Saturday, June 17, 2017

Florida Specialties: Mangrove Cuckoo, Snail Kite, Limpkin, Muscovy Duck and Painted Bunting

[SW Florida. April 2017]

Southwest Florida is renowned for its many avian marvels that attract keen interest from birders all over the US as well as internationally. We must acknowledge, however, that, in classic Orwellian double-speak, while all birds are special, some are indeed more special than others! 


This fact cannot ring truer than in consideration of the fabled specialty species of Southwest Florida: iconic birds such as Swallow-tailed Kite, White-crowned Pigeon, Smooth-billed Ani and Short-tailed Hawk and more. 


A Spring visit to SW Florida afforded this blogger an opportunity to reacquaint himself with the many compelling reasons why SW Florida is such a magnet for birders seeking species that are best observed here than anywhere else in the country -- species such as:

  • Mangrove Cuckoo
  • Snail Kite
  • Limpkin
  • Muscovy Duck
  • Painted Bunting
We start with the elusive Mangrove Cuckoo -- found nowhere else in the US except S. Florida:




The grey crown, black eye mask and buffy underside help distinguish this species from its commoner cousin, the Yellow-billed Cuckoo. This particular individual was observed at Bunche Beach where this blogger was amazed to witness the Cuckoo out in the open actively being observed by 3 other mesmerized onlookers!

Next up is the Snail Kite -- found extensively in South and Central America, it's only foothold in the US is in Florida:





The Limpkin has two things in common with the the Snail Kite -- it is exclusive to Florida in the US and feasts on a diet of Apple Snails.



Both the Snail Kite and the Limpkin were observed at Harns Marsh, a venue profiled extensively by acclaimed naturalist and photographer, Bob Pelkey

Also at Harns Marsh, was this peculiar waterfowl:



Muscovy Duck is found in the American tropics, and while it does range as far North as S. Texas, there are feral populations in the US -- especially, Florida.

Finally, Painted Bunting, while not exclusive to SW Florida, is a common sight here and can be observed at hotspots such as Corkscrew Swamp:




We end this post with a Bonus Feature on common raptors of SW Florida:

Bald Eagle (observed in flight at Corkscrew; an immature at Harns):



Red-shouldered Hawk (also at Corkscrew):


And, the Osprey -- a killing machine of unparalleled grace and beauty:





This Osprey with its massive talons was observed at Carlos Point/Little Estero CWA.

Birders have no shortage of choices when it comes to birding hotspots in the US. Every state in the country has something unique to offer; but, for those looking for an eclectic mix featuring secretive cuckoos, colorful finches, rare raptors and wattled ducks, there is no place like SW Florida!

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