Egrets on St. Pete Beach

Sometimes I think about birds in terms of how I would describe them to a small child. Maybe it's the teacher in me. Or perhaps I'm always trying to simplify birds into a skeletal few bullet points that make them easier to separate. Like Darwin. Or anyone who ever looked outside and subconsciously divided different backyard birds into mental categories to better distinguish them. In any case, I would describe this week's bird as "slender white flamingo with pointy bill and creeping legs."

It's a good thing I don't have to simply describe every bird to you anyway. I can show you. Huzzah internet!

Sit yourself down at the table of warm, early morning beach walk in Florida and have a look at these Snowy Egrets. Snowy? Yes. I think the adjective is more a color reference than a geographical range descriptor.

20160430-IMG_0057

20160430-IMG_0056

Snowy Egrets are year-round residents of a vast amount of earth. Southeastern USA and most of South America. However they also breed in most of the United States; all but the northernmost states.

One would think that egrets might be hard to distinguish, what with being similar tall white birds and all. But a quick look to the legs and feet is usually enough to tell them apart. Does your egret have yellow boots on? Snowy Egret.

20160501-IMG_0216

Does your egret wear black hosiery? Great White Egret.

20160501-IMG_0208

20160501-IMG_0210

20160501-IMG_0207

As the name suggests, Great White Egrets are larger than Snowy Egrets. And really, these guys have such a large range that they form main populations. The Great White Egrets inhabiting the western hemisphere are more often referred to as American Great Egrets.

One can easily guess that egrets eat fish. But they're actually far less picky than that. They are opportunists that also enjoy snakes, lizards, amphibians, insects, tiny mammals, and even other birds. That sharp bill is a savage weapon.

Speaking of savagery, something called "siblicide" is quite common in egrets. Chicks that hatch first often do away with other chicks in their nest that hatch later on and are smaller. A few days of seniority is a huge advantage in avian development.

Starting now I will go back to posting twice per week so come back on Wednesday for more birds!