Category Archives: Florida

The Turtle Hospital

Back in September, Arthur and I spent a few days camping at Bahia Honda State Park in the Middle Keys. One afternoon we took a break from snorkeling to visit the remarkable Turtle Hospital on Marathon.

sign
Welcome to The Turtle Hospital

The Turtle Hospital has an interesting history. Here is a brief overview (related from signage at the hospital; any factual errors are mine).

It started when a man named Richie Moretti purchased Marathon’s Hidden Harbor Motel in 1981. The hotel had a 100,000 gallon saltwater pool, which was converted to display fish starting in 1984. The following year, local schools started visiting the hotel pool for marine education programs. Students asked, “where are the turtles?” Good question!

In 1986, Moretti obtained a permit to rehab sea turtles. The first patient arrived at the facility, now named the Hidden Harbor Marine Environmental Project, that same year. More patients arrived. Surgeries would be performed in re-purposed motel rooms.

The facility expanded in 1991 when the nightclub next door to the motel was purchased. The nightclub became The Turtle Hospital in 1992.

ambulances
Turtle ambulances

In 2005, Hurricane Wilma hit the motel and hospital hard. Flooding to the property was extensive and the motel ceased operation. The entire facility registered as a non-profit organization and continued as a rehabilitation center and turtle hospital. Today, the motel rooms are used (in part) for storage, and to house interns, visitors, and staff.

motel
There’s no doubt the facility used to be a motel!

In 2010 a brand new education facility, funded by the Florida Sea Turtle License Plate, opened at the hospital.

education
Life-size models of sea turtles

education
Lots of turtle information in the education center

turtle anatomy
Turtle insides!

Educational tours are offered several times daily. Our tour began with a presentation on the different types of turtles that come to the hospital.

hospital
The hospital used to be a nightclub!

classroom
Turtle classroom

Next we got to see where injured turtles are admitted and where operations and procedures occur. We could see that the patients can be quite large!

operation
Turtle hospital operation room

biggie
The biggest patient ever admitted to the hospital

A turtle was recovering from a procedure when our tour came through. A member of the staff must stay with any turtle as it comes out of anesthesia to help it breathe — unconscious turtles don’t breathe on their own.

recovery
A patient recovers from anesthesia

We learned about the rehabilitation pools. The original sea water pool houses permanent residents as well as turtles at the last stage of rehab before release. Today the facility also has additional smaller tanks that can house turtles at various stages in their rehabilitation.

map
Map of the turtle rehabilitation tanks

tanks
Rehabilitation tanks

We learned about some of the patients. Jack was a Green Sea Turtle with the condition Fibropapilloma Virus. This may manifest as large growths, which can be seen on Jack’s front left flipper in this photo.

Jack
Jack

Xiomy was a Loggerhead Sea Turtle that was found in Islamorada as the victim of a boat strike. She had been admitted on July 29th, 2013. Xiomy was released in October.

Xiomy
Xiomy

We were surprised to learn that the hospital had an education turtle in residence. Zippy the Educational Ambassador is a Loggerhead Sea Turtle that came to the Hospital from Gumbo Limbo on July 28th, 2013. Florida Atlantic University has a research facility at the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center; hatchling turtles are studied and then released. Zippy was kept to be an education ambassador; if I understood correctly, Zippy will eventually also be released back into the wild (with a very big head start!).

Zippy
Hi Zippy!

Zippy with enrichment
Zippy’s tank includes interesting objects for enrichment

A few little hatchlings were in one of the tanks. These healthy little turtles would soon be released.

hatchlings
Loggerhead on the left, Green on the right

Finally we spent some time looking at the large pool, where we could see healthy turtles nearly ready for release as well as the hospital’s permanent residents.

pool
Sea water pool

rehab
Rehab patients nearly ready for release

rehab
A patient in the final stages of rehab before release

The hospital has capacity to care for adult sea turtles that are no longer able to survive in the wild due to their injuries. Note the three round masses on the back of turtle in the lower right of the below photo. Those are weights; the turtle is unable to properly regulate its buoyancy on its own. Another turtle in the photo has one weight on its back.

residents
Permanent resident sea turtles

We had a great time visiting The Turtle Hospital, and seeing the great work they do there. They have released over 1000 rehabilitated sea turtles back into the wild since 1986. Sometimes they invite the public to release events — they just released two turtles on February 14th. Keep an eye on The Turtle Hospital Facebook page to keep up with the latest news.

