrier is distinctive from a long distance away: a slim, long-tailed hawk gliding low over a marsh or grassland, holding its wings in a V-shape and sporting a white patch at the base of its tail. Up close it has an owlish face that helps it hear mice and voles beneath the vegetation.

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Also soaring around up in the sky, a couple of Swallow-tailed Kites. This one was eating a lizard while flying, nice trick.

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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.

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Common Gallinule keeping an eye on us.

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Sandhill Crane in someone’s backyard. Some birds are easier to spot than others.

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Limpkin stalking the pond side vegetation.

An unusual bird of southern swamps and marshes, the Limpkin reaches the northern limits of its breeding range in Florida. There, it feeds almost exclusively on apple snails, which it extracts from their shells with its long bill. Its screaming cry is unmistakable and evocative.

In all, we tallied 51 species in our 3-hour, 1.5 mile walk. David Simpson posted the checklist to eBird HERE. Very helpful photos and descriptions for us birding newbies!

Park birds, pond

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We went to Indian Riverside Park yesterday in the late afternoon. But why did I take so many pictures of birds! Oh well, because I love them. Here they are…

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Woot! it’s a Coot!

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I have never photographed and IDed an American Coot, until now!

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Duck, Mottled.

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Little Blue Heron, a grownup in its inky dark plumage.

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Snowy Egret.

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Standing still.

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That ol’ coot.

You’ll find coots eating aquatic plants on almost any body of water. When swimming they look like small ducks (and often dive), but on land they look more chickenlike, walking rather than waddling.

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The pond in the park was clearly the avian place to be.

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White Ibises, a coot and a Little Blue Heron.

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Also a few Cattle Egrets.

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A brief kerfuffle among the Mottled Ducks.

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Then all was well again.

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.

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The male has a yellow bill, the female orange.

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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.

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Worth a read from Audubon.org The Sketch… The American Coot: A Tough-Love Parent.

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Bills can be swords, reminds the Cattle Egret.

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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.

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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?

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Another member of the Rallidae family (Rails, Galllinules and Coots): the Common Gallinule.

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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.

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Whoa, those toes!

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A couple of nonnatives, Egyptian Geese, were enjoying the feeding from the ladies with the dogs.

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Ibis, ibis, goose.

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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.

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Facsimile Painting of Geese, Tomb of Nefermaat and Itat, ca. 2575-2551 from The Met.

Birds at the golf course

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Loggerhead Shrike.

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I took a walk past the Ocean Club Golf Course at the Hutchinson Island Marriott yesterday morning. Photos could be better, since most of the birds were on the wrong side of the light and far away.

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This is the most interesting bird. These shrikes don’t live in NH, where I started watching birds, and I’ve only seen a couple them in Florida.

Audubon Field Guide: Loggerhead Shrike

In open terrain, this predatory songbird watches from a wire or other high perch, then pounces on its prey: often a large insect, sometimes a small bird or a rodent. The Loggerhead is gradually disappearing from many areas, for reasons that are poorly understood.

Forages mostly by watching from an exposed perch, then swooping down to take prey on or near ground or from low vegetation. Kills its prey using its hooked bill. Often stores uneaten prey by impaling it on thorn or barbed wire, returning to eat it later.

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Wikipedia: Shrike…

Shrikes (/ʃraɪk/) are carnivorous passerine birds of the family Laniidae. The family is composed of thirty-one species in four genera. They are fairly closely related to the bush-shrike family Malaconotidae.

The family name, and that of the largest genus, Lanius, is derived from the Latin word for “butcher”, and some shrikes are also known as butcherbirds because of their feeding habits. The common English name shrikeis from Old English scrīc, alluding to the shrike’s shriek-like call.

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In a tree near the pond, an Osprey was dining on a freshly caught and still wriggling fish.

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So many Ospreys around here. I like to watch these big, beautiful fish hawks.

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Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottus, is the only mockingbird commonly found in North America.

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Wikipedia: Northern Mockingbird

The northern mockingbird is known for its intelligence. A 2009 study showed that the bird was able to recognize individual humans, particularly noting those who had previously been intruders or threats. Also birds recognize their breeding spots and return to areas in which they had greatest success in previous years. Urban birds are more likely to demonstrate this behavior. Finally, the mockingbird is influential in United States culture, being the state bird of five states, appearing in book titles, songs and lullabies, and making other appearances in popular culture.

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I spotted a pair of Mottled Ducks. This one with a yellow bill is the male. Female has an orange bill.

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Palm Warbler, I do believe. They never seem to be in palm trees.

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Snowy Egret.

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This Belted Kingfisher was swooping around noisily over the pond, but I captured it in a rare moment of perching.

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Back home we had some interesting “birds” overhead. A couple of F-18s were looping around over Sewall’s Point. The Stuart Airshow is this weekend!

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The McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet is a twin-engine supersonic, all-weather carrier-capable multirole combat jet, designed as both a fighter and attack aircraft (hence the F/A designation). Designed by McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) and Northrop, the F/A-18 was derived from the latter’s YF-17 in the 1970s for use by the United States Navy and Marine Corps. The Hornet is also used by the air forces of several other nations and, since 1986, by the U.S. Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels.

I had help identifying these birds from my husband, who is an airline pilot and flew a variety of fighter jets in the Marine Corps.

 

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As the F-18s took a couple of turns overhead, an Osprey was perched atop our Norfolk Island pine.

April showers bring… ducks

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It rained and rained on Sunday and the drainage swale at the end of our street was a little pond on Monday.

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A pair of Mottled Ducks was happy about that.

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Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission…

Because the plumage of male and female mottled ducks is similar, the easiest way to tell them apart is by bill color. The male mottled duck has an olive green to yellow bill whereas the female has an orange to brown bill with dark blotches or dots.

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The female is keeping an eye on the skies.

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The Florida mottled duck, often called the Florida duck or Florida mallard, is a unique subspecies found only in peninsular Florida. This nonmigratory duck spends its entire life within the state’s brackish and freshwater marshes, ponds, lakes, rivers, canals, ditches, and mosquito impoundments on the east and west coasts and inland. Approximately 40 percent of the mottled duck’s diet consists of insects, snails, mollusks, crayfish and small fish. The remainder of its diet is composed of grass seeds, stems, and roots; seeds of other marsh plants; and bayberries.

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Bonus, on the walk back up the street I got a photo of a zebra longwing, Heliconius charithonia. Did a bird take a bite of this one?

The adult butterflies are unusual in feeding on pollen as well as on nectar; the pollen enables them to synthesize cyanogenic glycosides that make their bodies toxic to potential predators. Caterpillars feed on various species of passionflower, evading the plants’ defensive trichomes by biting them off or laying silk mats over them.

They are the state butterfly of Florida.