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, February 22, 2010

Bird of the Week Feb. 22: Cedar Waxwings

Cedar waxwings are winter residents of Florida. These birds travel in large flocks and are very social. Their name comes from the red waxlike secretions on the tips of its secondaries. Why does this happen? We don't know yet but it might be to help attract a mate. These  birds typically are found in woodlands, especially along streams but can be found in farmlands, suburbs, and towns with fruit trees.
Cedar waxwings are one of the few bird species in North America that are fruit-eating specialists and can survive for months on fruit alone! Often birds that eat fruit (frugivores) spit the seeds back out but not these guys; they allow the seeds to pass through their systems which has allowed scientists to estimate how long it takes for them to digest their food. Sometimes they actually become intoxicated when they eat too many overripe berries that have begun to ferment. Crazy!In the summer they will supplement their diets with protein-rich insects.
These birds are monogamous and will search for a nest site together, but the female makes the decision. The female waxwings are the ones that build the majority of the nest by weaving twigs, blossoms, string, horsehair, or other similar materials into a bulky cup. This process takes 5-6 days and can take upwards of 2,500 trips to and from the nest. Incubation is done by both parents for 12-16 days and the young are fed for 14-18 days by both ma and pa. These guys are attracted to birdbaths and will eat berries and raisins from bird feeders.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Bird of the Week Feb 15: Green Heron

One of my favorite wading birds is the beautiful green heron. These birds will actually use tools! They will often drop bait (feathers, twigs, insects, etc) on the top of water to lure small fish in and then go after the attracted fish! How cool is that!?  They often will walk slowly or stand still when hunting and just wait for prey to come within striking distance. This species is widely distributed and can be found in most wetlands during the summer. They form monogamous pairs that nest alone (but sometimes they form small colonies). Their nests are small baskets of sticks typically placed near water in trees but sometimes can be found quite a distance from water. Both parents incubate the nest for 19-25 days and the young hang around to be fed by ma and pa for about 17 days. I am always amused when I accidentally disturb them and they ruffle the shaggy cresy  so they look like they have a mohawk.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Bird of the Week Feb 8: Great Blue Heron

The great blue heron is the largest and most widespread heron of North America. I am always amused when I hear one croak or squawk in agitation after I have gotten too close while working. These guys forage in water by standing still for long periods and watching intently until prey such as fish, frogs or invertebrates come within rang. they then thrust their bills and snatch their prey out of the water. They will often meander slowly along the edges of waterways, marshes, or grassy fields hunting as well. They are monogamous and nest in colonies. The nests are platforms of large sticks that are then lined with things like pine needles, moss, reeds, and dry grass. The eggs are incubated for 25-30 days by both parents and the young will remain in the nest for an additional 65-90 days to be fed by both parents until they fledge.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Bird of the Week Feb. 1: Black-crowned night-heron

Black-crowned night-herons are found in Florida year-round. These birds are active mainly at night although while feeding young they do actively forage during daylight hours. They forage in along waters' edges such as marshes, freshwater pools, streams, and coastal estuaries. Their diet consists of fish, crustaceans, small amphibians, reptiles, nesting birds, and even small mammals. This species nests in colonies and build the nests out of sticks. Nests are in trees or shrubs over or near water. Both parents incubate the nest for 21-26 days. The young stay in the nest for 28 days and are fed by both parents. At about 42 days the young fledge. Since this bird is a wetlands-dependent species, it is considered a Species of Special Concern in Florida.  The black-crowned night heron is sometimes confused with its relative the yellow-crowned night-heron. Black-crowned night-herons can be distinguished by their red eyes, black back, cap, and nape, along with white underparts and face.