Northern Pintail

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The Northern Pintail is an elegant long tailed dabbling duck. They are very unique in North America with their long slender body and long pointed tail. The Pintail has a long neck and is very fast and agile in flight, nicknamed the “Greyhound of the air”.  The Northern Pintail male and female are very different with the female a very plain brown. The male has a bright white breast, chocolate brown  head and gray body with a very long tail.  They are Dabbling ducks, which means that they feed mostly on the surface of the water instead of diving underwater for food.  They  “up end” to  use their long necks to reach aquatic plants underwater with their tails in the air.  They  maintain this dabbling position with their head down by paddling their feet in the water. I sure am glad I don’t have to eat in that position with my head under water and tail in the air!

Reddish Egret

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This Reddish Egret is in full breeding colors and is standing in the water with it’s shaggy, rusty colored neck feathers ruffled. This large heron is uncommon and seen in the United States only in coastal tidal flats in southern states. I photographed this one in Florida. This beautiful bird nearly became extinct by plume hunters for its beautiful feathers in the late 1800’s.

American White Pelican

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The beautiful  American White Pelican is one of our largest birds in North American. They have a NINE and a half foot wingspan and can weigh 15 or more pounds!  This breeding adult is soaring in flight.  The adult breeding colors include the yellow chest feathers and the yellow plate on it’s upper bill which it loses after breeding. Despite their strong flight abilities, they are very awkward on land. I was surprised to learn that they migrate, only spending winters in Florida.  In the summer this beauty travels to the interior of Western Canada and the North Western US, where they breed and form colonies on fresh water lakes.  It was a treat getting to view this breeding adult as the group prepared to travel north from Florida.

Brown Pelican

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I was watching the waters around Merritt Island, Florida and this Brown Pelican landed just to my left in a marshy area. This adult is in breeding plumage with bright blue eyes, pink bill, reddish brown neck and yellow head. These birds are big and stocky with a 79 inch wingspan and seem clumsy on land. This one looks quite graceful as it is landing, almost as if it is conducting an orchestra.

Hooded Merganser

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Female Hooded Merganser, preening

The Hooded Merganser is a very small diving duck and the sexes are distinctly different in their appearance. The Male Hooded Merganser has a black head with a large white patch and yellow eyes. The Female Hooded Merganser is a tawny cinnamon color. This Female is preening in evening light on a pond in Florida. The Hooded Merganser has a collapsible crest that can make their head very different shapes depending on the position of the crest. They dive for small fish and insects.