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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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bird of the Week for March 29: Common Yellowthroat

 The common yellowthroat (male shown here) is a pretty warbler that lives in brushy marsh habitats; these guys are often seen closer to the ground where they bop around alone or in pairs foraging on insects, caterpillars, and spiders. Their nests are loose bulky cups of grasses/plant materials that are down near or on the ground. The females incubate the eggs for 12 days. The young are fed by both sexes and stay in the nests for 8-10 days.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Bird of the Week for March 15: Downy Woodpecker

The Downy woodpecker has got to be one of my favorite birds. This is the smallest woodpecker in North America and can be found throughout much of the continent, from the southern US border all the way up into Canada. This is a common woodpecker that is found usually in open woodlands (more often deciduous) and along streams. They also can be found in man-made areas such as parks and suburbs and will come to bird feeders to feed on suet and black oil sunflower seeds. Usually though they forage on insects such as beetle larvae, caterpillars, and ants. Because of its small size it can reach food out on smaller branches than other woodpeckers. I have even seen them on goldenrod using their stiffened tail feathers for support while trying to get at insects inside of a gall!
They are a monogamous species, and both sexes work to excavate the nest hole which is between6 and 12 inches deep. It widens at the bottom so that there is room for eggs and a parent. Wood chips line the bottom.  The entrance is only 1 to 1.5 inches wide. Both parents incubate the eggs for 12 days. The young stay for 20-25 days while being fed by both parents. The sexes look very similar but vary in that males have a red patch on the back of its head. These guys are similar in appearance to hairy woodpeckers which is a larger species with a longer bill.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Bird of the Week for March 8: Painted Bunting

Exciting times at Panther Island where we have recently been seeing painted buntings! In the photo here is the brilliantly colored male. The female is a yellow-green underneath with bright green upperparts. Painted buntings prefer open brushlands, thickets, and scattered woodlands in the wild and will also use hedges and bushes in yards. While they are frequent visitors to birdfeeders, they feed on insects, insect larvae like caterpillars, and spiders during their breeding season. But in the fall and winter they eat seeds.  They form monogamous pairs and spend lots of time together. Their nests are built of plant fibers formed into a deep, neatly woven cup. They then line the nest with hair or fine grasses. Typically nests are seen in low in vegetation such as trees, moss or vines. The nest is incubated by the female for 11-12 days before the young are born. The young are fed for 12-14 days by both parents with mom doing a little more of the work. They often have 2-3 broods in a year. 
Because of their coloring and pretty song, they are popular cage birds. Laws now protect these birds in the United States. However their numbers are declining rapidly in the eastern US. The decline is probably due to habitat loss as well as a nest parasite (the brown-headed cowbird).

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Bird of the Week: Roseate Spoonbill

 The roseate spoonbill is one of my favorite wading birds. They range from the southern United States down into Argentina and Chile. Their bill is shaped like a ...spoon. The tip has sensitive nerve endings that help it detect prey while it sweeps its bill side to side in the water. These guys eat small fish, crayfish, shrimp, crabs, and aquatic insects. During breeding season the adults' heads become a copper-buff color. They form monogamous couples that roost in colonies, often with other wading birds, in trees and shrubs. They will often use mangroves! Both ma and pa incubate the eggs for about 4 weeks. The young will stay in the nest being fed by both parents for 35-42 days.
Roseate spoonbills were a favorite victim of plume hunters at the turn of the century, their beautiful pink plumage was highly sought after! At one point, there were only 30 to 40 breeding pairs forming small colonies in Florida Bay. But full legal protection and conservation efforts have led to the species recovery.