Swallow-Tailed Kites

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Swallow-Tailed Kite in flight holding prey with feet

The Swallow-tailed kite is one of the most graceful and handsome birds I ever photographed. They breed in parts of Florida in the summer and then assemble in a group and migrate to South America for the winter. All the Swallow-tailed Kites in the United States leave at the end of summer. The Swallow-tailed Kite seems to float through the air without ever flapping their wings. They veer and pivot, using their long forked tail with precision as a rudder as they seem to fly effortlessly. They capture all their food in the air and transfer the prey to their hooked beak in flight. The male catches prey on the wing and takes it back to the female at the nest to feed the young. Since this bird hasn’t devoured his prey, I presume this is a male Swallow-tailed Kite carrying food to his mate and little ones.

Female Purple Martin in flight with Insect

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I captured this Female Purple Martin in flight with an insect in its beak at Plum Island. The insect looks like a grasshopper, but since they feed almost entirely inflight, it apparently isn’t a grasshopper. I recently read that most of the Purple Martin population in the eastern part of the United States make their nests in man-made martin houses. Apparently, Martin houses are the influence of Native Americans that put up hollowed-out gourds on poles to manage insect populations around their villages. The western martins still nest in tree cavities or deserted woodpecker holes, but the eastern martins prefer the multi-dwelling martin houses. Purple Martins migrate to Mexico or South America during the winter and return to their multi-family residences in summer to reproduce.

Tree Swallows

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Most bird references describe Tree Swallows as “handsome aerialists” because they are such agile aviators and they are a shimmering blueish green. I watched this group of Tree Swallows on a trail at Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge. They dart around like little blue acrobats as they catch all kinds of flying insects in the air to eat. Tree Swallows nest either in tree cavities previously constructed by woodpeckers or man-made nest boxes. Bluebird houses with a 1 1/2″ diameter entrance hole are also the perfect size for Tree Swallows to raise a family.

Sub-Adult Bald Eagle Fishing

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I watched this Sub-Adult Bald Eagle go into the water for fish without success. In the low light of a cloudy overcast day with intermittent rain, I thought this was a wet Adult Bald Eagle. It is instead a Sub-Adult or Third Year Eagle. The Sub-Adult is in the transition phase to its Adult plumage of a white head and tail. Third-year or Sub-Adult Eagles have a dark patch below and through the eye and their head and tail still, have brown streaks. The Bald Eagle in the fourth year has the white head and tail of adulthood.

Brown Pelicans

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The Brown Pelican is an interesting seabird. They dive headfirst from high above the ocean into the water for fish. They use the force of the impact of their plunge dive to stun the fish and then scoop them into their pouch. This maneuver can cause as much as 2 to 2.5 gallons of water in the pelican’s throat pouch, which they need to drain. Frequently as they are draining the water from their pouch, gulls fly over and steal the fish right out of its pouch. The Brown Pelican lives year-round in some areas of Florida. I photographed this one flying low over the water with its wingtip almost dipping into the water surface as it glided by.