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in Endangered, Florida, Herps, Nature Center, Not Birds | Leave a comment

Crane Point Museum and Nature Center

Crane Point
Panoramic view from Crane Point

During the weekend of December 7, Arthur attended a sea turtle rehabilitation conference in Marathon. Lucky me, I got to tag along and amuse myself for a day and a half in the Middle Keys. On Saturday, I spent nearly the entire day at beautiful and historic Crane Point, a rare wild space.

trail
A trail at Crane Point

The first settler on the current Crane Point property was George Adderley, who came to the Keys from his home in the Bahamas in 1902. He built a traditional Bahamian stone home where he lived with his wife, Olivia, and their adopted daughter. Adderley made his living by sponging and making charcoal from wood. Adderley’s restored home still sits on the property, in the area where a small settlement known as Adderley village once stood.

Adderly House
Restored interior of George Adderley House

The Adderleys lived on their property until 1949, when they sold the mostly untouched land to Francis and Mary Crane, a wealthy couple from Massachusetts. The Cranes built a modern Art Deco-style home on the property, and added a few exotic trees and shrubs. For the most part, though, they left the hardwood hammock and other native habitats untouched. The Cranes lived on the property they renamed Crane Point until 1979.

Crane House
The Art Deco style Crane House

Today the 63-acre property is owned and managed by the Florida Keys Land and Sea Trust. Along with Adderley’s home, the site is also host to a history and nature museum, the Marathon Wild Bird Center (a bird hospital), the original Crane house, a replica Florida Cracker home which holds a collection of natural artifacts, and more. There are interpretive nature trails leading from the museum and gift shop to the end of the property as it reaches into Florida Bay. Visitors can explore the trails and attractions at their own pace. It’s a good idea to start any visit with a viewing of a short documentary on the history of Crane Point.

Cracker House
Natural artifacts in the Florida Cracker house

This Way
Follow the pelican to the Marathon Wild Bird Center

Oliver
Oliver is a permanent resident at the Center

GRHE
This Green Heron is also a permanent resident at the Center

mangroves
Mangroves

I really enjoyed my visit to Crane Point. While not particularly birdy, I had a good time walking along the trails and reading the interpretive signs about the unique trees and plants found there. From the Point I saw a small Nurse Shark swimming in the shallow water. As I scrambled up the rocks to get a better look at the shark, I was extremely surprised to see an octopus working along the rocky edge of the island. I sat on the rocks for a good half hour waiting for the octopus to emerge; they have such amazing camouflage and are so clever I realized the creature may have slinked past my view out in the open and I may have missed it!

Wyland Mural
Detail of a Wyland mural on the Crane Point museum building

trail
Boardwalk trail

I wasn’t done exploring by the time noon came around. I left to have a quick lunch at a nearby deli and returned in the afternoon to have a proper look at the museum and to walk the trails again. I saw even fewer birds than I had in the morning. I did get to see a pair of young raccoons slinking along the mangroves and further down the trail an agitated squirrel conveniently pointed out a corn snake slithering around a mangrove tree at about eye level. I spent more time at the Point, sitting at a picnic table in the Crane House gardens. There I had my best looks ever (but no photos) of a Magnificent Frigatebird, an adult with a bright red throat patch. It had a fish in its beak and was being chased by a couple of gulls. As I relaxed in the garden, Green Iguanas roamed around the Crane House grounds. I had a chance to photograph them as they sunned.

corn snake
No friend to the squirrels

MAFR
Immature Magnificent Frigatebird

monster
Green Iguana

Crane Point is a wonderful piece of wild Florida in the Middle Keys and well worth a visit. I’m sure I’ll be back again!

