VOLUME 41 NUMBER 3
Biographies of Selected Species of Birds
and Compiled List of All Species
Occurring in Florida
DEPARTMENT OF GAME AND FRESH WATER FISH
C. C. WOODWARD, Slate Game Commissioner
RUPERT J. LONGSTREET
President, Florida Audubon Society;
Superintendent of Schools
Daytona Beach, Florida
HERBERT L. STODDARD
Bureau of Biological Survey
U. S. Department of Agriculture
L. ROBERTA LOVELACE
Instructor in Biology
High School, Pensacola, Florida
R. W. WILLIAMS
Bureau of Biological Survey
U. S. Department of Agriculture
FRANCIS M. WESTON
U. S. Naval Air Station
SARAH W. PARTRIDGE
Game and Fresh Water Fish
LIST OF BIRDS
A. H. HOWELL, Senior Biologist
Bureau of Biological Survey
United States Department of Agriculture
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Commissioner of Agriculture
Entered January 31, 1903, at Tallahassee, Florida, as second-class
matter under Act of Congress of June, 1900. "Acceptance for mailing
at special rate of postage provided for in Section 1103, Act of October
3, 1917, authorized September 11, 1918."
There has never been a time since man has inhabited
this planet that there has not been a struggle between
man and the lower creation of animal life. Scientists have
predicted that man's last and greatest battle will be with
Entomologists tell us that there are three hundred
thousand six-legged arthropod species of insects that
have been named and more than this many as yet un-
Insects had dominion on the earth long before man.
While he lives longer and is more powerful he is not so
prolific and it takes a whole lot more to meet his needs
than it does to supply the needs of these little animals.
Not all insects are enemies of man, but a large per
cent of them are inimical either to plants and animals
which serve man or to man physically. Some insects
are beneficial, such as bees and the silk worms. But the
teeming nonillions of damaging insects attack man's
means of making a living, from every angle. They are
man's chief rival in gaining a living from the soil.
The greatest possible friends of man in his fight
against insects are the insectivorous birds. It is doubt-
ful whether the human race could ever have developed
a civilization had there never been any birds that eat
insects. Not many people could have survived had there
been nothing to help combat the enemies of mankind.
A portion of the food of most birds is made up of
insects, and the food of many species is largely of insect
origin. A bird will in some cases eat its weight in insects
in an incredibly short time. While we cannot depend
on birds entirely for protection against insects, they are
a wonderful ally in the struggle for supremacy. Toads
are also great insectivorous animals. Their food consists
almost entirely of insects and 60 per cent of these are of
It was estimated in 1921 that insects annually destroy
$1,000,000,000 worth of forests and agricultural products
in the United States, the damage being reduced about
28 per cent by birds. The annual loss caused by insects
is beyond all accurate computation; some estimates place
it at $2,000,000,000. If birds are reducing the damage
by one-fourth, they are worth over $500,000,000 annu-
Many birds are omnivorous eaters-not being choice
whether they eat fruit, seed, or flesh. Many species are
heavy eaters. A robin will eat fifty to seventy-five cut-
worms a day if he has the chance. A bartramian sand-
piper averaged two hundred locusts and other insects
daily while having his diet tested. One flicker's craw
was found to contain five thousand ants. A bank swal-
low in Texas contained 68 boll weevils, and 35 cliff
swallows averaged 18 boll weevils each. A nighthawk
from New York had 24 clover weevils and 375 ants.
Many species of birds eat their weight in insects daily.
Quails, pheasants, doves and ducks eat great amounts
of weed seeds as well as insects.
Sullivan says that the great slaughter of wild birds
and the destruction of from 8,000,000 to 100,000,000 of
the eggs annually in France resulted in very poor crops
in that country because of the increase of insects.
One of the most widely published instances of birds
saving a crop is that of the gulls eating the crickets in
Utah in the early history of the State. As a result the
people erected a beautiful monument commemorating the
One of the most notable outbreaks of insects was the
locust plague of 1873-76 in the Great Plains region. The
only fields not ruined were those where flocks of birds
frequented. Another striking instance of the protective
work of birds was when the "beet worm" worked havoc
in the sugar-beet fields of Colorado and when red-winged
blackbirds flocked in great numbers to that region and
devoured them. Numerous instances could be mentioned
where crops have been saved from insect depredations
by friends of the feathered tribe. To add citation is not
necessary to prove what no one disputes.
Laws have been passed by the Federal Government
and by the various States the purpose of which is to pro-
tect the beneficial birds from the ruthless hunter and
trapper. This is necessary even from the standpoint of
the sportsman. Some of the best birds for eating pur-
poses have become almost extinct from the wanton slaugh-
ter by hunters and trappers.
Another phase of this question which should receive
attention is that of providing for the domestic breeding
of wild game. The farm game crop has possibilities
worthy of consideration. Thousands of acres of land that
yield no income now could be made profitable by raising
Interest in bird life from the esthetic standpoint is
worth while. Songsters are indeed worthy of protection
and they also are among those which feed on insects.
Who would think of destroying the glorious mocking.
bird? What would England take for her wonderful sky-
lark? Human life would lose much of its joy if all the
feathered songsters were taken from the earth. Some
of our most cherished memories carry with them the
cheery songs and merry twitter of sweet-voiced birds.
The sight of birds also furnishes us with animated beauty.
How lonesome forests and water fronts would be with-
out birds! How we would miss the cheery notes of
friendly choristers as we wake to greet the morn!
It is believed that wider spread information in regard
to the birds of Florida will lead to the better protection
of one of the greatest natural resources of the State, and
in the case of insectivorous birds, of one of the greatest
defenders of Florida's basic industry, agriculture.
That the people of Florida may become better ac-
quainted with their feathered friends, the State Depart-
ment of Game and Fresh Water Fish and the State De-
partment of Agriculture have combined their efforts to
present some of the interesting facts from the life his-
tories of a selected group of birds. The first named De-
partment furnished the manuscript published in this num-
ber of the Quarterly of the Department of Agriculture.
Tallahassee, Florida. J. T. BROOKS,
July 1, 1931. Assistant Commissioner of Agriculture.
The wild birds, animals and fish of a State belong to
the people as a whole and not to any individual or group
of individuals. They came as an heritage with the
acquiring of the territory, to be enjoyed but to be held
in trust for succeeding generations. An obligation for
the conservation of this heritage rests upon all.
Early laws for regulating hunting, fishing and trap-
ping in Florida were made for the safety of men and their
material possessions and not for the preservation of the
native wild life of the State. So abundant was this life
that it was seemingly unthinkable that appreciable in-
roads would ever be made upon the supply.
To this blindness to the need for conservation was
added indifference resulting from ignorance-ignorance
of the worth of wild life other than as food for the family
table or a marketable commodity. It was not until 1877
that legislation in Florida gave evidence of an awaken-
ing to the need of protection for this great resource.
Significant of the trend in thought were two laws enacted
during that year. One limited the season for hunting
deer to seven months, from September first to April
first; the other sought the protection of plumage birds,
prohibiting the destruction of their nests or of their
young. The conservation note struck in that legislative
session has gained in volume with passing years. It is
now the dominant note in all laws regulating the taking
of wild life in the State-and well that it is.
