Birds

Southwest Florida birds include many with which you’ll be familiar from further north, like mockingbirds, blue jays, red winged blackbirds, and so on. We also have transient species passing through, going north or south; robins, for example.  Plus several non-native species that have established themselves here and there.

I like birds, so there is some danger of this section getting away from our main theme: to acquaint you with animals you might interact with.  So, I’m going to list a few of them with links to their photos, most without comment unless I think you might bump into them up close.  This list is nowhere near exhaustive of all of the kinds of birds down here.

  • If you’re interested in bird identification,  pick up a copy of Eastern Birds, a Peterson Field Guide or some other book on the subject.  If you go to Corkscrew, they sell several guides in the gift store.

Most species barely interact with humans and, so, aren’t really fodder for our discussion.  Most of the time they’re just fun to watch. A few that do interact follow:

Anhingas also called snake birds because their head and neck protruding from the water as they swim looks like a snake.

Anhinga near Matlacha

They have to dry their feathers  each time they dive. Anhingas have no oil glands with which to waterproof themselves. All in all, they’re pretty primitive birds.

Black Vultures show up around here in the dry season.  There are probably a few that are around all year but their numbers increase markedly during the winter, possibly swelled by their snow bird relatives from Up North ….

  • They won’t bother you unless they decide to roost on your roof,  which will make a mess of it, necessitating power washing when they finally leave.
  • They will also raid your garbage when you set it out for the trash people unless it is in a closed container. *

Turkey vultures also occur but it is usually the black ones you will see in town.

  • Vultures can soar for hours and are quite graceful in the air.

* Seems like everything likes your garbage, doesn’t it?  Well, yes,  they do;  and I didn’t even mention rats— you should have thought of that on your own.

Boat tailed grackles are very common.  These birds are a lot like small crows and adapt well to an urban environment.  They’ll hang around outdoor restaurants and parking lots looking for scraps or handouts,  sometimes coming to your table (which ought to be discouraged). The male is often accompanied by several females who, it seems to me, do the “heavy lifting” when it comes to foraging.

Blue herons have gotten used to fishermen with bait buckets.  They will bide their time and, when the fisherman has his back turned, will raid his bait bucket.  It’s a lot easier to catch fish in a bucket than it is to wade around all day looking for them.  The contest is also a source of amusement for the rest of us.

  • My (then) five year old grandson ran into a heron in an outdoor restaurant.  The bird was wandering between tables looking for french fries, I think.  It was  a sort of deranged version of Sesame Street’s Big Bird and when it got to our table and looked down at my grandson, it scared hell out of him.  He’d never seen birds taller than he was.
  • You really ought not to encourage this sort of behavior because the heron can get somewhat aggressive if it thinks you’re getting between it and a food source.   Besides, I doubt french fries are good for them.  By and large, they aren’t dangerous.

Heron in Cape Coral back yard

Here’s a list of other birds: moorhen, ibis (note the curved bill),  purple gallinulegreat egret, lacy egret, cattle egret (almost always in groups of ten or more in fields), snowy egret (note the yellow feet), night heron and little blue heron, sandhill crane,   marabou stork, and burrowing owls.

Burrowing owls are protected during their nesting period. If they are present, building permits are delayed until they are through nesting. In Cape Coral, burrowing owls are sort of mascots.  If you’re curious and want to do a little virtual bird watching, this site has a webcam set up. Most of the time you won’t see much but you never know: follow their instructions and your luck may improve.

Burrowing owl (from Tom fiedel via wikipedia.org)

Cute little sucker, isn’t he? You should see him shred a snake…..