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in Florida, Museum, Nature Center, Not Birds | Leave a comment

Limpkin show

It took me a long time to find my FOY (First Of Year) Limpkin this year. Just a couple of days later I spent some time watching an individual at Gemini Springs foraging for snails by the dam. All of the photos in this post were taken at Gemini Springs on April 29, 2013.

Limpkin

Limpkin

Limpkin

Limpkin

Limpkin

It was interesting to see how much it work it was to get the snail out of the shell. You can see the Limpkin banging on the snail and finally gulping down its prize in the video below.

Though I haven’t seen many Limpkins this year, I know this species is often a target for out-of-state birders visiting Florida. I do feel lucky that nearly every time I go out birding locally, there is a chance I could see a Limpkin.

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in Florida, Gemini Springs | Leave a comment

New Life for the Everglades Wonder Gardens

The Everglades Wonder Gardens in Bonita Springs is an old Florida roadside attraction. The Gardens opened in the 1930’s and operated as a botanical garden, zoo with both exotic and native wildlife, and animal rehabilitation center until April 2013.

Everglades Wonder Gardens
Charming hand-painted signs are found outside and inside the park

The park closed briefly this spring, but a new lease was arranged by a local wildlife photographer, John Brady, who aims to save and modernize the attraction.

entrance
Everglades Wonder Gardens entrance

While in transition, the park re-opened on June 15th. Arthur and I paid a visit on June 24th. Many of the park’s larger resident animals had already been moved to bigger accommodations at other Florida parks. During our visit we noticed that animal enclosures were being opened up or transformed into new exhibits. Some permanently injured birds and both native and exotic turtles and tortoises remain from the old days, along with a flock of flamingos. New animals were also moving in; a small flock of fancy domestic chickens had arrived the day prior to our visit. The park grounds hold onto a lot of old charms while the updates improve life for the resident animals and transform the park into a more modern attraction..

pythons to orchids
An enclosure formerly used for Burmese Pythons will house orchids

fancy chickens
Fancies getting used to new digs

looking
Arthur exploring

resident birds
Non-releasable native birds have a permanent home at the Gardens

caging
Empty enclosures

flamingo
Flamingos have been a fixture at the park since it first opened

12-year-old Double Yellow-headed Amazon Murphy
Murphy, a 12-year-old Double Yellow-headed Amazon

small gators
Small gators in the gator pool

gator closeup
Gator detail; photo by Arthur de Wolf

butterfly garden in progress
Butterfly garden in progress

The small gift shop and museum were in transition, too. A portion of the exhibit space displays Brady’s beautiful Florida nature photos, while old kitschy specimens and other educational displays remain.

gallery
Photo gallery

gallery
Gallery and shop

gator crash
Gator crash!

museum
Museum space

exhibit
Reptilian skulls

specimens
Specimen jars

exit
Taxidermy above the main entrance

An old map of the grounds revealed the large number of animals on display in the past. Older exhibits and resident animals included wild boar, black jaguar, rattlesnakes, a Bald Eagle, an otter pool, Black and King Vultures, a deer yard, and more.

Everglades Wonder Gardens
Old hand-drawn map of the park (above is several digital images roughly stitched together; click to see bigger @ Flickr)

A grand opening is planned for this fall. Read more about the Everglades Wonder Gardens at Visual Ephemera. Watch for news and learn more on the Everglades Wonder Gardens website and Facebook page.

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in Art, Florida, Museum, Offbeat | Leave a comment

My last two life birds

My last two life birds, and owl and a sparrow, came in two different states.

Back in June, Arthur and I took a little sightseeing trip to southwestern Florida. We were based in Bonita Springs and spent a couple of days visiting nature centers and local beaches. A visit to the Pelican Boulevard ball fields in Cape Coral was on the agenda. We hoped to see the Burrowing Owls that live on the park grounds. Their burrows were roped off to protect the area.

Burrowing Owls

Burrowing Owls

There were babies as well as adults in the bunch. It was pouring rain when we pulled into the parking lot, but the owls didn’t seem to mind.

Burrowing Owl

Well, maybe they minded a little.

