August 3, 2018

BEACH BIRDS OF FLORIDA

Waves, sand, seashells and the beach birds of Florida are irresistible! Florida beaches are home to squawking, soaring, nesting and diving birds of all kinds!  We sometimes sit for hours on a beach to watch the birds. 

 

 

We have learned to really take our time when traveling so we don’t miss the everyday treasures of the place. These are just a few of the birds we have watched.

 

 

BLACK SKIMMER

 

 

Stu and I visited a Black Skimmer colony near Navarre, Florida. Navarre ropes off the nesting area each year to protect the stunning birds. At twilight, the two-lane was busy with folks heading to the beach but the Black Skimmers had built their colony on gravel located between the road and the water. We were only two of many people stopping along the side of the road to watch and photograph the Black Skimmers.

 

 

These birds are fascinating. Black Skimmers are a tern-like seabird and is the only American type of the Skimmer family. You’ll see Black Skimmers on open sandy beaches, on gravel or shell bars where there is sparse vegetation.

 

 

The Black Skimmer seemed happy to pose for me. Photo by Stu Schaefer of The Traveling Seniors

 

 

Black Skimmers have unusual foraging styles. A feeding Skimmer flies low over the water with its bill open and its lower mandible slicing the surface of the water. When the mandible touches a fish, the upper bill snaps down in an instant to catch it.

 

 

These birds feed on small fish up to about 5 inches in length, including herring, killifish, mullet and pipefish and may travel up to 5 miles from breeding colonies in search of food.

 

 

BROWN PELICANS

 

 

We have watched Brown Pelicans for hours. They are so captivating because they dive head-first into the water to catch food. These birds will sometimes go completely under the water to snap up fish. They will also feed on crustaceans, and amphibians plus the eggs of other birds.

 

 

Pelicans near Fort Pickens on the West end of Santa Rosa Island in Florida. Photo by Stu Schaefer of The Traveling Seniors

Brown pelicans are monogamous breeders during the breeding season but do not pair for life. Their nesting season peaks during March and April. Parents regurgitate predigested food for their young for about 8-10 months.

 

 

 

OSPREY

 

 

Stu and I stopped along Fort Pickens Road near Gulf Breeze, Florida to watch the Osprey nesting high above in the tops of the trees in January. In Florida, mating season usually begins in December and lasts through February.

 

 

While we didn’t witness “courting”, male ospreys will attract a mate by “sky dancing” over a nest. They will fly hundreds of feet up and dive down quickly repeatedly until a female arrives. While courting, males will bring fish to the female to keep her from mating with other osprey. 

 

 

Ospreys have vision that can detect underwater objects from the air. These birds may hover above the water for a moment, then plunge head first into the water to catch fish. Their nostrils close to keep out water when they dive. Osprey mainly eat fish but will also catch rodents rabbits, other birds and small reptiles.

 

 

Osprey in their nest off Fort Pickens Road near Pensacola. Photo by Stu Schaefer of The Traveling Seniors

 

These birds are huge and have reversible outer toes!

 

 

Ospreys migrate each year, but they always come back to one another and will even inherit nests from family members. Ospreys usually mate for life.

 

 

HERONS

 

 

Great Blue Herons are easy to find in Florida. We search for quiet spots along the water to watch these graceful birds.We find them wading to eat fish and other prey in the shallows of the open coasts and marshes near Pensacola, Florida.

 

 

While fish is the main diet for Great Blue Herons, they also feed on frogs, lizards, snakes, crabs and some small mammals such as mice.

 

 

Great Blue Herons nesting on the grounds of Fort Pickens located on the West end of Santa Rosa Island. Photo by Stu Schaefer of The Traveling Seniors

Great Blue Herons begin building their nests in March. They like to nest in colonies (called “rookeries”) in trees up to 100 feet high. Males begin building the nexts and try to attract a female. Both parents take turns incubating the eggs.

 

 

Great Blue Herons have wingspans that can reach up to 6 1/2 feet and can be up to 4 feet tall! They are the largest herons in America and can live up to 15 years or longer.

 

 

Spend time in non-tourist spots during your travels. You will find treasures galore!

 

Blue Heron located on the West end of Santa Rosa Island Florida. Photo by Stu Schaefer of The Traveling Seniors