Feathered Friday…

Shorebirds, Cedar Key FL

This photo was taken at Cedar Key, Florida on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. It’s not the quality I wish it was, but I still like it for the composition which I caught on the fly while walking along the bridge on the way to a seafood dinner on Dock Street.

Black Skimmers are heading to the right. They “skim” the surface of the water with black-tipped bright red bills. The lower half of the bill is longer than the upper, allowing it to cut through the water and dip down to grab small fish encountered near the surface. Adult plumage is black above, white below and this striking combination, coupled with the brightly colored bill, makes it easy to spot the birds as they hunt over the water. Black skimmers, and least, royal and sandwich terns nest in colonies in the open sand on beaches, sandbars, and dredge material islands. Their nests are built on the ground and often consist of simple scrapes in the sand. (Due to habitat loss, a very small percentage of black skimmers also nest on gravel roofs!) Black skimmers rely on camouflage or group mobbing to protect their nests. Breeding colonies of black skimmers can be found along Florida’s Gulf and Atlantic coasts. They actively feed in the early evening.

A juvenile Brown Pelican is skimming over the Gulf heading to the left. Adult Brown Pelicans are large birds with long, thick bills. At the base of the gray bill is an expandable pouch that the pelican uses to hold food. They search for fish by flying low over the water. When they spot potential food, they dive down and use their bill as a giant scoop to pick up fish and water. The water will drain out the sides of the bill’s pouch and the fish will be pushed to the back of the throat. Sometimes smaller birds will try to steal fish right out of a pelican’s mouth. These birds usually nest in colonies. While most birds incubate their eggs using the skin of their breast, pelicans use their feet to warm their eggs by standing on them. Brown pelicans were federally listed as endangered in the 1970s and ’80s because of pesticides that entered their food chain and subsequently caused thinner egg shells causing them to break under the weight of the parents feet. Thanks to environmentalists success with having DDT’s use banned, the brown pelicans’ populations have recovered.


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