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Birding from the Balcony

Yvonne on Balcony

Yvonne on Balcony

We have had the privilege¬† of sighting many birds that define a vibrant estuary habitat from our balcony. The 65 pristine adjacent acres to the North were approved for purchase as a preserve by Pasco County in Sept 2015. The property has forested uplands, wetlands, saltwater marshes and mangroves, and is identified by the website mybirdmaps.com as “a top location for bird-watching in the state of Florida.” Here are some that we see commonly from our balcony.

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

Although more common in winter, they can be seen year round. Roseates are distinctive pink birds with elongated paddle like bills.

American Wood Stork

American Wood Stork

Wood storks can be seen soaring and hunting almost year round. Although they are rather awkward on the ground, they are magnificent in flight, often circling in large numbers on air currents.

White Ibis

White Ibis

Ibis are easily recognized by their very long, downward curved red orange bill. Adults are white with black wing tips seen in flight. Immature ibis are mottled brown and are often seen in mixed flocks with adults.

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

Each year male Snowies grow elaborate display feathers called “egrets” in French. The Snowy is much smaller than the Great White Egret and has yellow feet and a black bill.

Great White Egret

Great White Egret

The largest of the white wading birds, Great Whites are seen year round hunting on the flats at low tide They enjoy small crabs and are very adept at clipping off the legs and claws before swallowing them whole.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

The tallest wading bird around, Great Blue Herons are often seen poking around at low tide or flying with their distinctive lazy wing beats.

Tri Colored Heron

Tri Colored Heron

Tri-colors are about the same size as Snowy Egrets, but much slimmer and dark bluish-gray. They are easily distinguished from Little Blue Herons by their white breast and brown/white stripe down the front of the neck.

Little Green Heron

Little Green Heron

Little Greens come to hunt insects and lizards in the coastal shrubbery. They are the smallest of the herons/egrets.

Tello Crown Night Heron

Yellow Crown Night Heron

Night herons tend to say hidden in the marsh grass and shrubbery along shorelines. They have a “stockier appearance” compared to other herons and egrets. The young are disguised with streaky brown plumage which is quite different than the adult’s sharp gray and black.

brown pelican

brown pelican

Adults (over 2 years) have white heads. Younger pelicans are mostly brown all over. Skilled fliers and divers, Brown Pelicans are a year round fixture on the gulf.

bfb white pelican
white pelican

More common in cooler months, White Pelicans are often seen in the bays in large flocks. A flight of white pelicans soaring is an unforgettable sight.

frigate bird

frigate bird

Frigate birds rarely land, but spend most of their time gliding the ocean breezes. In flight they are easily recognized by their slim, dark wings and forked tails. Juveniles have white heads and chests and adult females have white chests. Males have red throats which they inflate as a part of their mating ritual. (also known as the “Man of War” bird)

osprey

osprey

Also know as the “fish hawk” or “fish eagle”, Ospreys feed almost exclusively on fish. The shallow waters around Rocky Creek make ideal fishing grounds for the Osprey and their many nests attest to their success.

bald eagle

bald eagle

Our national bird is an impressive sight in flight. At a distance they are often confused with Ospreys which are smaller and have white breasts. The distinctive white head is the giveaway. The marsh islands around Rocky Creek are prime habitat for the Bald Eagle.

red wing black bird

red wing black bird

Male Red-wings establish territories in the marshland and defend them vigorously. Using their bright red and yellow wing patches as signals, they ward off all intruders relentlessly. We have one who tends to hang out in the tops of the mangroves right in front of the house and we have affectionately named him “Velvet Elvis”.

Boat Tailed Grackle

Boat Tailed Grackle

Males are glossy black and often confused with crows, which are larger. Females are brownish. Very common and produce many of the sounds that are associated with coastal living.

38239231.Kingfisher123
kingfisher

Kingfishers are medium sized birds with large heads, long pointed bills, short legs, and stubby tails. There are 94 species world wide, three North American species, and one Florida species called the Belted Kingfisher. They, like the red winged blackbird, are fierce warriors when it comes to defending their territory.

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chick-wills-widow

The nocturnal Chuck Will’s Widow is seldom seen, much less photographed in daytime. The Chuck Will’s Widow is related to the Whippoor Will. They make a lot of noise with their night-time calls, but you usually don’t see them.

ClapperRail
clapper rail

The Clapper Rail is abundant in saltwater marshes and mangrove swamps from Massachusetts to South America and makes a distinctive “laughing” call. Most often seen walking along the edges of he marsh, they fairly fly. Furtive in nature, each spring we enjoy seeing them dart across open spaces with their totally black chicks in tow.

800px-Mourning_Dove-
mourning dove

The Mourning dove is one of the most abundant and widespread American birds. It gets its name from its plaintive call. We have watched them build their nests in the cabbage palms year after year.

Red-shouldered Hawk - Ft Zachary Taylor - Key West FL - 3-24-07
red shouldered hawk

Probably the most common American hawk, the Red Shouldered hawk favors woodlands near water. The red “shoulder” is visible when the bird is perched, though Florida hawks are less red than their West coast counterparts.