Friday, January 28, 2022

Birds of the Everglades

Growing Up in Everglades City

Submitted Photos | Roseate spoonbill are known for their beautiful color.

Birds are one of the most graceful creatures on the planet. They soar over us on a daily basis, and perch on tall trees during the day and night. The Everglades is a vast river of grass where you can see the most beautiful and extraordinary birds. In fact, there are approximately 350 bird species in the Everglades National Park! Here are a few that you would see when visiting the River of Grass.

All birds of the Everglades are beautiful in their own way, but one of the most famous and attractive of these birds is the roseate spoonbill. You could spot one of these from a mile away, and they are sometimes mistaken for flamingos! Their bodies are covered with pink and white feathers with a hint of red. They have a long beak that almost looks like a spoon, since the top has a flat curve. I see many of these when I go out on the boat with my parents, but sometimes if I’m lucky I’ll catch a glimpse of them flying over during sunset. In fact, the other day I went fishing with my parents and saw six Spoonbills on one of the islands in the Ten Thousand Islands!

A bird that you can see about everywhere around town and in the sawgrass is the white ibis or as many locals will call them Chokoloskee Chickens (since they are so prominent). These birds have white bodies and a pink face and beak. Their beaks are turned downwards and narrow, but a fun fact is they’re born with straight beaks until they are about 14 days old. They’re beaks are curved so they can search through the mud for their food, since they don’t eat fish as other wading birds do. You can catch these flying over or even on the side of the road. I often find them in my yard nearly every morning, digging through the dirt.

If you’re outside walking in Everglades City or Chokoloskee and hear high-pitch whistling noises, you’re probably listening to the call from an osprey. Ospreys love to nest on channel markers, trees and places near water such as the radio towers around town and have very large nests. They have white bodies with deep brown colored wings, and their heads are a mixture of both colors. Sometimes during certain times, you can see little babies in their nests, their little heads bob up, down and around looking at the new world they’ve just been born into. On top of this I just really love listening to their voices. It reminds me of when I was young and outside during the summertime with the sun pouring on my skin and the songs they would sing as I walk around the town. Or even during the winter, waking up early to get ready for school and all the windows in my house are open and begin being filled with the music from their songs they would sing.

The great egret is one of the biggest wading birds found in the Everglades. Often mistaken for other egrets and herons of the River of Grass, this bird stands four feet tall with a white body, yellow beak and black legs. These can be found on the side of roads or within the mangroves, stalking through the water looking for its next meal. The snowy egret is much smaller than the great egret. Although they have the same coloring, the snowy egret has black legs and yellow feet, and their beaks are black with the part near the eyes being yellow. They are the most graceful of the herons, and actually were a part of the endangered species list during the early twentieth century because of people hunting them for their beautiful feathers. These you can find on beaches and near the shorelines of the Everglades but be careful not to mistake them for the great egret.

Last but certainly not least, the great blue heron can be recognized for its blue and grey color while it wades through the sawgrass or while it sits on a low branch by the water. The great blue heron has a long neck and legs, and its neck is usually resting or held in the shape of an “S.” They have a black stripe over their eye and an orangish-yellow beak. They wade slowly through the water or stand like a statue looking for prey in the shallow water. I often see these on the side of the road or while out on the boat, flying from one mangrove island to the next.

If you’re planning on coming to visit the Everglades or passing by the River of Grass, make sure you keep an eye out for these beautiful and incredible birds.

University of Florida student Savannah Oglesby has lived in Everglades City her entire life. A lover of nature; some of her favorite things are sunsets, night lightning and mountains. She enjoys adventures and spending time with family, friends and two orange tabby cats. She also enjoys travelling, taking photos of nature, learning about extreme weather and seeing the world in different perspectives. Savannah’s love for Everglades City, and its history, is endless.

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