|Florida Birds: Water Birds|
White Pelican- With a wingspan as great as nine and a half
feet, the American white pelican is one of North America's largest
birds. Unlike the brown pelican, which is found year-round in Florida,
and non-breeding white pelican juveniles, healthy adult white pelicans
are winter visitors to the state. In the summer, white pelican adults
breed in colonies on lakes in the interior of western Canada and the
northwestern United States. Winters are spent in southern Mexico,
southern California and along the Gulf Coast states of Texas, Louisiana,
Mississippi and Florida. White pelicans feed differently than brown
pelicans. They do not plunge dive as brown pelicans do, instead white
pelicans float on the surface, submerge their heads and scoop up fish.
They also often fish cooperatively in small groups, herding the fish in
front of them. In flight, white pelicans have a graceful strong flight
and usually fly in large flocks high in the air and in a V formation.
Adults are a distinctive white with black wing tips. The bill, legs and
toes are reddish-orange or pink.
Brown Pelican- Brown pelicans are large, shore-dwelling birds. They reach sizes up to 48 inches long from head to tail, with a 6-7 foot wingspan and a weight of about 8 pounds. They are strong swimmers and graceful flyers, but are rather clumsy when walking on land. They are long-lived, the oldest individual on record died at 43 years of age. They can be observed along the coasts from North to South America. Pelicans are fish eating birds. They have excellent eyesight and hunt by searching for schools of small bait fish while flying over the ocean, sometimes from as high as 50 feet. When pelicans see fish they will dive steeply into the water, often submerging completely, and capture the fish in their large throat pouches. Brown Pelicans are the only pelican bird to use this dramatic hunting style. Like many birds, newly hatched pelicans are featherless and completely dependent upon their parents. Each young pelican usually requires about 50 pounds of food and about 75 days to reach the point of fledging, or first flight.
Limpkin- In the United States, limpkins are found in southern Georgia and Florida in the shallows along rivers, streams and lakes, and in marshes, swamps and sloughs. Along spring runs and rivers, you may notice small clusters of pink-tinted eggs attached to plants and roots at the water's edge. These are the eggs of the apple snail, chief food of the limpkin, a long-legged waterbird with a downcurved bill. The limpkin resembles a rail but stands taller, has a longer neck and is distinguished by its dark brown feathers flecked with white, which give it a spotted appearance. It is probably better known for its voice, described as a piercing repeated wail, "Kree-ow, Kra-ow," often heard in the background of old Tarzan movies. The sound of several males calling is described as "one of the weirdest cacophonies of nature." As the limpkin walks through shallow water, it uses sight and touch to search for apple snails, mussels, worms and insects. The sharp and twisted end of its curved bill fits perfectly into a snail shell, allowing the limping to deftly extract the mollusk.
Anhinga- The anhinga is a water bird. It does not have oil glands for waterproofing its feathers like most water birds. When it goes swimming its feathers get wet. This helps it dive and chase fish underwater. However when it is above water, it must spread its wings to dry in the sun. It can fly with wet feathers but not as well. The adults have beautiful white feathers. The long tail has given the anhinga the nickname, "water turkey". It is also known as the snake-bird because of its snake-like neck. The female anhinga is easy to spot. Her neck and chest feathers are much lighter in color than the male. The anhinga spears his prey with his pointed beak like an arrow. Sometimes the anhinga's thrust is so powerful that the anhinga has to swim to shore and pry the fish off his beak by rubbing it against a rock. The Anhinga is frequently seen soaring high in the sky overhead. It is a graceful flier and can travel long distances without flapping its wings, much in the manner of a Turkey Vulture
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