With the exception of the State of Pennsylvania,
where thirty years ago game was but little more than
a memory, but where today it is to be found in unex-
celled abundance, each State faces either the problem
of restoration or that of conservation. Where seed
stock has been practically wiped out the problem is
one of restoration. Due to the very limited supply of
seed stock for sale in America, its solution is difficult.
Where there is a fair amount of native seed stock on
hand the problem is one of conservation. It becomes
a matter of the observance of the laws that obtain in
wise animal husbandry, namely; holding inviolate the
breeding season, and upbuilding brood flocks and herds.
Florida's problem is one of conservation.
Given sufficient protection and the native seed stock
in Florida would fully re-establish wild life in this State
during the next decade. The two great barriers to the
consummation of such an end are indifference and the
selfish desires of men who kill or take regardless of the
laws that fix limits on bags and seasons, or who, for the
further gratification of their desires, oppose better con-
This bulletin on Florida Birds has been written in the
hope that fuller knowledge of the birds of the State and
their life habits will deepen interest in their conservation
sufficiently to secure for them the needed protection.
Particularly is it hoped that the bulletin may prove of in-
terest to the youth of Florida, for whose use it is pri-
marily designed. It will be made available through public
and school libraries in such numbers that it may be util-
ized effectively in class room and club study, scout and
The species of birds discussed in detail in the bulle-
tin were determined upon after consultation with R. W.
Williams, field representative in the Southeastern States
for the Bureau of Biological Survey, United States De-
partment of Agriculture; R. J. Longstreet, superintend-
ent of schools, Daytona Beach, Florida, and president of
the Florida Audubon Society; and Francis M. Weston of
the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida. A majority
of the species discussed are those that may be most
readily found by the student. In a few instances birds that
are extremely rare but characteristic have been included.
The three men named, together with Herbert L. Stod-
dard, field representative of the Bureau of Biological
Survey, United States Department of Agriculture, have
furnished the greater part of the manuscript. The group
study of Vireos was provided by Miss L. R. Lovelace of
Pensacola. The remaining studies were prepared by Sarah
W. Partridge of the State Department of Game and Fresh
Water Fish, who also served as editor for the publica-
tion. Each biography has been read by two or more of
those collaborating. The compiled list of Florida Birds
was furnished by A. H. Howell, Senior Biologist of the
United States Bureau of Biological Survey. Apprecia-
tion is due and is hereby expressed to each and all for
the service rendered. Further appreciation is expressed
to R. J. Longstreet for the preparation of Suggestions to
Teachers, and for the study on Characteristics and Classi-
fication of Birds, and the loan of half tone cuts used,
many of them made from photographs by S. A. Grimes,
who at all times generously cooperates in educational
work having as its end the conservation of Florida's
wild life. Acknowledgement is made and appreciation
expressed to the National Association of Audubon So-
cieties for making available at nominal cost the use of
thirty of the thirty-two colored plates used in the bulle-
tin. To the State Department of Agriculture that made
issuing of the bulletin possible by publishing it as a De-
partment Quarterly, deep gratitude is expressed.
If the distribution and study of "Florida Birds" shall
materially aid in making Florida a safe habitat for the
more than four hundred species of birds to be found in the
State and one in which those that nest in Florida, un-
molested, may rear their young, the bulletin will have
accomplished its purpose.
C. C. WOODWARD,
Tallahassee, Florida State Commissioner,
July 1, 1931 Dept. of Game and Fresh Water Fish.
TOPIC PAGE See Page
Classification and Description of Birds-
R. J. Longstreet ........... ...---- ----....-------... 15
Gaviiformes (characteristics)-R. J. Longstreet .... 20 Al
Loons-R. W. Williams .............--- .....-----........-.. 20
Colymbiformes (characteristics)-R. J. Longstreet .... 21 Al
Grebes-R. W. Williams .........---.........----------- 21
Procellariiformes (Characteristics)-R. J. Longstreet 23 Al
Pelecaniformes (characteristics)-R. J. Longstreet 24 Al
Darters, Anhinga, Comorants, Pelicans,
Frigate Bird-R .W. Williams .........-......-- 24-29
Ciconiiformes (characteristics)-R. J. Longstreet .... 30 A1-A2
Herons, Bitterns, Egrets, Ibises,
Spoonbill-R. W. Williams .................------- 30-43
Flamingo-Sarah W. Partridge .............--------..- 43
Anseriformes (characteristics -R. J. Longstreet ...... 45 A2
Ducks, Geese-R. W. Williams .-..........------ 46-51
Falconiformes (characteristics)-R. J. Longstreet .... 52 A2-A3
Vultures, Eagles-R. J. Longstreet ......-..... 52-53
Hawks, Falcons-Herbert L. Stoddard ....... 54-65
Osprey-Sarah W. Partridge ........---......--------.. 65
Galliformes (characteristics)-R. J. Longstreet .... 68 A3
Quails, Turkeys-Herbert L. Stoddard .---... 67-71
Gruiformes (characteristics) -R. J. Longstreet .... 72 A3
Cranes-Sarah W. Partridge ....................-------- 72
Rails, Gallinules, Coots-R. W. Williams .... 73-79
Charadriiformes (characteristics)-R. J. Longstreet 79 A3-A5
Field Marks, Shore Birds-R. J. Longstreet .... 80
Killdeer, Plovers, Turnstone, Willet, Knot, Sand-
pipers, Sanderling, Gulls, Terns, Skimmers
-R. W. Williams ..........------------------- 81-92
TOPIC PAGE See Page
Columbiformes (characteristics)-R. J. Longstreet 93 A5
Doves-Herbert L. Stoddard ....................... 93-95
Cuculiformes (characteristics)-R. J. Longstreet ....95 A5
Cuckoo- R. J. Longstreet .................................. 95
Psittaciformes (characteristics)-R. J. Longstreet .... 95 A5
Paroquet-Sarah W. Partr dge ........................ 96
Strigiformes (characteristics)-R. J. Longstreet .... 97 A5
Owls-Herbert L. Stoddard .................-...... 97-103
(Burrowing Owl-R. W. Williams)
Caprimulgiformes (characteristics) R. J. Longstreet 103 A5
R. J. Longstreet .-- ............................ 104-106
Micropodiformes (characteristics)-R. J. Longstreet 106 A5-A6
Swifts, Hummingbirds-R. J. Longstreet 106-109
Coraciiformes (characteristics)-R. J. Longstreet 109 A6
Kingfisher-Sarah W. Partridge .................... 109
Piciformes (characteristics -R. J. Longstreet --. 110 A6
Woodpeckers-R. J. Longstreet ..-......... 110-114
Passeriformes (characteristics)-R. J. Longstreet 114 A6
Tyrannidae-Flycatchers-R. J. Longstreet 114-117 A6
Hirundinidae-Swallows-Francis M. Weston 117-120 A6
Corvidae-Jays, Crows-R. J. Longstreet .... 121-124 A6
Francis M. Weston ............................ 124-127 A6
Sittidae-Nut Hatches-Francis M. Weston ........ A7
Certhiidae-Creepers-Francis M. Weston .. 128-129 A7
Troglodytidae-Wrens-Francis M. Weston 130-133 A7
Mimidae-Mockingbird, Catbird, Thrasher-
Francis M. Weston ..---........................ 135-139 A7
Turdidae-Thrushes, Robins, Bluebirds-
Francis M. Weston .----........................... 139-144 A7
Francis M. Weston ...............----............ 144-149 A7
TOPIC PAGE See Page
Motacillidae-Pipit-R. J. Longstreet ..----............. 149 A7
Bombycillidae-Waxwing-Francis M. Weston 150-151 A7
Laniidae-Shrikes-Francis M. Weston ....... 151-153 A7
Vireonidae-Vireos-L. Roberta Lovelace ... 153-156 A7
Compsothylpidae-Warblers-R. J. Longstreet 156-164 A8
Icteridae-Meadowlark, Blackbirds, Grackles-
R. J. Longstreet ............................... 164-168 A8-A9
Orioles-Sarah W. Partridge .........................---. 168 A9
Thraupidae-Tanagers-Francis M. Weston .... 168 A9
Fringillidae-Cardinal-Francis M. Weston --.....170 A9
Bunting-R. J. Longstreet .............................-----. 171 A9
Towhee-Francis M. Weston ........................--- 172 A9
Sparrows-Sarah W. Partridge ............--.. 174-176 A9
Suggestions to Teachers-R. J. Longstreet ......... --177
Selecting the Birds .......-- ..............-.......- ...... 179
Correlating with Other Work ......................-. 180
Field Trips .................................... ......... 181
How to Look at a Bird ....................................-. 182
Additional Class Room Devices .....-- ............... 184
How to Attract Birds ...................-................... 184
Bibliography ....-...--....-.................--------..... 188
List of the Birds of Florida-A. H. Howell .....-.....-................ A1-A9
Wardens of the sky and woodland,
Watchful, waiting on the wing,
Whose silent service all too often
Is counted but a little thing,
Should you withdraw from field and orchard
Leave the fruit and budding wheat
To worms and insects, man must perish.
