Monday, May 29, 2006

Roseate Spoonbills and Herons

A Roseate Spoonbill preens.

More photos and video from the rookery at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm and Zoological Park....

Says about the Roseate Spoonbill (Ajaia ajaja): "These birds spend much time feeding in the shallow waters of Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico on shrimp, small fish, snails, and aquatic insects, which they detect by their sense of touch as they rhythmically sweep their 'spoon-shaped' bills from side to side. Early in the century their numbers were severely depleted by plume hunters, but with protective laws they have increased once again."

Not far from the spoonbills, a Tri-Colored Heron (Egretta tricolor) perched on a sign listing the rookery's birds and their identifying characteristics.

According to, this bird, formerly called the Louisiana Heron, "is one of the most abundant herons in the Deep South. Although in the West it nests only in southern New Mexico, it is liable to turn up in late summer as far away as Arizona, California, Oregon, Colorado, and even Manitoba. The Tricolored Heron is extremely slender and moves gracefully as it searches about for frogs or fish. Despite its relatively small size, it forages in deep water; often its legs are completely underwater, and the bird appears to be swimming."

At first I mistook the next bird for a Tri-Colored Heron, but it's a Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea). Says, "This is one of the most numerous herons in the Southeast and may be observed in large mixed concentrations of herons and egrets. It eats more insects than the larger herons and is sometimes seen following a plow to pick up exposed insect larvae. Adults usually forage alone, stalking the marshes for prey, but immatures tend to feed in groups, their white plumage serving as a signal, drawing distant birds together at good foraging places. Unlike the egrets, it has no fancy plumes and was thus spared by plume hunters."

Below, a Great Heron nourishes her brood in In Feeding Time at the Rookery:

Before I left the park I made a last circuit of the rookery, this time with my digital recorder held out toward the nests. It was a bit more sensitive than my camera to the sounds of the birds.

Coming up: St. Augustine outside the park.


Blogger Sky said...

how lovely! your photos are remarkable. we just found a heron rookery here and saw 16 great blue herons in the wild sitting on 16 nests several few feet apart. it was fascinating to see such a colony!

we visited st augustine during christmas, 2004 and loved the city!the walk we took into history, the art, so many interesting shops, delicious food, the lights - it was all simply fabulous! are you near there? :)

10:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For real? It's pink? I've never seen anything like it.

12:13 AM  
Blogger e_journeys said...

Sky -- We live on the Gulf Coast, a few hours drive from St. Augustine. Certainly more than a day trip, but close enough to drive back there the next chance we get.

Colleen -- Yep, for real, they're pink! Very cool birds.

12:22 AM  

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