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The Birds of St. Augustine, Florida

 

The Birds of St. Augustine, Florida

 By Trish Elliot

Florida abounds with gorgeous, exotic birds,  boasting of over 500 species, and is one of the most famous birdwatching destinations in the world.  Some of the best sightings in Florida can be found in the St. Augustine area.

St. Augustine Ecotours have informative and fascinating birdwatching experiences, because their guides are interpretive naturalists, the owner, Zach McKenna, is a known expert of area habitats, and all the boat captains are USCG Licensed.

St. Augustine tours provide an experience not only to learn about these stunning birds, but also to take some breath-taking photos.

Below are just a few of the unique birds you can enjoy in the St. Augustine area.

 Florida Sandhill Cranes are a large bird with a body length just over 3 feet and a wingspan of 6 feet. The

Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane

adult’s color is predominately grey,  but its coat is often stained rusty brown from preening with his bill. He loves to feed in iron rich soils, which makes his bill this color.  He also sports a red forecrown, white cheeks, has a relatively short black, straight bill and long, black legs. The Florida sub-species is a year-round resident, but there is also a migratory group of Canadian Sandhill that over-winters here.Cranes favor freshwater marshes, pastures, open woodland, and are frequent visitors on golf courses.

Sandhill Cranes feed on seeds, tubers, insects and their larvae, snakes, frogs and the occasional small mammal. Sandhills nest in grassy areas within marshes, and build a nest of vegetation up above the surrounding water level, laying 1-3 eggs,  with both parents building the nest and caring for the chicks.

The Great Blue Heron.  With a wingspan that can be up to six & a half feet across

Blue Heron
Blue Heron

and a body length up to 54 inches long, the Great Blue Heron is the largest heron in North America. It feeds on fish, aquatic invertebrates and the occasional small mammal, and are most often seen stalking prey in the shallows of freshwater rivers, lakes & marshes. The Great White Heron is a variation of the Great Blue Heron that was once thought to be a completely different specie.  Similar in appearance to the White Egret, Great White Herons have light-colored legs. The White Egret has black legs.

 

Yellow Crowned Night Heron. Although the name implies night activity, this bird is also quite active during daylight hours. The Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron has an average body length of 24 inches,  with a wingspan of 44 inches. Adults are slate grey, have a black head, white crown and cheek stripe, reddish eyes and yellow legs. Breeding adults have a yellow forecrown with white plumes stretching from the nape and bright orange legs.

Juveniles are grayish brown with amber eyes, white spotting and streaks above, gradually acquiring adult characteristics over a two-year period. The Yellow Crowned Night-Heron hunts crustaceans, insects, & invertebrates in mangroves, both fresh and salt water swamps and marshes, and lives mainly near the coast.

 

Black-crowned Night Heron Compared with other herons, the Black-crowned Night Heron is relatively short and stocky when compared to other Herons, the Black-crowned Night Heron is the most widespread of all Herons, populating all continents except Australia and Antarctica, they are year-round residents within Florida.

Adults are about 25 inches tall with grey wings, white to grey underside, black back and crown. Eyes are red and the legs are yellow-green, except during breeding season when they turn pink. As the name implies, this Heron feeds primarily from dusk to dawn, in doing so it avoids direct competition with other Herons in the same area, which feed during the day.

You can also enjoy several more varieties of cranes, egrets, spoonbills, sandpipers, ruddy turnstones, ducks, willets, and pelicans.

Visit with the great folks at St Augustine Eco Tours.

 

 

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