Panther Island Adventures!

Panther Island is 2,800 acres of restored wetland and upland habitats situated in the northwest corner of Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary's 13,000 acres. It is home to numerous plants and animals including the Florida panther and the iconic wood stork.
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Monday, November 30, 2009

Bird of the Week November 30: Black Vulture

People often do not like vultures, but I happen to think they are great! They are nature's garbage disposals. Black vultures (seen in the photo) feed solely on carrion. Every morning I am greeted by a large group of black vultures that roost in trees at Panther Island. Often they are on the ground hanging out. They use thermals to soar high overhead and can be distinguished in flight from turkey vultures by the way they hold their wings. Black vultures hold their wings flatter than the "v" shape that turkey vultures make, and their tails are shorter and flatter plus more fanned out in flight. They have white patches at their wing tips but turkey vultures do not. Black vultures also flap their wings more frequently. These guys deposit eggs (usually 2) on the ground. Instead of building nests, they use existing vegetation as cover. They will also lay eggs in hollow tree trunks or caves. Both parents work to incubate the eggs for around 40 days, and the hatchlings are fed regurgitated food from both parents. Their young fledge at about 8-10 weeks. Vultures are under state protection and it is illegal to harass them or shoot them without a permit.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bird(s) of the Week for November 23: Anhinga and Eastern Phoebe

Anhingas are often called "snake birds". These birds are year-round residents of Florida (can even be found south down to Argentina), and they are often seen perched on rocks or branches with their wings outstretched. They do this b/c they lack the oil glands other aquatic birds have and therefore need to dry their feathers. I enjoy watching them swim with their bodies completely submerged in water with their long neck and head sticking out. Sometimes I can see them spear fish with their sharp beaks. They will then break the surface and flip the meal up in the air and capture it before they finally get to eat! Anhingas feed on crayfish, shrimp, amphibians, snakes and even young alligators. They roost in trees along shorelines, and the females will construct their nests out of sticks and line it with grass and leaves. Eggs are incubated for about 30 days by both parents, and the altricial young are fed by both sexes. The males eye will become blue-green during breeding season, and the female can be distinguished by her buff-tan neck.

 Eastern phoebes are flycatchers that winter in Florida and are often seen in open woods and along woodland edges. They also like to perch on fences, utility wires, and treetops. At Panther Island, I often see them catching insects on the fly (their primary food) or feeding on berries. They build their cup-shaped nests in man-made structures now but used to use niches in natural embankments. Nests are made from mud, moss, and plant materials, and it is the female that builds them over a period of 7-10 days. these guys are very common cowbird hosts.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


My apologies for not getting a bird of the week up this last week. So coming soon, two birds of the week!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Recent Panther Island Sightings

 While in the field working one day, I walked by this spider clutching its prey.

 Recently I spied a beautiful purple gallinule in one of my marshes! This shot was actually taken a couple of years ago, but I wanted to share this little guy!

Great Blue Herons are one of the animals that keep me company year-round at Panther Island.

Bird of the Week for Nov. 9: Osprey

Osprey are raptors that are found year-round in Florida. These graceful birds are found near open water that contains fish (including Panther Island!). These awesome anglers are able to hover above the water while searching for prey. Once located, they swoop quickly down to grab their prey out of the water with their powerful talons. One really cool adaptive trait they have is spines on the undersides of their toes. Can you guess why that would help an osprey hunt?? It helps them hold onto slippery fish! Osprey nests are bulky stick nests located on the tops of large trees (dead or alive) and manmade structures such as utility poles. These nests are often reused year after year.
Historically, the osprey was listed as endangered back in the 1950s;  the pesticide DDT played a large role in the decline of these birds. However, in 1972 after large public outcry DDT was banned in the US. Osprey have made a successful comeback, and the osprey are not listed as an imperiled species in Florida.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Bird of the Week for November 2: Crested Caracara

The crested caracara is a threatened species found year-round in central-southern Florida. These beautiful raptors were once common in the prairies but their numbers have gone down as their preferred habitat has been developed. They will often nest in  cabbage palms about 12 m up. the nest is often made of loosely woven vine with a depression in the middle. Clutch size is usually two eggs although three eggs do occur. Both ma and pa participate in incubation which lasts about 28 days. Thee little ones fledge at about 8 weeks. I often see adults along the road searching for prey or eating carrion, but over the last year I have seen them with more frequency foraging along the northern boundary of Panther Island! If you look at their legs, they are longer than those of other raptors and their feet are different as well! They have talons but their feet are flatter. This allows them to more easily run and walk. They are easily identified by the naked face, crest on the head, long neck, and heavy bill. When upset or feeling threatened they will atually raise the crest!

For additional information, check out the link below!