You keep your watch that he may eat.
CLASSIFICATION AND DESCRIPTION OF BIRDS
About eight hundred species or kinds of birds have
been classified in North America, and over four hundred
and ten species have been found, at one time or another,
Of the water birds, there are at least four large and
easily recognizable groups, i.e., (1) gulls and terns, (2)
ducks and duck-like birds, (3) herons and their allies,
(4) shore-birds. Similarly, among the land birds, there
are at least four large groups with plain characteristics,
i.e., (1) birds of prey, (2) woodpeckers, (3) warblers,
The birds included in these eight groups total in num-
ber over 60 per cent of the Florida species that are likely
to be seen. Most of the remaining 40 per cent are indi-
vidually identifiable without reference to order or family
The student should soon be able to classify the ma-
jority of Florida birds upon seeing them in the field. He
should be able to say with assurance, "That is a hawk,"
or "That is a sparrow," etc. The next step in identifica-
tion is, of course, to answer the question, "What kind of
hawk or sparrow is it?" This question leads to the means
by which the various species within a family or order are
Briefly, species are described by color and by size. A
complete description of a bird includes the color of its
various parts, the length of the bird from end of bill to
tip of tail, length of wings, bill, tail, etc., its range in
summer and winter, and some observations concerning its
nest, eggs, notes, song, habits, etc.
It is necessary that the student know the names of
the parts of a bird, for the special names of those parts
are used in a description. The following are the princi-
pal parts of a bird (see the figure on p. 16):
Crown-the top of the head.
Forehead-the area between the crown and the base
of the bill.
TYPOGRAPHY OF A BIRD
Drawn by Lotta R. Longstreet
Lores-the space between the base of the bill and
Auriculars-the region of the ear, back of and below
Chin-the space immediately below the base of the
Throat-the space immediately below the chin.
Breast-the front, bulging portion of the body.
Belly-from the breast backwards under the body,
between the legs.
Nape-the back of the neck.
Back-from the neck half-way to the base of the tail.
Rump-from the end of the back to the base of the
Tail coverts-the feathers covering the base of the
tail, above and below.
Primaries-the wing feathers attached to the pinion,
or outer part of the wing.
Secondaries-the wing feathers attached to the inner
part of the wing.
Wing coverts-the feathers covering the bases of the
wing feathers. These are often colored differently from
the rest of the wing and form spots or marks called wing
Mantle-the back and upper surface of the wings.
This term is used in describing gulls and terns.
There are several types of bills and a knowledge of
them often helps in identifying a bird. The length of
the bill is an important item. Any peculiar shape should
be noted, i.e., whether the bill is hooked, sharp, obtuse,
conical, stout, etc.
Identification of birds is greatly facilitated by ac-
quaintance with their call notes and song, if any. Some
birds are silent, but most birds have some sort of call note,
and most of the perching birds (Order Passeriformes)
have powers of song. In time, the student will be able
to identify any singing bird by its notes alone.
The general shape and manner of flight of a bird will
often make it possible to identify it, even when too far
away to see any color or marks. Long familiarity and
close observation are the secrets of success in quick and
The identification of these birds is greatly simplified
if one has a knowledge of the scientific classifications of
birds, or, as it is called, ornithological taxonomy.
Ornithologists divide birds into orders, families, and
genera. Orders constitute the larger, more general, classi-
fications. The genus (singular form of the word "gen-
era") is a relatively small grouping, and sometimes con-
sists of a single bird. The basis upon which birds are
classified is internal and external structure. Thus, all
birds with flat bills with lamellated edges, are placed in
the order Anseriformes; all birds having the four toes
of the foot joined by a web are placed in the order Pele-
caniformes. Then, each order, on the basis of common
characters, is divided into families, and the families are
further divided into genera. The birds that compose the
genera are the species, i.e., the individual birds that we
recognize and name as blue jays, crows, redbirds, etc.
Further minutiae of Ornithological classification need
not be considered, such as super-orders, sub-orders, sub-
species, etc. Nor need the teacher or public school stu-
dent be concerned especially with the scientific names
of the various ornithological groups. However, it might
be well for the teacher to explain how birds receive their
scientific name and something of its significance. Thus,
the Mockingbird has the scientific name Mimus poly-
glottos. Mimus is the name of the genus to which mock-
ingbirds belong. Polyglottos is the specific name of the
bird. The scientific name of each bird consists of its gen-
eric and its specific name. (And also of its subspecific
name, if it has one. Teachers and pupils need not at-
tempt to use the subspecific titles.) These names are
derived from Latin and Greek words, which often have
a definite relation to some characteristic habit or struc-
ture of the bird. Thus Mimus polyglottos-in which
"mimus" is derived from the Greek word meaning to
imitate or to mock, "poly" is from the Greek word mean-
ing many, and "glottos" is from the Greek word which
means tongue. Thus our Florida Mockingbird is de-
scribed in its name as a "many-tongued mimic." Not all
cases are as apt as this one, however.
The birds occurring in Florida belong to the following
III. Procellariiformes-tube-nosed swimmers (petrels
IV. Pelecaniformes-totipalmate swimmers (pelicans,
cormorants, anhinga, etc.).
V. Ciconiiformes long legged waders (herons,
egrets, ibises, etc.).
VI. Anseriformes-duck-like birds (ducks, geese,
VII. Falconiformes-vultures, hawks, eagles, etc.
VIII. Galliformes-quails, turkeys, etc.
IX. Gruiformes-marsh birds (cranes, rails, etc.).
X. Charadriiformes-shore birds (sandpipers, plov-
ers, etc.), gulls, terns.