Burrowing Owl

In July I had high hopes to finally pick up a long-overdue lifer. Dickcissels aren’t all that uncommon around where we used to live in Illinois, but somehow I had never managed to see one. That was rectified on July 20 at Fort Sheridan FP. When we first found the male bird, he was singing with his mouth full.

Dickcissel

Dickcissel

It seemed no one answered him, so he ate his lunch alone and looked around the prairie before flying off.

Dickcissel

Maybe, just maybe, my next life bird will be found in the Bahamas! Stay tuned…

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in Florida, Illinois, LCFPD, Life List | Leave a comment

Growing Gallinules

Common Gallinules (the birds formerly known as Common Moorhens) are year-round residents at Gemini Springs. The local population peaks during the winter with migrants who breed further north in the summer; my winter counts get into double-digits through January.

During the summer I see far fewer gallinules at the park. Maybe the bayou isn’t big enough to support harmony among more gallinules in the summer months? Anyway, this year I had fun watching a little family of Common Gallinules grow up. Note the dates on the following photos; many were taken just a few days apart.

Common Gallinule
Parent feeds two young Common Gallinules | 16-APR-13

Common Gallinule
Begging baby Common Gallinule | 17-APR-13

Common Gallinule
Baby Common Gallinules | 20-APR-13

Common Gallinule
Assuming these are the same babes — what a different a week makes! | 26-APR-13

Common Gallinule
Juvenile Common Gallinule | 29-APR-13


Peeping juvenile Common Gallinules | 29-APR-13

Common Gallinule
Juvenile Common Gallinules | 04-MAY-13

Common Gallinule
Juvenile Common Gallinules | 07-MAY-13

Common Gallinule
Juvenile Common Gallinule | 10-MAY-13

I missed them for much of the rest of May. On June 4th I saw a pair of young gallinules. Are they the same babies I had been following? Or are these daredevils from a new nest? Either way, they almost gave me a heart attack. I do not often see American Alligators at Gemini Springs, but that morning there were two hanging around the fishing pier. The young Common Gallinules seemed to be playing chicken…

Common Gallinule
Juvenile Common Gallinules with “friend” | 04-JUN-13

Common Gallinule
Young Common Gallinule living dangerously | 04-JUN-13

Common Gallinule
Young Common Gallinule | 04-JUN-13

Common Gallinule
Young Common Gallinule | 16-JUN-13

June 16th was the last day I saw the young birds, but adults were still around.

This morning Arthur and I visited the park. We sat on the fishing pier, hoping for a kingfisher while watching Boat-tailed Grackles and woodpeckers flying about. After some time Arthur spotted a Common Gallinule. Then another. Then came another, and another, and another, and another. Brood #2? Brood #3? Good luck, little family! I’ll be seeing you…

Common Gallinule family
Here we go again! | 18-AUG-13

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in Behavior, Florida, Gemini Springs | 1 Comment

Zee

While Arthur’s parents visited us earlier this year, Arthur went to one of his regular volunteer days at the Marine Science Center (MSC) in Ponce Inlet. All four of us drove to the sea and while Arthur did turtle work, I went to Lighthouse Point Park with my in-laws. It was May 1st.

We had lunch and then we walked out on the jetty and had a look around. Here’s a look back at the beach patrol tower from the jetty.

Lighthouse Point Park
Lighthouse Point Park, photo by Ineke de Wolf

About 40 minutes later, we were walking back and I saw a large mass on the beach, about halfway between the tower and the waterline in the above photo. I started running, because I thought it might be a sea turtle. It was a beached Loggerhead. It had beached during the short time we were on the jetty.

Zee
Beached Loggerhead ๐Ÿ™

I immediately called the Marine Science Center to let them know there was a turtle that needed to be rescued. Meanwhile, a beach patrol officer pulled up on a buggy and carried the turtle out of the waterline so it would not be washed back to sea. A beached turtle is always in trouble and should not be put back to sea without being examined first. We waited for turtle experts from MSC to arrive.

