Tag Archives: heron

Being Green in the Wildlife Garden

Dateline: May 17, 2013*

As I do every morning, I was walking around the property enjoying nature at its best.  I took my normal route past the Rusty Lyonia, Pawpaws and Dwarf Oaks, among others and headed down the bank of the pond into the section that dries up during Florida dry season.  I checked two small temporary pools created from recent rains and watched the tadpoles dance with the diving beetles.

Poised to catch a meal

As I turned my attention to the main section of pond, I was surprised to see a Green Heron (Butorides virescens) standing on the side, poised to grab a meal.  He seemed unfazed with my presence, unlike his compatriots the blue or white herons, which fly off the moment I open the door to the house some 150 feet way.  Not the first time I have met up with a green heron in my pond, but it is an unusual and welcome occurrence.

They stand very still

I watched and photographed as birdy moved stealthily around the perimeter, snagging mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki) along the way.  As I walked, we seemed to move in unison, always at exact opposite positions along the pond edge.  He was diligent and obviously very hungry as we spent about 45 minutes doing our opposing dance.  I climbed up the bank at one point and wandered to another part of the yard.

Quick to grab their prey

When I returned, I noticed that the green heron had climbed aboard the tussock (island) at one end of my pond.  When the tussock first appeared, I had visions of wildlife making it a home and my new bird friend made the picture painted in my mind a reality.

Green Heron on the Tussock, my dream vision

Green Herons, small by most heron standards, are “one of the few birds that uses bait to attract fish, it drops such things as bread crusts, insects, and twigs onto the water.”   Fish is the primary diet along with frogs, insects and other invertebrates. They are vocal when they fly in or fly off.

Short and stocky

I gave him some words of warning, advising that I would be VERY annoyed if he ate my new turtle friends and he seemed to stick with the fare of the day, fish.  I hoped that he would snag one of the bluegills or large mouth bass that reside in the depths of the water so I could have that Kodak moment of a wading bird with a fish in his mouth.  It was not to be.  Without warning, my green heron friend flew off leaving me with a good feeling that I am not viewed as a threat to the wildlife friends who come to visit my native plant gardening paradise.

Green Heron is truly a beautiful bird

*This is an update of a tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters on  May 17, 2013 at the defunct national blog beautifulwildlifegarden[dot]com. Click the date to view reader comments.

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Treetops to Marsh: The White Ibis

Dateline: September 13, 2013*

What’s with all the treetop birds?

I was gabbing on the phone with my sister yesterday afternoon and I wandered out onto the patio. Two lots over is where the wooded areas begin and I noticed some birds coming in for a landing in the treetops.  I didn’t pay too much attention thinking they were the resident Vultures, but then I saw a couple of Egrets land in some trees across the street.
My, that’s a versatile group: Ibis and Hawk and check out that Spanish Moss blowing in the breeze.

I finished talking with my sister and grabbed my field glasses.  I saw that there were several different birds perched in the cypress trees and pine snags, so I grabbed my zoom camera (which has minimal features since it isn’t high end) and snapped a few shots.
Wow, it’s a wading bird convention

Suddenly, more and more birds were flying in along the tree line, landing in a cleared lot across the street from the wooded area.

One flew in, then two at once.  A quartet followed.  Five landed in a tree.

Some landed in the trees overlooking the cleared lot.

I decided that this was something I couldn’t miss and took the short walk down the block.
The adults are white, the juveniles start dark turning white

I was amazed at the number of birds in the clearing, in the trees and many more still flying in.  The majority were White Ibis (Eudocimus albus) but there was a black vulture or two, the egrets and a  Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) all in the mix.
An egret stands tall next to the shorter cousins

I often see ibis fly overhead in large flocks and have even had a stray or two land pond-side, but these massive numbers was an amazing surprise.
Even a vulture joined the pack of mixed juveniles and adults.

The range in the United States is the Atlantic coastline from North Carolina south to and including all of peninsula Florida. Range continues west along the Gulf of Mexico down to the Mexican border where it continues south. The White Ibis migrates slightly further inland in its range.
Occasionally they visit my pond as this one did back in 2010.

The habitat for White Ibis can be freshwater, saltwater and brackish marshes.  I’m not sure what the attraction was in this particular lot but I suppose at this time of year it qualifies as a marsh.  As a cypress swamp it is seasonally to regularly wet and parts are drying out, so I can only imagine that the aquatic delicacies were within easy sight and reach of the flock.  It also is rich with native sedges.
That one was just a youngster, the bill wasn’t even pink yet.

A member of the Ciconiiformes Order, the White ibis will hang out with other members of that Order which include herons and storks.
They like the cypress trees

They feed primarily on crustaceans that they dig up using their long, curved bill as a probe.  In my area that would likely be crawdads.

Other food choices include insects, frogs, snails, snakes, and small fish, all readily available in our area. Flocks of white ibis will move from location to location in search of food so I guess that our block was a quick stop on the over-ground food railroad.

The white ibis is listed as a Species of Special Concern (SSC) in Florida due to habitat destruction. This truly was a fantastic and rewarding encounter and I believe they are secure in my area because most of the surrounding lands are wildlife management or conservation areas.