Bird on a Wire

Female birds in many cases are not nearly as brilliantly colored or marked as their male counterparts.  This is true of the female Red-winged Blackbird perched on the barbed wire below, which is neither black nor red-winged.  Females are streaked with gold and brown and feature a lighter eyebrow and pale breast.  Typically they exhibit yellow patches or occasionally a little bit of red on their shoulders. It is speculated that the female’s brownish coloration keeps her camouflaged, protecting her from predators while nesting.

Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)
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Laughing Gulls

Laughing Gulls are common on beaches or in parking lots throughout South Florida and the Eastern Coast of the United States.  As you would probably guess, their name is derived from their raucous laugh-like call.  I been told that they are not really laughing; it’s just the sound of their calls.  But the lively group below sure started “calling” a lot when I took my shirt off at the beach the other day.

Laughing Gull (Leucophaeus atricilla) Juvenile

Laughing Gull (Leucophaeus atricilla) Adult

This adult found a crust of bread…

…then dropped it in the sand…

…and shared it with his younger compatriot.

Hovering and scanning for an easy meal.

Skimming the bay waters and pulling up a weed.

Finally! A Real Owl

If you have been following this blog for a while you probably know two things.  First, its author is probably the worst birder in the world, and second, this struggling birder was once fooled by a stuffed owl planted by his scheming coworkers in a tree behind the office. Click here if you don’t know the story.  Since that day he has been striving to spot an actual living owl and has felt the victim of some kind of curse, because people who would never consider themselves birders accidentally see owls all the time, yet he, who goes great lengths to seek out the locations that they would likely be, has never been able to find one.  That is until today.  Finally an owl.  This one a Burrowing Owl.  Burrowing Owls are commonly spotted (by non-cursed people) in the fields surrounding small airports in South Florida.  The owls are a protected species, and their burrows are clearly marked by big bright orange cones so they are not inadvertently destroyed by those maintaining the fields.  If you find yourself at a small airport check for the cones.  There is a good chance you’ll see a Burrowing Owl perched on top, such as this one.

Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia)

American White Pelican

We have two species of Pelican in South Florida, the American White Pelican and the Brown Pelican.  Other than the obvious difference in their appearance, indicated by their names, their feeding styles are also quite different.  The Brown Pelican hovers and dives for its meals, while the American White Pelican forages while swimming.  It dips its large bill into the water and scoops up fish, amphibians and crayfish.  Here are some images of one catching a frog at Cutler Wetland in southern Miami-Dade, Florida.

American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)
Pulling up a frog…
…and…
down the hatch!

Blue Jay Breakfast

The Blue Jay is a colorful member of the corvids, more commonly known as the crow family.  Birds in this family are highly intelligent, and the Blue Jay is no exception.  The Blue Jay is bold, smart, territorial and loud when a potential predator is nearby.  It has a strong beak used for cracking nuts and acorns and is easily identified by its distinct blue and black markings and prominent crest.  The crest is usually flattened down against the head when feeding as show here below.

Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)