Florida: We Like Alligators

Young Alligator Face

Young Alligator Face

Big Gator in Swamp

Big Gator in Swamp

Pair of Alligators: Foot on Face

Pair of Alligators: Foot on Face

Alligator Hug

Alligator Hug

Toothly Face in Pile of Alligators

Toothly Face in Pile of Alligators

White Leucistic Alligator

White Leucistic Alligator

Albino Alligator

Gator Torso Vibration During Mating Display

Gator Torso Vibration During Mating Display

Egret Riding an Alligator

Egret Riding an Alligator

Vintage Postcard: Big Joe Alligator

Vintage Postcard: Big Joe Alligator

Vintage Postcard: Alligator Quartette Singing

Vintage Postcard: Alligator Quartette Singing

Vintage Postcard: Alligator Chorus

Vintage Postcard: Alligator Chorus

Vintage Alligator Orange Fruit Crate Label

Vintage Alligator Orange Fruit Crate Label

In Florida we live with the largest reptile in North America –the American alligator.  I was surprised to learn that a published study in 2013 documented their use of tools.  It was found that during nesting season some alligators balance sticks on their heads to lure birds looking for nesting material.  Mid-April to May is prime mating season.  Courtship displays include head slapping, torso vibration, and bellowing (the sound travels for quite some distance).  Alligator mothers are devoted to protecting their eggs, and stay with their young for up to a year.  Their toothy “smiles” contain about 80 teeth.  Worn teeth are replaced with new ones, so an alligator can go through 2,000 teeth in a lifetime!  Occasionally an alligator visits our pond, but eventually it moves on to a new gator hole.  Alligators have always attracted the interest of tourists, and their images have been used for logos, mascots, and throughout pop culture.    Alligators are an important part of our Florida ecosystem, and we enjoy having them around. 

Florida: Birds Pretty in Pink!

Spoonbill Walking

Spoonbill Walking

Spoonbill Pose

Spoonbill Pose

Spoonbill Feeding

Spoonbill Feeding

Spoonbill Wing Stretch

Spoonbill Wing Stretch

Flamingo Light Pink

Flamingo Light Pink

Flamingo Light Pink Closeup

Flamingo Light Pink Closeup

Backlit Flamingo

Backlit Flamingo

Flamingo Dark Pink

Flamingo Dark Pink

Flamingo's Dark Pink Feathers

Flamingo’s Dark Pink Feathers

Flamingo Face

Flamingo Face

Flamingo Feeding

Flamingo Feeding

Florida has two large pink birds that you might see when visiting – spoonbills and flamingos. Both get their pretty pink color from carotenoids in the shrimp and algae they eat.  The more carotenoids they eat, the pinker they get!  Flamingos are pink all the way through – even their skin, blood, and egg yolks are tinged pink!  

Roseate spoonbills are named for their spatulate-shaped bills – they are the pink bird you will see in the wild. Spoonbills feed by touch, and swing their bills back and forth through the water to find food. Their sensitive bills instantly snap shut on small fish, insects, and crustaceans. They can be found throughout the state, especially near coastal mangroves in central and southern Florida. Places we’ve seen spoonbills include Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge (in the mangroves along Black Point Drive); Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge; nesting in the wild at both the St. Augustine Alligator Farm and Gatorland (in Kissimmee); and various other places including the Viera Wetlands, Orlando Wetlands, and the Sarasota/Tampa area.

Flamingos are usually seen in formal exhibits, but a wild group of 147 birds was discovered living in western Palm Beach County in May 2014. It is believed they migrated from their native breeding range in the Caribbean and Mexico. Long ago there had been a small breeding population deep in the Everglades, so scientists hope the birds get reestablished in the state.  A flamingo feeds by holding its bristle-lined bill upside down as a scoop to sieve out brine shrimp, algae, and other aquatic organisms from the water. Flamingos are an iconic symbol of Florida, and can be seen at many zoos, wildlife conservation centers, and theme parks (in summer they can be seen on their mud-cup nests at Disney’s Animal Kingdom).

Update March 2015:  The wild flamingos have returned to the Palm Beach County Storm Water Treatment Area 2 west of Miami!  Field trips are hosted by the Audubon Society of the Everglades (http://www.auduboneverglades.org/).

Update March 2018:  Conservationists have documented historical evidence that flamingoes are native to Florida and are on an upswing coming back in the wild!  http://www.audubon.org/news/its-official-flamingos-belong-florida

Great Egrets are Nesting Now in Florida!

Great Egret in Breeding Plumage

Great Egret in Breeding Plumage

Great Egret Courtship Display

Great Egret Courtship Display

Great Egret Breeding Pair

Great Egret Breeding Pair

Great Egret "Gator Surfing"!

Great Egret “Gator Surfing”!

Beautiful great egrets have started nesting now in Florida!  We love birds, so nesting season is our favorite time of year.  Egrets are 3 feet tall, so they make quite an impression.  The oldest known great egret lived to be 22 years old.

Florida: World’s Biggest Gator Buildings

Swampy, "World's Largest Gator"

Swampy, “World’s Largest Gator”

Gator at Entrance to Closed Jungleland Zoo

Gator at Entrance to Closed Jungleland Zoo

Gator Jaws Entrance to Gatorland

Gator Jaws Entrance to Gatorland

Florida is famous for its alligators!  We like them so much that we model some of our buildings after them.  The “World’s Largest Gator” is Swampy, a 200-foot-long structure in Christmas, Florida.  It is part of the entrance to Jungle Adventures.  Another alligator building sits in front of the now-closed Jungleland Zoo in Kissimmee.  It features a gator biting a jeep with a man hanging in mid-air. The most-photographed structure is the gator jaws entrance at Gatorland in Orlando.  People used to walk through the open jaws to enter the park.  During a fire in 2006, flames actually shot out of the mouth!  The jaws amazingly survived, and it is now the first stop for pictures at the park.

Nesting Time for Beautiful Great Egrets

Great Egret's Feather Display

Great Egret’s Feather Display

Great Egret's Lacy Feathers

Great Egret’s Lacy Feathers

Great Egret's Mating Display

Great Egret’s Mating Display

Great Egret and Her Blue Eggs

Great Egret and Her Blue Eggs

Great Egret with Baby in Nest

Great Egret with Baby in Nest

Closeup of Baby Great Egret

Closeup of Baby Great Egret

Great Egret in Bald Cypress Tree

Great Egret in Bald Cypress Tree

Great Egret and Alligator in Pond

Great Egret and Alligator in Pond

Great egrets are nesting now in Florida! The bird rookeries are full of activity. What a wonderful time of year!

Great Egret Babies and Feathers

Great Egret Adult’s Feather Plumes

Great Egret Baby’s Emerging Pin Feathers

Great Egret Baby in Nest (pin feathers coming in)

Three Great Egret Babies in Nest

The great egret babies are growing quickly.  The difference between the babies’ emerging pin feathers, and the delicate beauty of the adult’s feather plumes is incredible!

Wood Stork Babies!

Wood Stork Babies in Nest

Wood Stork Family

Wood Stork Babies Playing with Leaf

Wood Storks are nesting now in Florida!  They are the only stork that breeds in North America, and they mate for life.  It’s really fun to watch the babies in the nests. They play with leaves, bend and stretch, while their parents bring them food and water.  

%d bloggers like this: