Posts Tagged: Florida

Black-Bellied Whistling-Ducks with Ducklings

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Black-Bellied Whistling-Duck swimming with ducklings (sandra calderbank)



I caught sight of a couple of Black-Bellied Whistling-Ducks with Ducklings in a freshwater pond in Vero Beach, Florida. These tree ducks are called Black-Bellied Whistling ducks and they have bright orange bills and legs. Their nesting habit involves trees, cavities, nest boxes, and occasional ground scrapes. They’re one of two types of Whistling Ducks in North America and they make a whistling sound while flying. The young ducklings are tended by both parents until they can fly and fend for themselves, usually around 2 months old.

Non Breeding Adult Royal Terns

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Royal Tern, non breeding adult in flight against blue sky with wings in down stroke (sandra calderbank)

In winter, non-breeding adult Royal Terns show different types of plumage. Both these Royal Terns were captured on camera in March on the same day, but at different times. They were spotted in flight over the water’s edge at Florida’s Stick Marsh. I believed there were two distinct types of waterbirds, but upon closer examination, I realized they were non-breeding Royal Terns with different feather color patterns. The deciding factor was the solid orange bill. The Royal Tern, a large graceful seabird with a forked tail, develops a dark black shaggy crest when breeding.



Non Breeding Adult royal Tern inflight against blue sky (sandra calderbank)

Roseate Spoonbill in flight with wings in downstroke

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Roseate Spoonbill in flight with wings in downstroke and trees in background (sandra calderbank)

I captured this Roseate Spoonbill in flight with its wings in downstroke at the Stick Marsh as it returned to its nesting area in the Mangroves. There is a small island at the entrance to the Stick Marsh where many Roseate Spoonbills nest at the waters edge in colonies along with other water birds. The Roseate Spoonbill is a distinctive water bird with bright pink shoulders. Adults have a bald greenish-colored head, a beak that is large and spoon-shaped, and red eyes. Juvenile birds are recognizable by their pale pink shoulders and feathered head. Like the American Flamingo, their pink color comes from their crustacean diet.





Atlantic Coast Adult Brown Pelican in Breeding Colors

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Brown Pelican in full breeding colors, in flight low over water (sandra calderbank)

The Atlantic Coast Adult Brown Pelican is a stunning and massive seabird in its breeding colors. They differ from the California Brown Pelican in breeding colors by the color of the skin on their pouch. During breeding season, the throat pouch of the Atlantic Pelican turns brown while the Pacific Pelican’s turns red. The pouch stretches and is meant for catching fish. Aside from the throat pouch color, these Pelicans are the same in behavior and size. These massive water birds frequently glide just above the water. Their feeding method involves diving headfirst into a school of fish. To soften the effect of high headfirst dives, they have air sacs beneath their skin. It’s quite a dramatic sight to watch the headfirst dive from a height of 60 to 100 feet. The pouch they possess can hold fish and up to 3 gallons of water. Before swallowing the fish, the pelican makes sure to empty the water from its pouch. Pelicans are suprisingly graceful and are very social, congretating in flocks. Brown Pelicans have a lifespan of up to 30 years.


Tight Formation Flight

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Three non breeding Adult Brown Pelicans in flight in tight formation against blue sky (sandra calderbank)

As I walked along the Sebastian River, hoping to capture some birds on camera, I spotted something in the distance flying towards me. Initially, I thought I saw one gigantic bird. As it approached, I realized there were three Brown Pelicans in a tight formation flight.

I have seen massive flocks of Pelicans fly in V formation before. They fly in V-formation because they conserve energy. The upstroke of one bird’s wing creates an updraft and the following bird saves a significant amount of energy. The trailing pelican’s heart beats slower than the lead bird because the trailing pelican flaps less than the leader.

These three Pelicans just seemed to fly along in tight formation flight like an acrobatic display. The lead Pelican soared to the right of the other two. I like to think they were putting on a show for me.