XI. Columbiformes-pigeon-like birds (doves).
XII. Psittaciformes-parrots (now extinct).
XIII. Cuculiformes-cuckoos and anis.
XV. Caprimulgiformes goatsuckers nighthawkss,
XVI. Micropodiiformes-swifts and hummingbirds.
XIX. Passeriformes-perching birds (most of the small
If each of these orders possessed distinct character-
istics not shared by any of the others, the work of iden-
tifying birds would be greatly simplified. Upon seeing
a new bird, we would be able to say "That bird has the
characteristics of Order V," and, turning to a bird book,
it would often be an easy matter to determine the fam-
ily and species. Unfortunately, however, the basis of
classification into orders and families is not such that it
is always obvious. There does not seem to be much dif-
ference between a Mourning (Turtle) Dove and a Yellow-
billed Cuckoo (Rain Crow). But these birds belong to
entirely separate orders, and really have very little in
In this bulletin, preceding the biographies of species
belonging to a common order, is a short paragraph giving
some characteristic of the order, and it is well for the
student to become familiar with the characteristics, such
as they are, of all of the orders that occur in Florida.
1. Order Gaviiformes.
Students familiar with the older classification will
observe that this order was formerly included with the
next under the name Pygopodes. The Loons and the
Grebes now occupy separate orders. The word Pygo-
podes, however, is still reasonably descriptive of Loons
and Grebes; it is derived from two Greek words meaning
rump and foot, and alludes to the fact that Loons and
Grebes have "rump feet," i. e. that their feet are placed
far back on the body, and the legs partly enclosed in
the body, so that these divers have little or no ability to
walk, but progress mostly by shoving themselves along
on the breast. Loons and Grebes are duck-like birds,
with usually rudimentary tail, small wings, pointed bill,
and rather long neck. They prefer to dive, rather than
to fly, if alarmed. The plumage is thick and well oiled.
Loons have webbed feet, but the feet of Grebes are lobed.
For species of this order occurring in Florida see
Common Loon, length 32 inches.
Red-throated, 25 inches.
The Loons compose a small family of five species,
nowhere abundant, inhabiting the northern part of the
northern hemisphere. They are much like the Grebes
in structure and habits. They spend their lives on the
water except when they resort to land near water to
rear their young. They are larger than most Grebes
and are more often seen in flight. They are perfect
swimmers and divers and on water are among the most
graceful creatures. Two species-the Red-throated and
Common-occur in Florida in winter, but of these the
Common Loon, or simply Loon, is the one usually seen.
It is about the size of a buzzard, much more trim and
graceful in appearance, and has a long, sharp-pointed
bill. Its plumage above is blackish with feather margins
of grayish that give it somewhat of an indistinct speckled
appearance; below, it is whitish and thus presents quite
a conspicuous object when the sun is reflected upon its
breast. It is rather a solitary bird, feeding and resting
either in fresh or salt waters. As it sits well up on the
surface of the water it gives the appearance of elegance
and dignity, but of wild and wary temperament. It
may sometimes be confused on the water with the Cor-
morants that are so abundant on our coasts, but the lat-
ter swim much lower in the water and are not so white
beneath. Then, too, the Loon carries its bill straight
forward, while the Cormorant, when swimming, carries
its bill at somewhat of an upward angle.
The Loon is not an abundant bird in Florida. One
or a few are seen from time to time on our larger lakes
and ponds and on the coasts. They come to us with
winter from the north and return there with the ap-
proach of spring.
Their food is largely fish, but as they are not abun-
dant birds they hardly enter the speculative domain of
economic relation to man.
They lay their two eggs, of a brownish color, speckled
and spotted, in a nest on the ground near water.
Loons are not game birds and are protected at all
seasons by both Federal and State laws.
II. Order Colymbiformes-Grebes.
As stated above, Loons and Grebes have many com-
mon structural characteristics. Grebes, however, are
smaller birds, with a short, cone-shaped bill and only a
rudimentary tail. Grebe feet are lobed, not webbed, as
in the case of Loons. The habits of Grebes and Loons are
For species of this order occurring in Florida see
The Grebes are preeminently water birds, number-
ing about thirty species, and world-wide in their distribu-
tion. They bear a superficial resemblance to ducks and
often are mistaken for them by youthful hunters. But
their physical structure is quite different and they be-
long to an order of birds some distance removed from
the ducks. Their feet, set far back at the end of their
bodies, are lobed or scalloped, not webbed as in ducks,
and their bills are narrow and pointed instead of broad
and rounded as in most ducks. They are at home on
the water, rarely, if ever, resorting to land upon which
they are quite helpless. They dive with the greatest
ease and it is common report that they can escape the
shot of the hunter by sudden immersion of their bodies.
They are locally called "Hell-divers, Water-witches, Dab-
chicks, or Diedappers," according to the region where
they occur. They can swim under water with only the
tip of the bill above and thus often escape detection.
Their nests are anomalies among bird nests-being a
mass of water-soaked, decayed and decaying vegetation,
floating in, rather than on, the water. The bulk of the
nest is submerged and only a fraction above. On this, and
often not above the water line, are deposited from two
to ten eggs, according to the species, of a whitish color
imparted to the egg by the chalky substance which com-
pletely obscures the real light blue shell.
The food of the Grebes is made up largely of aquatic
organisms such as bugs, beetles, flies, wasps, snails,
shrimps and the like, and fish, which last, though form-
ing an important item of their diet, have been found to
be those of little economic value to man. They also eat
considerable vegetable matter.
Grebes are not game birds and are protected at all
times by both Federal and State laws.
In Florida two species occur in some abundance-
the Horned Grebe and the Pied-billed Grebe, the former
in winter and the latter throughout the year.
Length 13.5 inches.
The Horned Grebe is about the size of a medium
pullet. Sexes are alike. The plumage is rather incon-
spicuous in winter, the only season they are in Florida,
somber above and silvery white below. The bill is slen-
der and drawn out to a sharp point nearly an inch from
the base of the head feathers measured along the upper
Horned Grebes, so named from the fact that in breed-
ing plumage they have an elongated erectile tuft of feath-
ers on each side of the head, are found in Florida only
in winter, riding buoyantly on almost any body of water,
fresh or salt. They are solitary birds with us, and num-
bers are rarely seen together, thus again differentiating
them from ducks. They seem always to be suspicious
of man and are noticeably watchful of his every move-
ment when in their vicinity. They are to be distinguished
from the Pied-billed Grebe by their long, sharp bill.
They come to us from the north in the fall and remain
until the beginning of spring.
Length, 13.5 inches.
Like the Horned Grebe, the Pied-billed is about the
size of a medium pullet, sexes alike, plumage inconspicu-
ous, somber above, lighter below, though not so silvery
as in the Horned Grebe. The bill is hen-like, short, high
and stubby, with a black band near the base, which dis-
appears in winter. In spring and summer there is a black
throat patch in the adults.
This Grebe differs little if any in its habits from other
Grebes. It seems to be more of a fresh water inhabi-
tant than the Horned and is particularly fond of weedy
pools, the more secluded the better. But it does not
shun open waters even in the vicinity of human habita-
tions. It is rather silent, like most Grebes, but in spring,
during courtship, may be heard quite frequently with its
somewhat weird, rapidly repeated "cow-cow-cow." It
nests abundantly in Florida and may be found here
throughout the year, though it is probable that our sum-
mer birds move southward in the fall and our winter
birds are those from farther north.
III. Order Procellariiformes-Petrels and Shearwaters.
Formerly, the name of this group of birds was Tu-
binares, derived from two Latin words meaning tubedd
nostrils," referring to the fact that these birds have the
nostrils opening on the bill through narrow tubes. The
tube-nosed swimmers resemble Gulls in general shape and
habit, but whereas most of the latter are white, the former
are mostly dark plumaged. This order is sparingly rep-
resented in Florida, and even those students living on
the seacoast will seldom see a petrel or shearwater.
For species of this order occurring in Florida, see
IV. Order Pelecaniformes-Pelicans, Cormorants, etc.
This order was formerly named Steganopodes, a name
derived from two Greek words meaning "covered foot,"
in allusion to the fact that all four toes of birds of this
group are joined by a web. These birds are also called
"totipalmate," a word which expresses the same idea;
i.e., that the foot is "all palm." In addition to being toti-
palmate, birds of this order are characterized by a throat
pouch, called the gular sac. In the case of Pelicans, as is
well known, this sac is very large. The common Florida
birds of this group are few in number but well known,
for they are large and easily seen. They are the Brown
Pelican, the Cormorant, the Anhinga or Water Turkey,
the Man-o'-War Bird, and off the Atlantic coast, the
For species of this order occurring in Florida, see
The Pelicans are a group of some twelve species dis-
tributed throughout the more temperate parts of the
world. They are gregarious at all times, especially dur-
ing the nesting season when they congregate in large
numbers and build their nests of coarse sticks either on
the ground or in bushes and trees, rarely more than 25
feet up. They are exceedingly awkward looking birds,
but their flight is easy, graceful, and measured, usually
not performed much above the surface of the water.
They feed on fish and have been supposed by some to
make serious inroads on the edible fish of man, but sci-
entific investigation has developed that the fish they eat
are customarily of the baser sort not used by human
beings. They live mostly on the sea coasts, but some are
at home on inland waters.
In Florida we have two species, but only the Brown
Pelican is of any consequence, since the White Pelican
is not common and not so frequently seen.
Length, 50 inches.
The Brown Pelican is a big bird, so universally rec-
ognized as not to need detailed description. It has the
general appearance of a silvery gray or brownish bird,
with a long, cumbersome, and pouched bill, the pouch
being capable of great distension when in use by the
bird for holding its food.
The Brown Pelican is a grotesque bird when at rest
and gives one the suggestion of an old man seated in his
easy chair smoking and meditating. They obtain their
food by diving from the air at heights varying from a
few to many feet and it is remarkable how expert they
are in thus capturing fish. They usually fly in squads
of from 4 to 8, one after the other, keeping time with
their wing strokes, so that they look like a well trained
body of soldiers on the march. They are very abundant
on the Gulf coast of the State and many nesting rook-
eries are to be seen in these waters, usually on some man-
grove key or island in the quiet bays and lagoons. A
number of these keys and islands are now Federal res-
ervations for the protection of wild birds. Quite fre-
quently the Pelicans will have associated with them in
the nesting colonies numbers of Cormorants and several
species of Herons, including the big Blue or Ward's Heron.
They are silent birds and inoffensive and lend a charm to
the off-shore view of many of our summer resorts. Their
nests are bulky structures of sizable sticks but often put
together so flimsily as to make one wonder how they
can support such a heavy tenant. They lay from two to
five eggs, big chalky-white objects, lacking any of the
beauty of so many of the eggs of our larger water birds.
The Pelicans on the west coast of Florida nest in No-
vember and December, those on the east coast in the
Pelicans are not game birds and killing them is for-
bidden by the State at all times.
Some thirty species of Cormorants are distributed
throughout the world. They are almost wholly sea-
coast birds, though they frequently visit inland bodies
of fresh water for food or to rear their young. They are
sociable birds, almost always, especially at nesting time,
being found in parties of several or many. They are easy
and graceful on the wing ,customarily flying quite close
to the surface of the water. They feed on fish which
they capture by pursuit under water. Their feet are
completely webbed and so they are expert swimmers
and divers. Their nests are usually well constructed of
sticks and twigs and may be placed in trees or on rock
ledges over or near the water. Their eggs are chalky
white and rather long.
The only one of the Cormorants commonly to be seen
in Florida is the
Length, 25 inches.
The Florida Cormorant, or Nigger-Goose as it is best
known in this State, is a blackish bird with a body about
the size of an average hen, but its proportions differ rad-
ically, for, whereas a hen is a stocky, robust creature,
the Cormorant is rather attenuated or drawn out, appear-
ing somewhat gawky. While chiefly black the bird has
some grayish brown on the upper back and wings. It
has a tuft of black feathers on each side of the head,
but these are not always visible.
The Florida Cormorant is at home on the waters of
the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, and is exceedingly abun-
dant on the latter, where they may be seen singly, in
pairs, or in squads, industriously pursuing their prey.
They sit easily and buoyantly in the water with their
bills carried at an elevated angle, giving the appearance,
as indeed is the fact, of readiness to take wing at the
instant of the slightest warning of danger. They are
common sights on the old wharf posts and structures
scattered along the coast and so abundant are they that
some enterprising men have erected platforms out in
some of the shallow waters of the Gulf from which they
collect the guano deposited thereon, principally by these
While adhering pretty closely to the salt waters of
the State, these birds nevertheless occasionally visit the
inland lakes and not infrequently repair to some lonely
inland cypress swamp to rear their young. They are a
model pair-the male assisting in the incubation of the
eggs and rearing of the young. They nest in large colo-
nies, often several nests occupying the same tree. The
dense clusters of mangrove trees on some of the keys and
islands of the Gulf are favorite resorts for the breeding
birds and the Federal Government has set aside a num-
ber of these keys and islands as reservations for their
protection, as well as for the protection of other water
birds. In some instances the Cormorants build their nests
in large cypresses, from 40 to 60 feet up. They are more
or less noisy around their nests, emitting quite a guttural
and unmusical grunt that can not be said to be pleasing
to the human ear, unless to the lover of wild things who
appreciates and enjoys every manifestation of wild Na-
ture. They lay from two to four, sometimes five, eggs.
Cormorants are not game birds and the State forbids
their destruction at any time.
The Darters or Snakebirds are another small group
of birds represented by one species each in Asia, Africa,
Australia, and the more temperate parts of North and
South America. They are water birds though much of
their time is spent in the air or perched on trees or old
stubs over or in or near the water. They bear a close
resemblance to Cormorants to which, indeed, they are
rather closely allied. Their food is aquatic, consisting
of small fish, frogs, small snakes, and other lesser forms
of such life which they pursue and capture under the
water, being able to "hold fast" to such slippery creatures
by means of the finely serrated or "toothed" edges of
their bills. Their feet are completely webbed and their
bodies shaped for easy propulsion on and under water.
In Florida we have the
Length, 36 inches.
The Anhinga, better known locally as Water-turkey,
the resemblance to a turkey being not far fetched, or
Snakebird, is somewhat smaller than a Turkey Buzzard,
but very differently shaped, with its long, fan-like tail
(when spread in flight or when about to launch in the
air), more rounded wings, and excessively long, snake-
like neck. Its feet are completely webbed and black.