Zee
Beach Patrol carries the sea turtle to safe location, photo by Ineke de Wolf

Zee

Zee
My father-in-law, Ben, waits for MSC staff to arrive

When MSC staff arrived, they evaluated the turtle. They realized they needed a larger vehicle to transport the turtle, which weighed in at over 100 pounds. We waited some more. A small crowd gathered.

Zee

Zee
My mother-in-law, Ineke, speaking with MSC staff

Zee

With the right vehicle, the turtle was carried off and brought to MSC for examination and rehabilitation.

Zee

The Loggerhead was examined and given care. It was underweight and weak but had no major injuries. The cause of its beaching and ill health was unknown. The size of the turtle made sexing difficult, though I will now refer to it as she. She was given the name Zee, the Dutch word for sea and a shortened form of Zeeschildpad, the Dutch word for sea turtle, in honor of Arthur’s Dutch family.

Zee
Info sign about Zee for MSC guests, photo by Arthur de Wolf

Rehabilitating turtles at MSC are kept in large saltwater tanks like the ones pictured below. These were taken earlier and do not show Zee.

MSC
Rehab tanks at MSC (prior to Zee’s arrival)

MSC
Arthur volunteering at MSC sea turtle rehab (prior to Zee’s arrival)

Arthur took photos of Zee during her rehab. She was cleaned up and given care and nutritious food. She ate like a champ from the beginning, which was a very good sign.

Zee
Zee on May 11th, photo by Arthur de Wolf

Zee
Zee on May 29th, photo by Arthur de Wolf

We last saw her on July 10th. Arthur volunteered that day and I came along to visit the Marine Science Center.

Zee
Zee on July 10th


Zee on July 10th

After some months in rehab, Zee was determined healthy enough for release. She gained 18 pounds and was ready to go, along with two other smaller Loggerheads. MSC announced the August 6 release to the public. And the public showed up!

Sea Turtle Release crowd

Sea Turtle Release crowd

Sea Turtle Release

Just after 1PM, the guests of honor arrived in two vehicles. Seymour and Parker, 55 pounds and 85 pounds, respectively, came together. Big Zee got her own ride.

Sea Turtle Release

The releases were awesome. It was so great to hear the crowd cheer when the turtles came out and made their way back to the ocean. People were especially impressed with Zee, as she was so much larger than the others. I have a few photos and a video to share, but I was mostly watching, so I don’t have great footage of everything. At the end of this post I will share some links to media sites with their coverage of the event.

Seymour was up first; you’ll see him in the video at the end of this post. Seymour was found by Beach Patrol, so he was carried out by four Beach Patrol volunteers.

Next came Parker, who was carried out by MSC volunteers. Like Seymour, Parker was carried out in a sling. He was set down close to the waterline and the sling was removed.

Parker

Parker

Finally, it was Zee’s turn. Staff and volunteers, including Arthur, carried her to sea.

Zee

Zee

Zee

After she entered the water, the crowd began to disperse. Those who kept watching were treated to several great looks at Zee surfacing for a breath.

Zee
Good luck, beautiful Zee!

Here is a video compilation of the releases.

Here is a video of Zee’s release posted to YouTube by spectator “OsloShag”:


“Zee” Loggerhead Sea Turtle Release 08-06-13 copyright YouTube user OsloShag

It was awesome to be able to see Zee return to where she belongs. She is a sub-adult, meaning she is not yet sexually mature. When she is ready, she will come back to the ocean close to where she was hatched and find a mate. Good luck, Zee, Parker, and Seymour!

Links to coverage of the release:
Ormond Beach Observer (pre-release)
Daytona Beach News-Journal (pre-)
NSB Observer (pre-)
WNDB (pre-)
WESH (post-release)
Daytona Beach News-Journal (post-)
Florida Family Nature [blog] (post-)
MSC Facebook album (post-)
Ocean Advocate [blog] (post-)
Marine Science Center press release with photos
Sea Turtle Release Facebook album
Video segment on Volusia Magazine TV show

If I find more coverage I will add links here.

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in Florida, Not Birds | 2 Comments

A B-A-D ending!

On April 10th, the 100th day of the year, I figured I had 23 “easy” birds left in the Bird-a-Day challenge. And with birding prospects bleak (house guests coming, a move to complete and new home to work on), I wondered if I would even make it that far.

