wildlife

Purple Gallinule

(Porphyrio martinicus)

Plumage in shades of purple, teal, indigo, and olive along with a yellow-tipped red bill and bright yellow legs make this bird hard to miss. Purple gallinules are noisy rails who are most often found near freshwater marshes, ponds, and swamps. You may find them swimming, walking on lily pads, or in the branch of a tree.

In the spring and summer, a pair of Purple Gallinules will build one or more nests at or above the water level. The nests are supported by strong vegetation at the water’s edge and are made of grasses, cattails and other vegetation found nearby. Raising babies is a family affair. Both the male and female incubate 5-10 eggs for 22-25 days. Once hatched, the mother, father, and older siblings help feed the babies until they are 9 weeks old and able to fly.

Purple Gallinules are omnivorous. You may find them pecking the ground like a chicken as they forage along the shore for fruit, seeds, insects, worms, or snails. In the water, they will nod their head while looking for tasty aquatic greens or a fish dinner.

When you see a Purple Gallinule, spend some time watching this gorgeous bird with quirky movements. Note how their feathers appear to change color when they move from sunshine to shade. You will be amazed at how the Purple Gallinule’s brilliant colors perfectly blend into Florida’s wetlands.

Photo Credit: Andy Waldo
#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #PurpleGallinule #Explore #Discover

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Eastern Hognose Snake

Eastern Hognose Snake Heterodon platirhinos

Eastern Hognose Snakes are found throughout Florida with the exception of the Keys. Their habitat is diverse and includes scrub, sandhills, turkey oak woodlands, hardwood hammocks, pine woodlands, meadows, and even cultivated fields. Hognose snakes secrete a mild venom that is toxic to their prey. They are not known to cause serious injuries to humans, however, some people may show signs of an allergy if bitten.

Hognose snakes are thick-bodied and vary in color from solid gray or black to various shades of brown, yellow, orange, olive, or red with large, randomly shaped markings. The underside can be off-white, gray, or yellow with the bottom side of the tail lighter in color. An average adult grows to 20-35 inches. Hognose snakes breed in spring. Females lay 15-25 leathery eggs in sandy soil or under logs. In 1-2 months, the hatchlings break free of their eggs and are 6 1/2 to 9 1/2 inches long.

Active only during daylight hours, Hognose snakes use their blunt noses to search through soil and leaf litter for their meals. They may dine on frogs, insects, salamanders, and invertebrates, but toads are their favorite dinner. When a toad is threatened, it will puff itself up. Immune to the toad’s poison, Hognose snakes are equipped with rear fangs which enable them to pop the toad-like a balloon before swallowing it whole.

Eastern Hognose Snakes are best known for their dramatic display when warding off danger. Also known as a Puff Adder, when a threat is detected, a hognose snake will suck in air, flatten its head, rise like a cobra, and hiss. With its mouth closed, it may strike. If this display does not scare away the predator, the hognose will flip itself over and imitate death. It may convulse, regurgitate, and emit foul-smelling fecal matter before becoming completely still with its mouth open and tongue hanging out. When the danger passes, the Hognose snake will simply roll over and get on with enjoying its day.

Photo Credit: Andy Waldo
#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #EasternHognoseSnake #snakes

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Old Miakka Preserve

 Old Miakka Preserve

Named after a settlement in the 1840s, Old Miakka Preserve contains four miles of trails including scrub habitat, pinewood flatwood, and wetlands. The preserve is abundant in flowering plants with numerous pollinators and occasional gopher tortoises. One of the trails is named after Horticulturalist Tim Cash who spent years studying plants within the preserve. If you are looking for a calm trail with lots of sunshine and flowers, visit Old Miakka Preserve in Sarasota, FL.

Have you visited any interesting preserves lately? Message us with your pictures and some fun facts about your visit. Imagine Our Florida will feature your story as a Saturday saunter contributor.

Photo credit: Aymee Laurain

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #OldMiakkareserve #explore #discover

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Gray Fox

The Gray Fox is a member of the dog family, Canidae. This fox is common in Florida and can be found statewide except for the Keys. Their preferred habitat is dense cover in thickets, forests, or swamps.

The Gray Fox is also known as the Tree Fox as they are the only fox species who climb trees to evade predators and to hunt prey. Gray foxes climb in a scrambling motion, grasping the tree trunk with its forepaws and forcing themselves higher with long claws on their hind feet.

Gray Fox’s diet consists of small mammals, insects, fruits, acorns, birds, amphibians, reptiles, carrion, and eggs. Due to their ability to climb squirrels are an important source of food. Rabbit, mice, and rats are their preferred food.

The upper side of their bodies is salt and pepper gray. The nose and the sides of its muzzle are black. A black line extends from the corner of their eyes to their neck. The sides of their neck, backs, legs, the underside of their tails, and the base of their ears are all bright reddish-orange. A black stripe runs along the bushy tail which measures 11 to 16 Inches. Gray Foxes grow to a height of 15 inches and 21 to 30 inches in body length. They weigh 7 to 13 pounds.

Gray Fox dens are located in hollow logs, ground burrows, beneath boulders, and even under buildings in areas where the foxes have become acclimated to people. Breeding season occurs from late January to March. Females give birth to 3-7 dark-brown, blind pups after 50 to 55 days. The male stays with his mate to care for the young which are weaned at about 2 months. By 3 months they leave the den with their parents who begin to teach them to hunt and will stay with their parents until late summer or fall.
Photo Credit: Broward County Parks and Recreation Division
Gray Fox at Highlands Scrub Natural Area, Pompano Beach.

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #fox #grayfox

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Bobcats

Bobcats, Felidae rufus Floridanusare, one of two predatory cats native to the Florida region. The bobcat is more common and much smaller than the panther. Bobcats are found throughout the state from the deepest swamps to suburban backyards. The Florida bobcat is immediately identifiable by its short tail or bob. They also have fringes of fur that outline the sides of its head. It weighs between 13 and 30 pounds. Its tail has white on its underside and black markings on its top side. They have spots of white fur on all parts of its body, which can range in color from reddish-brown to grey. The adult bobcat can grow to about 50 inches in length and stands 21 inches tall on average. When an adult reached 35 pounds, the bobcat is similar in size to a young Florida panther for which it is sometimes mistaken. The female bobcat needs about 5 square miles of range while the male requires 15 to 30. The range may consist in part of both wilderness and developed areas and will include enough unpopulated land for a den. The bobcat lives for a period of up to 14 years in the wild and can coexist with the panther, as the two do not share prey. The den can consist of a hollow tree, cave, rock outcropping or other open shelters. Bobcats are mainly nocturnal hunters and their diet consists of small rodents and birds to carrion. They are opportunistic eaters and will eat local fauna including squirrels, opossums, rabbits, and raccoons. During winter months, they shift attention to the many species of migrating birds. The Florida bobcat has a litter of one or two kittens after a gestation period of 50 to 60 days. The mating season runs from August to March with the babies being born in the early spring. A single male may sire several litters at one time. Florida Bobcats are seen in all types of habitats including suburban yards, and even city streets from time to time. Bobcats typically do not approach humans but will do so if fed and taught to associate people with food. Bobcats can swim and climb trees with ease, two factors that prevent them from falling prey to natural enemies besides human hunters. The Florida bobcat is not endangered.

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Black Vulture

The Black Vulture, Coragyps atratus, is smaller than the Turkey Vulture, although it still is a large raptor. They have a dull black head and body with wrinkles covering their head and face. The tips of their bills are gray and their legs are pale white. Black Vultures have a wingspan of 54 inches and their wings have white tips on the underside. They weigh 3 to 5 pounds and stand 22 inches tall. While in flight, they will hold their wings flat and will flap them more often than the Turkey Vulture.

Black Vultures are monogamous, often not straying far from their mate. Females will lay 1 to 4 egg clutches between February and June in caves, hollow logs, or thickets. Although they do not build nests, they will dig a hollow and put vegetation around it to make it secure. The nesting period can be up to 100 days with the eggs hatching within 40 days. Together, they will feed their young for up to 8 months. This dependence helps establish the strong social bonds these birds exhibit.

As carrion eaters, they are often found in landfills or along roadways where they feed on roadkill. They will usually return to known food sources instead of actively hunting. Black Vultures do not have the keen sense of smell other vultures have and must find their food by sight. You will find them roosting in tall trees or on electrical pylons where they can easily spot food in open areas.

The Black Vulture is protected under Federal Law and can not be killed without a permit from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Photo Credit: Dan Kon

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #BlackVulture #vulture #raptor

 

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Pileated Woodpeckers

Did you know that the Pileated Woodpecker, aka Dryocopus pileatus, is one of the largest woodpeckers in North America? With a black body, a red crest, white stripes on its neck, and black and white stripes on its face it is hard to miss. Pileated Woodpeckers love to eat insects, fruits, and nuts. A large part of their diet is made up of carpenter ants and beetle larvae. This is why they are always knocking on trees and wood sensing a ‘hollow area’ where the insects may be. Once they have located their dinner, they use their bill to drill into the wood and use their long sticky tongues to drag out the insects. Sometimes they will expand the holes that they create looking for food and make a roost inside the tree to lay their eggs. Tended by both mom and dad, the little hatchlings will be ready to fledge within 1 month. Males and females are similar, but males have a red forehead, and females have a gray to a yellowish brown forehead. If you hear knocking outside, be sure to look up and see if you can spot a stunning Pileated Woodpecker.

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American Alligators

— American Alligator – Alligator mississippiensis —
Alligators are found across Florida. These large, water-dwelling reptiles have a powerful bite and should be treated with extreme caution. They will generally seek to swim away if approached, but if they think their young are in danger or they feel threatened in some way, they will strike out. Alligators have round snouts, range between 9.5 to 15 feet, can weigh as much as 1000 lbs. and have a maximum speed of 20 mph in the water. The alligator is a rare success story of an endangered species not only saved from extinction but who is now thriving. State and federal protections, habitat preservation efforts, and reduced demand for alligator products have improved the species’ wild population to more than one million today. They live nearly exclusively in the freshwater rivers, lakes, swamps, and marshes. The hatchlings are usually 6 to 8 inches long with yellow and black strips. Juveniles fall prey to dozens of predators including birds, raccoons, bobcats, and other alligators so they will stay with their mothers for about two years. They are opportunists and will eat just about anything, carrion, pets and, in rare instances, humans. They feed mainly on fish, turtles, snakes, and small mammals. Adult alligators are apex predators critical to the biodiversity of their habitat.

Alligators get a bad reputation but as long as we respect them from a distance we have no reason to fear them. Alligators have ears directly behind their eyes. Do you see that part that looks like this alligator’s eyes are smiling? That’s its ear. The structure of the ear is designed to pinpoint sound rather than hear a vast amount of sound.

Female alligators can lay between 35-50 eggs. If these eggs are hatched in the wild, and not a hatchery, there is a chance that only a few eggs will survive. Predators such as birds, snakes, raccoons, otters, bobcats, bass, and other alligators can eat their eggs. According to FWC an average of 25 eggs will hatch but only about 10 alligators will survive their first year. These eggs and small gators become food so that another species can survive. In turn, large alligators may eat these same animals to ensure their survival. It’s all about balancing out populations.

If you see an alligator, don’t touch it. Take a few pictures and observe from a distance. In most cases, if you get too close an alligator maybe become afraid and swim away. Alligators wait patiently for animals to come near and then use all their energy at once to take down their prey. This is one way they conserve energy.

#alligator #nature #florida

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American White Ibis

The American White Ibis is a very common bird. You may have seen a group of them passing through your yard using their beak to probe for insects. The males tend to be larger with longer beaks. They breed along the Gulf Coast and when not breeding they drift further inland and to the Caribbean. These birds are monogamous and both parents help to take care of the young. Aside from garbage the larges threat to these birds is methylmercury that leaks into the environment. This alters the hormones in the birds and interferes with their reproduction and breeding. Methylmercury concentrations are increased when waste and fossil fuels are burned. Resevoir flooding can also cause in increase. This chemical is a neurotoxic and also inhibits part of the endocrine system. It prevents males from producing sex hormones that would lead to courtship behaviors. Courtship behaviors are very important in most birds. Without these behaviors the females will not find an interest in the males and reproduction will not occur. It can also lead to females abandoning their nests and reduced foraging.

Other threats include harvesting of their food source such as crayfish, hunting, degradation of habitat, and other chemical uses. If you see these birds passing through, know that they will help your yard by removing pest insects. If you see smaller brown ibis, those are juveniles. Have you seen Ibis around your house?

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Power Lines and Birds

Director, Dan Kon was driving through his neighborhood when he saw a young man on a bike who was stopped and staring woefully at a large bird of prey lying on the sidewalk.

Post by Dan:
I stopped to see if the teen and the animal were ok but the turkey vulture was dead. The teen told me he was riding his bike when the bird fell from a tree above and landed on the sidewalk in front of him.
I looked up and saw feathers on the power line above. Either the poor vulture was electrocuted or had fallen from the tree above and made contact with the line on the way down I took several pictures including the pole number and street signs nearby.

I immediately called Duke Energy. The person I spoke with was compassionate and determined to get any potential problem with the power line repaired. She asked for the street and pole number, then promptly scheduled a lineman to be sure the line was safe so no other wildlife could be harmed.

The Duke Energy Representative informed me that dry rot of the insulation, animal’s talons, or sometimes squirrels who tear off some of the insulation, will expose the live wire beneath.

A few days later, I followed up and learned the lineman did inspect the power line and it was not in need of repair. While I did not learn what caused the death of this creature, I did learn that Duke Energy is responsive to keeping our wild friends safe.

Duke Energy asked that if any you who are their customer see an issue like this, please report it to them as soon as possible. Be sure to write down or take a picture of the pole number, located on a tag on the pole, as well as nearby street signs. The company does not want Florida’s wildlife and flora harmed.

It’s good to see a company as large as Duke Energy has joined the worldwide movement to protect our wildlife.

Connect. Respect. Coexist.

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How to Save a Gopher Tortoise who is crossing the street

 

Safely remove the tortoise from the road and move him/her in the direction in he/she was heading to the grass or wooded area on the side of the street.

-DO NOT put a tortoise in water. Tortoises, unlike turtles, can’t swim.

-DO NOT try to relocate a tortoise. Gopher tortoises have an amazingly strong homing instinct and will try their best to return to their home burrows. This puts them at greater risk for road mortality, predation as they lack the protection of a burrow as they wander, and exposure to the elements. Females have also demonstrated behaviors of nest-guarding and if removed from those areas during nesting season it could negatively impact the survival rate of the hatchlings. (Gorsse et al 2012)

-DO NOT handle them beyond the length of time it takes to get them across the street to safety. A study published this year found that brief handling did not cause a stress reaction but handling for more than a few moments caused stress hormones to increase greater than 200-fold. (Currylow et al 2017.)

Remember, Gopher Tortoises are a Threatened Species, therefore it is illegal to relocate a tortoise without a permit or to keep them as pets. (Florida Statute 372.0725; Chapter 68A-27; Rule 68A-27.003)

If you see a tortoise that will require additional assistance, contact the FWC weekdays from 8 am to 5 pm at 1-850-921-1030 or after hours or on the weekends at 1-888-404-3922

Let’s all work to protect our amazing animal friends that we are so lucky to share this state with!

Share this information with your friends and be sure to give our page a “Like” to learn more about Florida’s wildlife and wild spaces.

#gophertortoise #Florida #wildlife #tortoise

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