At slightly more than six inches in length, one of the smallest Florida shorebirds is the sander ling. You'll see them, usually in groups of a dozen or fewer, scurrying on tiny legs ahead of surging waves.
Switchers also frequent the shoreline, but are larger and run less than sander lings. They have a long, thin bill and are usually gray or light brown, depending on the time of year.
Unlike the brown variety, white pelicans do not dive for fish. The White Ibis has a long, curved bill that's ideal for probing the sand for food.
Many terns and other Florida shorebirds lay their eggs in the sand. The eggs are hard to see and must be constantly guarded, or a hungry predator will eat them.
Birds can get their feet tangled in a piece of monofilament line. Other plastic items with holes can also become traps, so please dispose of all trash properly and help keep our birds healthy.
Contact the local beach patrol, lifeguard, park rangers or other authorities. They can contact local bird rescue volunteers, who are trained to capture and transport injured or sick seabirds.
Your presence may prevent the parent birds from returning with food. You may need to push the point through the skin and cut off the barb before you can extract the hook.
Most fishing piers have posted instructions for dealing with hooked birds. You can find Florida ’s beautiful seabirds on any beach or bay shoreline, or in and around mangrove trees, seawalls and piers.
Many of Florida's shorebirds, egrets and herons are even active after dark and can be seen on the beach during a full moon. A great place to watch pelicans and herons is on any pier with fishermen.
In Florida, many of our seabirds are migratory and can be seen in greater abundance during fall and winter migration. When my late, beloved grandma made a meal that she did not like, or that did not meet her expectations, she dubbed it as being for the birds.
As a child I remember finding the expression confusing, as I recognized a negative connotation that didn’t seem to fit with the delicious dish that everyone else was thoroughly enjoying. Until recently, the above list had remained remarkably intact, and fishing had retained its noble perch for many years.
Within moments of emerging from the turbulent tide, we stumbled across a nutrient-rich weed line floating in 200-feet of water and immediately spotted our colorful target swimming below. I sprung into action and raced about the boat, netting baits, bating hooks and casting lines.
In a matter of moments all three rods were doubled over, adding the chores of landing and unhooking fish to my duties. Angie and Alex watched dumbfounded as I performed a solo rendition of the ‘fin fire drill.
As bait fish showered, dolphin ravaged and birds crashed, Angie finally tired of being a passive observer. I can only presume that the salty air muffled my suggestion, and that Angie mistakenly heard, “Cast directly to the menacing bird with huge talons and sharp beak.” And so she did.
Just as quickly she happily retreated to her observer role, tossing me the rod that was tethered to the belligerent bird. While I tentatively pulled the angry and wildly flailing bird into the boat, Angie and Alex battled our intended species on the remaining rods.
I faced the bow, took a few paces backward, lowered my shoulders and raced forward to give needed momentum and project the demonic creature into the air. As I writhed on the deck, cupping my elbow and arching my throbbing hip, Angie and Alex obliviously bailed dolphin.
Angie and Alex gave token inquiry into my condition, but quickly returned to their newly found dolphin prowess. I remained on the deck for several minutes, as I shouted instructions from a prone position before eventually propping myself up on the leaning post.
It was the same confused look I gave my grandma when she made a similar declaration about her delicious Sauerbraten. As they swim, their long necks snake back and forth, giving them one of their more peculiar names.
This Florida bird is also typically seen in pairs during the breeding season, but in small to mid-sized groups the rest of the year. One sunny afternoon while I was talking on the phone with a childhood friend, a snakebird dove into the water right in front of me.
I proceeded to explain their unusual method of catching fish and her response was quite humorous. Now on top of all that stress, you've got to look over your little shoulders and worry about a bird swimming deep in the water after you.
Due to the fact that they must warm up and dry off after swimming, they're unable to live where it's colder. This unusual bird looks much like a cormorant, with it's coloring, body form, and long “S” shaped neck.
They also have a long bill that measures about twice their head length, whereas the cormorant has a shorter curved beak. This attractive pattern dramatically stands out against the rich dark coloring of their backs.
The females are lighter, with their throats and long necks being a yellowish-cream-gray and their backs more of a dark brownish black. Unusual in every sense, they are extremely striking, worth studying, and collecting information on.
They're often spotted perched motionless at the end of tree branches, or on the edge of a bank. By spreading their feathers apart and opening their wings wide, they're able to completely dry off after being deep within the water.
What's even more important is that this spreading of their wings and tail feathers exposes more flesh to the sun, effectively warming their chilled bodies. The only way they can rid themselves of this excess water and weight is to sit for long periods of time, facing into the sun to warm up, and wait for their feathers to dry.
After they've spent time in the water fishing, their feathers are fully saturated, and they're carrying extra weight. After they've had time to completely warm up, they'll make a harsh, rather unpleasant croaking squawk and then fly off.
However, there's something special about watching a group of snakebirds sitting motionless with their wings outstretched. Of course, witnessing their seamless entry into the water, followed by their miraculous appearance several hundred feet further down is always thrilling and surprising.
In the summer, white pelican adults breed in colonies on lakes in the interior of western Canada and the northwestern United States. 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 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.
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 fledgling, or first flight.
Limp kin- In the United States, Tompkins 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 limp kin, a long-legged waterbird with a down curved bill. The limp kin 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, “Freedom, Krakow,” often heard in the background of old Tarzan movies. As the limp kin walks through shallow water, it uses sight and touch to search for apple snails, mussels, worms and insects.
Surfacing from their dives to chase fish, unhinges, with their long necks, look like snakes at attention, which is why it is also called the snakebird, or water turkey They have distinctive pouches under their bills and cannot be mistaken for the white pelican due to the size and color difference.
A distinctive sight along Florida ’s waterways, the great blue heron is the tallest of the blue-hued wading birds you’ll see hunting along the shorelines. The largest of the white-colored wading birds in Florida, the great egret is frequently seen in wetlands areas and along waterways.
But the way they hold their neck and the iridescent green of the feathers on their backs help make them easy to identify. The osprey is a large black and white raptor, up to two feet tall and with a six-foot wingspan.
One of the most distinctive sounds you’ll hear in a Florida marsh is the call of the red-winged blackbird, particularly when there are a large flocks of them. There’s no mistaking the roseate spoonbill, with its bright pink plumage and distinctive shovel-shaped beak.
Tall, distinctive birds that you’ll see everywhere in the Florida peninsula, sandhill cranes mate for life and travel in pairs or as a family. Sometimes mistaken for other white wading birds in Florida, the snowy egret has distinctive yellow feet and a black bill.
It includes an excellent database of images showing young, juvenile, immature, and color morphs of species, as well as sound clips. Audubon Guide Dig through our archives of the best places in Florida to go birding.