Since the number of expected possible birds was relatively small, I used that handy prognosis list as the days wore on.

Birds #101-110, April 11-20

Nine of these were on my prognosis list. The one unforeseen species was a Least Tern. At least one LETE was seen at Ponce Inlet during a trip there with Arthur and my friend Kim who was visiting from Illinois. That left just 14 gimmes from the prognosis list. Lasting until May 23rd, to at least match my 2012 performance, seemed unlikely.

Common Gallinule
Common Gallinule | 17-APR-13

Birds #111-120, April 21-30

I lucked out here; half of this bunch weren’t on the ‘easy’ list, even though a couple of them kind of were easy. When we went to Kennedy Space Center with Arthur’s parents on the 28th, I knew before we even left the house that my bird would be Laughing Gull. I always can count on finding a Mallard at Disney, so it isn’t so remarkable that it was my bird when we visited Animal Kingdom. A pair of unexpected Spotted Sandpipers at Audubon Park was a great bonus. And I was extremely excited to finally, finally get my FOY Limpkin on April 24th (!!). Finally, during a visit to Merritt Island with Kim, a marathon birding-by-car excursion yielded a very welcome Peregrine Falcon. With just five ‘easy’ birds used, I still had nine left. Could I make it another 23 days?

Laughing Gull
Laughing Gull | 28-APR-13

Birds #121-130, May 1-10

Another ten days, and another five “unexpected” birds. On a couple of day trips with my in-laws I managed to pick up Sandwich Tern and Royal Tern. An evening at Downtown Disney brought a flyover peenting Common Nighthawk, and a very quick visit to Mead Garden after a volunteer shift got me Northern Waterthrush. I also used Muscovy Duck in this group but I should have included it in the ‘easy’ list. That’s a given at Gemini Springs lately, unfortunately.

Barred Owls
Barred Owls | 03-MAY-13

It was during this period that I booked a flight for a quick trip up to visit my parents in northern Illinois for May 16-21. I had four easy birds left before my flight… four days later. Yikes.

Florida Scrub-Jay
Florida Scrub-Jay | 05-MAY-13

Birds #131-140, May 11-20

Right off the bat I used a super-easy gimme: Red-shouldered Hawk. On May 12th Arthur and I took a walk at Lake Woodruff NWR and I heard a Clapper Rail which was the best bird of the day — even though I got my first Florida Bobolinks on the same walk. This was followed by the super-easy Boat-tailed Grackle and then a totally unexpected Caspian Tern flyby at Lake Monroe Boat Ramp. I had driven to the ramp to look for Barn Swallows but after the tern I didn’t mind missing them.

I had thought to go to Lyonia Preserve on the 15th to look for, or rather listen for, Northern Bobwhites. I had second thoughts and ended up going to my trusty patch, Gemini Springs, hoping that something good might turn up there. As I was wrapping up a pleasant but unremarkable walk, I heard a Northern Bobwhite calling from a part of the park I would not expect to find them. The bird called twice more so I could confidently call the ID. All hail the patch, long live patch birding!! ๐Ÿ™‚

On May 16th I flew to Chicago and for the next six days I had easy pickings for the challenge. Birds I wouldn’t expect to see in Volusia County made the list: White-crowned Sparrow; Mourning Warbler (lifer!!); Olive-sided Flycatcher; and Black-capped Chickadee were joined by Yellow Warbler. That last bird isn’t unexpected in Volusia but I missed them during spring migration. Plus I got a nice picture, so…

Yellow Warbler
Yellow Warbler | 19-MAY-13

After this group of ten birds I had one more day in Illinois and three days total to reach my target of May 23.

Birds #141-143, May 21-23

A Swainson’s Thrush in my parents’ back yard on my last day in Illinois was a good find. On May 22nd I again drove to Lake Monroe Boat Ramp to look for Barn Swallows. Again I struck out on my target, but a totally unexpected pair of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks saved the day — they flew by just as I was about to leave. My FOY BBWD too! On May 23rd I tried one last time to find Barn Swallows at the boat ramp, and struck out for the third and final time. I was happy to have made it as far as I did — after all, I had gimme Osprey left, and it was May 23rd. I used the same last bird from 2012 for this year’s challenge, on the same date. I never thought I would make it so far, so I was actually well pleased. That is, until I realized that last year was a leap year. So I was out of the game on the same date, but one day short of last year’s final. Yeah, that stings.

2014?

I am not yet sure if I will try again next year. In April I will (if all goes to plan) be spending 8 days at sea on a transatlantic voyage from Miami to Barcelona. I doubt I will be able to find birds each day during the crossing, so that may be a good excuse to forgo the challenge next year. We shall see! Meanwhile, tomorrow is June 1st and that means a new challenge awaits!

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in Bird-a-Day Challenge, Florida, Illinois | Leave a comment

Are Grackles Birds of Prey?

Grackle silhouette

Earlier this month, a question about Common Grackles was posed on the Illinois listserv: Are Grackles birds of prey? The reason for the question: the person who asked had witnessed a grackle preying upon nestling sparrows.

What is a bird of prey?
There are various definitions that apply to the term bird of prey. Birds of prey are hunters that capture food items (prey) using their specially adapted strong feet and sharp talons. Birds of prey mainly hunt vertebrates, including mammals and other birds. A bird of prey belongs to the taxonomical order Falconiformes*. Birds of prey are carnivores at the top of the food chain.

Grackles are not birds of prey
Common Grackles are omnivorous; they eat berries, seeds, and other plant material as well as eggs (raided from nests), frogs, insects, and fish (which they hunt). They are opportunists; they may hunt and kill prey including small birds and rodents in some circumstances. They forage and hunt mainly by using their beaks. Common Grackles belong to the large songbird order Passeriformes. According to The Birds of North America Online, year-round, Common Grackles eat a diet of 70 to 75% vegetable (seeds, fruits, etc).

Common Grackle

So though a grackle may capture and kill a prey item, it is not a bird of prey. While visiting the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex with my family last month, I noticed a Common Grackle carrying a small anole (lizard) in its beak. It was hopping around the LC-39A walkway structure and vocalizing. I wondered if it was trying to get to hungry nestlings somewhere on the structure, but I had to leave before I could find out the bird’s eventual destination.

Common Grackle

*There are conflicting schools of thought on how some birds of prey should be classified. Depending on what taxonomy is followed, birds of prey may fall into one or two or more different orders.

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in Behavior, Florida | 1 Comment

F05: a famous gull

In my last Bird-a-Day Challenge update post, I briefly mentioned the bird I used for February 27th – a Lesser Black-backed Gull. Here is a little more about this special bird, F05. He is famous.

Lesser Black-backed Gull
Famous Larus

Since 2007 this bird has been observed as part of a mated pair breeding on Appledore Island in Maine. This is remarkable because it is only the second record of a Lesser Black-backed Gull (LBBG) breeding in North America, and the first record for the east coast. The female mate is a Herring Gull. Gulls generally tend to be monogamous, though F05 is known to have had at least three mates (along with a bit of drama) since 2007.

F05 and his mate(s) raised chicks that survived to fledge in 2007, 2008, and 2009. After an off year in 2010, F05 and a new mate raised a chick successfully in 2011.

In late January 2009 F05 was first seen wintering on the beach in Daytona Beach Shores, Florida, during the Space Coast Birding Festival.

F05 was seen wintering in Daytona Beach Shores again in 2010, in 2011, and in 2011-12.

After being seen over the winter of 2011-2012 in Florida, F05 was not seen at all during the 2012 summer / breeding season on Appledore Island. He was presumed dead until this January, when Michael Brothers (the original finder in 2009) spotted F05 once more in Daytona Beach Shores. And he was still there on February 27th, when Arthur and I spotted him among the thousands of gulls on the beach that late afternoon.

Gulls at Frank Rendon Park
Find the famous one!

The gulls return to Appledore to begin breeding in May. Time will tell if F05 will join them.

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in Banding, Florida | Leave a comment