At a glance, or casually, they appear black with a silvery
mantle, but upon closer observation the males will be
found, in spring, to bear scattered -grayish plumes on
the back of the head and neck with numerous long, silvery
white spots and streaks on the upper parts, tail tipped
with whitish and the outer webs of the middle pair of
tail feathers with transverse flutings. The female is much
like the male, but with the whole head, neck, and breast
brownish. In winter the male lacks the grayish plumes
on the head and neck.
The Anhinga is at home in the cypress swamps, along
the rivers and their backwaters, as well as around many
of the lakes and larger ponds of the State where food
suited to its necessities is to be had. It is much more of
a fresh water bird than its kinsman, the Cormorant, and
is not so frequently seen on the coast. It is, too, a very
shy bird and takes .most unkindly to encroachments or
civilization. It obtains its prey, usually small fish, under
water into which it dives with perfect ease, pursuing the
fish with such fleetness that escape is quite impossible.
Its nest is a substantial structure of dead and dried sticks
and twigs lined with cypress needles, some moss, and a
few twigs with the green leaves still adherfhg, and placed
from a few to forty feet up in almost any sort of a tree
standing in water and in the lonely precincts of some
cypress or other swamp. Often numbers of pairs will
congregate in the same nesting territory, and may even
occupy the same or neighboring trees. At nesting time
they seem also to relish association with the various spe-
cies of Herons, and it is not uncommon to find their nests
on the outskirts of a colony of these birds. The eggs in
a clutch vary from two to five and are of a chalky white
color, usually much stained, and often smeared or
streaked with a bloody seeming substance. When first
hatched the young are nude and black, but shortly a
very pretty soft yellowish or golden down envelops their
bodies and then they are truly attractive little creatures.
The Anhinga is not a game bird and is protected by
Some five species of the family of Frigate Birds, or
Man o' War Hawks as they are also called, inhabit the
tropical or semi-tropical maritime regions of the world.
They bear something of a resemblance to the big Hawks
and their piratical habits, hereafter referred to, to jus-
tify their secondary name. They spend a great portion
of their lives in the air, in this respect much resembling
the Chimney Swift so common with us in the summer.
They are big birds with very long wings and tail which
is forked, and short legs, the webbing of the feet com-
plete but not so extensive as in other families of this
order. They sail on motionless wings for indefinite periods
and seem never to weary of this incessant monotony.
They take their food, chiefly fish, from or near the sur-
face of water or often catch some luckless fish that has
leaped out of the water to escape some enemy below.
They also harry Pelicans, Cormorants, Gulls, and Terns
into releasing their prey and then catch it in the air.
They are nearly always found in flocks and they nest
in colonies. They lay one egg which is chalky white and
their nests are bulky structures of sticks, placed on bushes,
in trees, or on rocks. They are more or less cannibalistic,
for they will devour young in the nest of their own kind
when opportunity offers, as when the parents are off
MAGNIFICENT FRIGATE BIRD
Length, 40 inches.
The Magnificent Frigate Bird is about the size of a
large Gull, but its proportions are on a much more at-
tenuated scale, its wings and tail being very much longer
and more pointed. The male is black, with a blue bill,
red throat pouch, and black feet. The female is largely
black but has a considerable white area on the under
surface from the upper breast nearly to the root of the
tail. The tail is deeply forked.
These birds are not uncommon on our coasts, espe-
cially in the more southern part of the State. They are
quite numerous in spring and summer in the region of
Tampa Bay where very large flocks may be seen roost-
ing on the tops of the mangrove trees that so abound
on some of the keys and islands. If they nest in the
State at all, which is doubtful, it is on some of the most
remote keys at the extreme southern end of the penin-
sula. They nest in the Bahamas, the West Indies, and
farther south. Their habits are not different from other
members of the family.
V. Order Ciconiiformes-Herons, Ibfses, Egrets, etc.
The birds of this order are alike in having long legs,
long neck, long bill and long, broad wings. They are
long-legged waders, and are among our most conspicuous
water birds. "Crane" is the common name applied to
Herons and Egrets, but true Cranes are not members of
this order at all, as will be seen later.
The long bill of the Ciconiiformes differs with the
various families in the order. The bill of Herons, Bit-
terns, and Egrets is pointed; the bill of Ibises is decurved;
the bill of Spoon-bills is spatulate; the bill of Flamingoes
is bent downwards, and is equipped with peculiar lateral
Whereas in the four preceding orders together there
are not more than eight or nine species common in Flor-
ida, the present order is larger, having at least ten com-
For species of this order occurring in Florida, see
HERONS AND THEIR ALLIES
The large order of Herons and heron-like birds is
widely distributed over the more temperate and trop-
ical regions of the earth. They are water-inhabiting birds
on the whole, usually feeding on substances found in such
places. Their legs are long and so are their necks, well
adapted to plucking their food, usually fish and the like,
from the water. They are fond of frogs and grasshop-
pers and some species habitually resort to interior regions
in search of such. Many species inhabit North America,
and Florida is most favored in its population of repre-
sentatives of this tribe of birds, some 20 species having
been recorded from the State, most of them in great
abundance, but formerly far more numerous than within
the last 40 years, owing to the persecution by plume and
feather hunters and their allies, the milliners and their
feminine customers. But let it be said to the credit of
these customers that when they eventually became puick-
ened to the vast devastation in our wild life of this kind
they were not slow to remedy the mischief, and plumes,
feathers and the like became unfashionable and very
much of a badge of reproach and dishonor. So, today
some of these birds are actually on the increase and those
of us now privileged to live in this beautiful State may
'enjoy something of the oldtime numbers of several of
the Herons and Egrets if we visit the ponds, lakes,
marshes and swamps where they congregate to feed or
Length, 28 inches.
We come now to the more typical Herons, and none
is more interesting than this shy denizen of the marshes
and weedy shores of muddy ponds and lakes. The Bit-
tern is a long-legged, long-billed bird, with a body about
the size of a hen. It has the general aspect of a yellow-
ish-brown or grayish bird, streaked and speckled with
whitish. It is with us principally in winter, though it is
said that individuals have been seen in the State in sum-
mer. You will usually run across it in your rambles
along the thickly weeded margins, or out in the lesser
growth, of lakes and ponds, where it will rise so close to
your feet as to startle you. And as it rises, seemingly in
mortal terror, it will twist its head around to give you a
parting look. It has the curious habit of standing rigid
amid the tall rushes and grasses with its head and bill
pointing toward the position of the midday sun, when-
ever probable danger is approaching. Thus posed it is
so in harmony with its surroundings as to be quite diffi-
cult to perceive, even after its position is known. On
its breeding grounds in the North it has a note which has
been likened to the sound produced by the driving of a
stake in a bog and this can be heard from long distances.
That distinguished and accomplished ornithologist,
Dr. Elliott Coues, summed up in a few brief lines the
chief characteristics of this strange bird. Said he: "He
prefers solitude and leads the eccentric life of a recluse,
forgetting the world and 'by the world forgot.' To see
him at his ordinary occupation one might fancy him
shouldering some heavy responsibility, oppressed with a
secret, or laboring in the solution of a problem of vital
The Bittern has a varied and interesting diet-small
fish, frogs, snakes, mice, moles, shrews, insects, especially
grasshoppers, and almost any form of small water ani-
mals. Instances are on record of small birds having
been found in their stomachs, but it is most likely that
such were picked up dead. It sometimes ventures on
the upland in search of grasshoppers.
