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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.

Mute Swan

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Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge is one of my favorite birding spots.  I was visiting this Delaware wildlife refuge this spring and saw this Mute Swan in the sunset light.  I photographed the Swan as it started flapping it’s wings and then started running along the water surface and took off in flight. Mute Swans are beautiful and graceful and very exotic looking. They are also HUGE with a wing span up to 94 inches and weighing up to 30 pounds.

Mute Swans take off from the water by running really fast and flapping their wings until they build up enough speed to take off. They can fly up to 50 miles per hour! I had no idea until I read about Mute Swans that they are not native to the United States. They were all imported from Europe in the 19th century to “adorn” parks and large estates.  The Mute Swan has flourished in the wild and are seen as “invasive” in some areas because they are very aggressive and also because they eat as much as 8 pounds of aquatic vegetation per day.  Some references state that they can displace native bird species and can also be  a danger to humans because of their fierce defense of their nests.

It is hard to believe that this beautiful, graceful Swan can be a hazard. I’ll be sure to always observe from a safe distance!