Recently, I described the plant life in central Florida. This article is about the birds that my host, Chuck, found for me. I will cover just the birds of interest.
The family Pelecanidae is made up just of two pelicans. They have flat bills with throat pouches below.
The wood stork feeds by keeping its head low and its bill open.
Photo by Ann Beebe
The long-legged waders. The family Ardeidae includes the herons and egrets. These birds can wait for prey with their necks in an S shape and shoot the bill forward for extremely fast spearing.
The family Aramidae includes one species in the whole world - the limpkin. Being uncommon (but not rare) in the United States, it is only found in Florida. The bill's downward curve is similar to that of the ibis, but this bird is brown with white spots and streaks - not white.
The family Threskiornithidae includes ibises and spoonbills. The ibises have thin, decurved bills, meaning they curve down. The spoonbills have spatulate (like a spatula) bills. Both species fly in V's, like geese, or straight lines and wade like herons. Their difference from herons is that their necks are elongated - not curved.
The family Phoenicopterus includes pink to white flamingos with long necks and legs. Their long, decurved bills are quite thick and have many lamellae (layers of tissue like the mollusk's gills) that strain food out of the mud. I did not see the rare greater flamingo.
The family Gruidae, the cranes, have tufted, short tails. Look for a hump-like area over the rump.
BIRDS OF PREY
The family Accipitridae have hooked bills and talons.
Finally, the family Tyrannidae. These flycatchers sit erectly on a branch, wait for an insect to fly near, and dash to catch it before returning to their perches. Their bills are flat with bristles at the base.
Recently, the American white pelican, family Pelecanidae, was in our neck of the woods. I hope that you had the opportunity to see it. Its courtship includes the female bowing, raising its breast, raising its wings and finally bending its neck which allows it to rest its bill on its chest. The male then enlarges its pouch, reaches over the female with its neck and sways its head. Although common in other parts of the country, it is rare here.
Also, common in Florida but rare here, the brown pelican female squats while the male circles her, lifts its wings and stretches its neck towards its back. He then follows her to water. Mangrove trees in Florida should not be harvested, because these birds nest in them.
The uncommon little blue heron, family Ardeidae, claps its bill, preens and flies in a circle. Then, the male and female rub and preen each other and bill clap.
The uncommon tri-colored heron, family Ardeidae, bows, hops towards the female and raises its back and head feathers to entice her.
The snowy egret, family Ardeidae, is rare here, but common along the coasts. The male also brings the materials for the female to use in building the nest. The stick nest is lined with very tiny twigs and rushes.
The uncommon wood stork (Family Ciconiidae) likes minnows - a lot. They stand in a shallow pool of water, stick their open bills into the water and wait to a fish touching their bill. The stork can react in 25 milliseconds. Whew!
It's a flamingo. No, it's a roseate spoonbill. This fairly common bird, family Threskiornithidae, compared with the flamingo, has a white neck, breast and back. Its head is bald like that of the turkey vulture.
Black vultures, family cathartidae, are common in the south. The turkey vultures mix in with them but the black ones can't smell their prey as well as the turkey species. Maybe that's why they fly higher in the sky - to see carcasses in a larger area.
The uncommon swallow-tailed kite, family Accipitridae, catches and carries flying insects, and lizards to the treetops to eat.
The uncommon limpkin, family Aramidae, eats the apple snail, a large family of freshwater snails.
The Scissors-tailed flycatcher normally lives in the south central states (Oklahoma and Texas), so this was a very rare sighting for Floridians.
My favorite sighting was two sandhill cranes feeding their fuzzy chicks. That is a common sight down there, but unforgettable for me.