The egg of the Bittern is no less peculiar than the
bird itself-it is a uniform olive-brown or pale olive-
buff, without markings of any kind. The clutch varies
from four to six, sometimes seven. The nest is customar-
ily on the ground or the tangled, recumbent blades and
stems of marsh grasses and weeds and consists of hardly
more than these blades themselves.
The Bittern is not a game bird and is protected at all
times by the State.
Length, 13 inches.
The Least Bittern is a miniature Bittern in general
appearance and its habits correspond quite closely there-
to. It is about the size of a quail, but its proportions are
much more attenuated or drawn out, and its bill and legs
are considerably longer. It is a fairly abundant bird
with us in summer, nesting in the tall reeds and weeds
of our ponds and lakes and other water areas. It is not
so frequently seen in winter. Its food corresponds to
that of its larger relative, though, of course, it has not
the capacity for the larger kinds of animal matter.
The nest of the Least Bittern is often a mere plat-
form of strong straws placed on the branch of a dead,
upright marsh fennel or other like weed and may be
three or four feet up. But ordinarily its nest is in a tus-
sock of grass or among the lily stems close down to
water of the marsh or damp ground. The eggs are three
to five, of a very light bluish color, unmarked, and quite
like the faded eggs of the Yellow-billed Cuckoo.
The Least Bittern is not a game bird and is protected
at all times by the State.
Length, 52 inches.
Our Ward's Heron, or Blue Crane as it is usually
called in Florida, is a race of the Great Blue Heron so
widely distributed over the United States, and the largest
of the Herons in the country, being somewhat exceeded
in size by the Goliath Heron of Africa. It is almost im-
possible to distinguish between the Great Blue and the
Ward's Herons in the field and as we also have the for-
mer in some numbers during winter, one may not be sure
which form he sees at that season, especially in the north-
ern part of the State. But, no matter, it is sufficient for
the average person to know that what he sees is the big
Blue Heron of North America, leaving the technical or-
nithologist to puzzle over the subspecies. It is, however,
interesting to know that the Ward's Heron is a little
larger, with whiter lower parts and darker neck. Neither
is it so shy. These handsome birds are conspicuous ob-
jects in the landscape of almost any lake or pond in the
State, or on the beaches and shores of the coast, where
they stalk majestically along in the shallow water, with
watchful eye for their favorite food-the smaller fish
and frogs. Their necks and legs are very long and their
bills are in proportion and very sharp pointed, so that
a thrust of this member with the power back of it that
inheres in the muscular and elastic neck could inflict a
very serious, if not in some instances fatal, wound, and is
sufficient to impale fish and other aquatic life of no mean
Usually the birds will be seen singly or in small num-
bers when in search of food. But in nesting time, which
ranges over all the spring months, according to locality
and, perhaps, individualism, they are inclined to be quite
sociable, and numbers of nesting pairs may be found in
the same group of trees, often in close proximity to each
other, if not in the same tree. Their nests may range
from a few to 50 or more feet up, and are large bulky
structures of big sticks with a bowl lined with leafed
twigs and grass. From two to five large blue eggs are
deposited. In some instances the nests are used from
year to year and thus progressively enlarged until they
assume relatively prodigious sizes. These birds are fond
of nesting in cypress swamps, but they will be found at
home also in the mangrove trees and bushes of the coast.
Often their nests will be found intermingled with those
of Anhingas, Egrets, Little Blue and Louisiana Herons,
and to some extent other members of the Heron frater-
nity, and the strange thing is that harmony seems to
reign beautifully at such times.
The Ward's Heron, like its close relative, the Great
Blue, loves fish and frogs, but snakes, crustaceans, insects,
and small mammals never come amiss.
The Herons are not game birds and are protected at
all times by both State and Federal law.
Length, 41 inches.
Were a gifted artist to attempt to fashion a bird of
large size, immaculate whiteness, and elegance of poise
and motion it is quite safe to venture that he could not
possibly improve upon, if indeed he could approach, the
Great American Egret that Nature so lavishly disposed
over this entire State in the days before the devastating
Water Turkey or Snake Bird
For description see page twenty-five
Courtesy of N.ton:il Association of Audublon Societies
Butorides virescens virescens
For description see page forty
~ II ~...1~. -.:.
(CUurtvsy of National Association of Auduhon Socictics
For description see page forty-two
Courtesy of National Association of Audubon Societies
For description see page forty-three
(:ortcsyd Nrtion.ri Associationl ti AUdubon Societies
Anas platyrhyncos platyrhyncos
For description see page forty-seven
Courtsy of Na:ional Asocition of Audubon Socities
For tlescriIltiofl see ]igc fort y-nzine
Courtesy of National Association of Audibon Societies
Lesser Scaup Duck
For descriipion see page fifty
Courtesy of National Association of Audubon Societies
LESSER SCAUP DUCK
effects of plume-decorated millinery. "Aigrettes" they
were called, and vast sums of money were spent in col-
lecting and marketing them. These aigrettes are long,
flowing, delicate, feather-like processes, about fifty in
number, that appear between the shoulder bones of both
sexes of the birds in the breeding season and disappear
after it is over, and they extend, like a bridal veil, down
the back beyond the tail.
Egrets are about two-thirds the size of Ward's Her-
ons. They are pure white, with black legs and feet and
Fifteen or twenty years ago Egrets were so scarce as
hardly ever to be seen by the casual observer and sys-
tematic search for them never revealed more than a
few scattered individuals. With the decline and ulti-
mate cessation of plume-adorned millinery, these birds
have gradually reappeared and may be seen in goodly
numbers throughout the State. They furnish an excel-
lent example of the possibilities of earnest and ceaseless
effort in the conservation of wild things. To the women
of this country belongs the crown for the salvation of
this magnificent bird, though it would be graceless to
omit acknowledgement of the great work done by the
founders of the Audubon Societies to bring to our women
the gruesome story of the Egret forty years or less ago.
The Egret is a highly sociable bird and delights in
congregating in numbers both to feed and nest, though
often only one will be seen feeding on a very large lake
or pond. Then, again, fifty may be seen in some small
pond hardly more than a mud hole. They do not dis-
dain, elegant as they are, other species of Herons, and
even the uncouth Anhinga, and it is a common experience
to find their nests in close association with those of that
species. Their nests are rather crude platforms of dry
sticks with no lining and, withal, a disreputable struc-
ture for such an aristocratic bird. Yet, it serves them
well, for in it they raise from two to five rather riotous
young and are happy. Their eggs are immaculate blue
and hard to distinguish from eggs of some of the smaller
Herons unless one is quite familiar with eggs of this
family of birds. Egrets delight in rearing their young in
the lonely precincts of lonely cypress or black-gum
swamps and here they spend their parental days with-
out thought of displaying themselves for the entertain-
ment of man.
Egrets obtain their food from shallow water in which
they wade, like most Herons, and it consists largely of
small fish and frogs, with reptiles of various sorts, mice,
moles, crustaceans, grasshoppers and other insects, and
some vegetable matter. They feed to some extent on
moist pastures in search of insects, but probably not so
much as the Little Blue Heron. It is not known that this
bird feeds at night as do some of the other Herons, but
it is an indefatigable searcher for food by day.
The Egret is not a game bird and shares with the
other Herons the constant protection thrown around them
by the State and Nation.
Length, 24 inches.
