Florida is for the Birds

June 22, 2011

I’ve determined that if you’re not a bird watcher when you move to Florida, you eventually become one. Whether it’s the Red Wing Blackbird that catches your eye, or the statuesque herons and cranes, something inevitably draws you in. Several have caught my attention by now, and I seem to be looking for them everywhere I go.

From the Sandhill Cranes (which I wrote an earlier post on)…

Sandhill Crane (photo by Matt O'Neill)

to the graceful herons.

Great Blue Heron (photo by Matt O'Neill)

 

White Heron (photo by Matt O'Neill)

 
From the hawks that fly over our house daily, to the ospreys and owls. I enjoy them all.
 

Osprey (photo by Matt O'Neill)

 

Barred Owl (photo by Matt O'Neill)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Osprey

June 8, 2010

I am surprised by the large number of Osprey easily spotted throughout the state of Florida. On a recent trip to Sanibel Island, this pair of Osprey presided over the Memorial Day weekend festivities at the nearby beach.

Knowing about other birds of prey, I am surprised at how little I know about this one.  Here are a few things I’ve recently learned.

The Osprey…

  • is one of the largest birds of prey in North America
  • is one of the most widespread birds in the world, found on all continents except Antarctica
  • is sometimes known as the Sea Hawk, or Fish Eagle
  • is diurnal (the opposite of nocturnal)
  • joins the Owl as the only raptors with a reversible outer toe which allows grasping of prey with two toes in front and two toes behind
  • has a diet consisting of 99% fish, and occasionally including rodents, rabbits, other birds, amphibians, and small reptiles
  • sights its prey 32-120 feet above the water, then hovers momentarily before plunging feet first into the water
  • can become completely submerged during its dive into the water for its prey (unlike bald eagles which must pluck fish at the surface as they fly by)
  • while in-flight, orients captured fish headfirst to make it as aerodynamic as possible
  • nests on manmade structures, including telephone poles, channel markers, duck blinds and other platforms specifically built for them
  • makes its nest out of sticks and lines it with bark, vines, grasses, sod, and sometimes plastic bags
  • has a call that consists of sharp whistles of cheep cheep or yewk yewk, and when disturbed, gives off a frenzied cheereek