The dainty little Snowy Egret is a miniature Great
American Egret in outward appearances at least and
shares many of the habits of the latter. It is consid-
erably smaller and never could be confused with it. But
the Little Blue Heron, in its immature white phase, is
often mistaken for this bird as their appearance, habits,
and habitats are practically the same. But the Snowy
Egret is a trifle smaller, has black legs and yellow feet
.and no black on the tips of the wing feathers. In nuptial
dress the Snowy Egret, like its big brother, has about
50 "aigrettes" extending from between the shoulders
down to and beyond the tail.
Mr. Arthur C. Bent has well said of this bird:
"While darting about in the shallow water in pursuit of
its lively prey, its light curving plumes fluttering in the
breeze, it is a pretty picture of lovely animation. The
full display of all its glory is seen as it approaches its
nest to greet its mate or its young with all of the glorious
plumes of its head, breast, and back erected and spread,
like a filmy fan. It seems conscious of its beauty and
Photo by S. A. Grimes
SNOWY EGRET WITH YOUNG
likes to show off its charms for the benefit of its loved
The Snowy Egret is highly gregarious, especially at
nesting time, and may also usually be found in association
with other Herons. It constructs a very flimsy nest, prac-
tically nothing more than a rude platform of dried sticks,
without a vestige of lining, and often loosely saddled on
a small horizontal branch of a slender cypress or black
gum tree. Several nests may be in the same tree and
the birds seem to thus dwell in perfect amity. They lay
from two to five eggs, bluish, and hardly to be distin-
guished from the eggs of the Little Blue and Louisiana
The food of this bird embraces
shrimps, small fry, fiddlers, snails,
insects, small reptiles, frogs, and
a goodly number of grasshoppers,
which last are obtained largely
on the grassy shores of water
This is not a game bird, and
shares all the protection afforded
by State and Federal laws.
Length, 26 inches.
The Louisiana Heron is one of
the most numerous of the Heron
tribe in Florida, nesting in great
numbers in various sections of the
State, both inland and on the keys
and islands of the coast. It is
rather a conspicuous bird, about
the size of the Little Blue Heron
but differing sufficiently in plum-
age to be rather easily distin-
guished from it. The adult has
LOUISIANA HERON the upper parts dark bluish-slate
color, with back of the head and
upper neck bearing elongated chestnut-rufous and white
feathers and back with pale brownish-gray "aigrettes"
reaching to the tail. The lower back and abdomen are
white and neck bluish-slate color. The throat is white
and the legs blackish. The immature birds have no
The Louisiana Heron is more southern in its distri-
bution than the Little Blue, and possibly somewhat more
abundant in Florida. It mingles freely with the Little
Blue, nesting at times in the same rookeries. The eggs
of the two birds are virtually indistinguishable and are
deposited in the same kind of nests-a mere platform
of dried sticks without lining and loosely resting on some
frail limb of the tree. From two to five eggs are laid and
these are blue without spots of any kind. Their nests
are often raided by fishermen on the coast who thus sup-
ply themselves with fresh food, in season. Sometimes
this bird will build its nest on the overflowed recumbent
rushes in the marshes of the coast, but it prefers trees.
Like most of the Herons, this bird pursues its prey in
shallow water. It does not remain motionless awaiting
its food like some Herons, but prefers to pursue it and
this it does with much vigor and activity, though cau-
tiously and silently. Its food does not differ materially
from that of other Herons-small fry, water insects,
worms, slugs, snails, leeches, tadpoles, lizards, and frogs.
It, too, is fond of grasshoppers.
This bird is not game and is protected at all times
by State and Nation.
LITTLE BLUE HERON
Length, 22 inches.
The Little Blue Heron is numerous in Florida and
may be seen throughout the summer and fall in every
section of the State, inland or coastal. It is about the
size of the Louisiana Heron, but may be distinguished
from it by the following description: Head and neck
maroon-chestnut and rest of the plumage dark bluish-
slate color. The feathers between the shoulders and on
the lower neck are lengthened and .pointed. The legs
and feet are black. The immature birds are white, with
tips of the main wing feathers bluish-slate or blackish.
The legs and feet are greenish-yellow. Often these im-
mature birds will appear mottled, or spotted with dark
splotches scattered over the plumage and when so they
are rather odd looking creatures. Novices often con-
fuse the white immature Little Blue Herons with the
Snowy Egret, but this need not be so if attention is paid
to the distinguishing features pointed out here and un-
der the Snowy Egret, above.
The Little Blue Heron is gregarious, like most of the
Herons, and when congregated in large flocks on its
nesting grounds is disposed to be rather noisy, croaking
constantly and producing a weird medley in the lonely
cypress swamps which they so much like. They mingle
freely with the Louisiana Herons and have much the
The favorite feeding grounds of this bird are in
fresh water marshes and meadows, around the marshy
shores of ponds and lakes, along the banks of inland
streams, and to a lesser extent in salt or brackish waters
of the coast. They eat minnows, crustaceans, frogs, liz-
ards, crawfish, insects, and the like, including the much-
relished grasshopper. These birds are fond of following
grazing cattle in the marshy or damp meadows and
pastures and picking up the insects that are routed by
the leisurely progress of the animals over the ground.
The Little Blue Heron also enjoys the protection ac-
corded other Herons by the State and Nation. It is not
a game bird in any sense.
The Green Heron, or Fly-Up-The-Creek, Indian Pul-
let, or Shite-Poke, as it is variously called in this State,
is a small Heron of dark but handsome plumage. It is
the smallest of the true Herons and somewhat larger
than, perhaps twice as large as, the Least Bittern. The
adult has the crown and a short line below the eye glossy
greenish black; with a fluffy-white throat, extending
down the foreneck as a narrow line mixed with blackish,
widening on the breast. The rest of the head and neck is
chestnut glossed with vinaceous. The back is green,
more or less washed with bluish-gray. The wing coverts
are green, margined with white or buffy. The immature
bird does not differ radically.
This is a more reclusive bird than the other Herons
and delights to feed and rest in the trees and bushes
along wooded streams, lakes and ponds. It is also not
so disposed to flock with its kind and it is rather rare to
find more than a few nests in the same locality. But it
seems to like the society of the larger Herons and often
its nests are on the outskirts of colonies of Louisiana
and Little Blue Herons. When startled from its haunts
in the grass or low bushes it springs in the air with a
squawk, flies to a safe distance and from its perch
watches the object of its alarm with extended neck and
twitching of the tail.
Its nest is more compact and respectable in structure
than that of the Louisiana and Little Blue Herons and
the Snowy Egret. It is made wholly of long, dried sticks
laid crosswise at many angles and sloping to a fairly
deep bowl. It is usually close to the ground, or water,
and may hold as many as six eggs, of a lovely, delicate
greenish-blue tint. This bird nests to some extent in
the mangrove trees and bushes on the islands and keys
of the coast and sometimes is the only bird inhabiting an
island or key.
The food of the Green Heron consists of minnows,
tadpoles, water insects, crawfish, earthworms, crickets,
grasshoppers, snakes, and even, rarely, small mammals.
They have a habit of sitting on some object close to the
water or barely submerged and remaining motionless,
like a statue, for long spaces of time, awaiting the ap-
proach of some unwary fish, when, like a flash, their bill
will dart forth with telling effect and the morsel will
,be devoured in quick order.
This little Heron is quite protectively colored and it
-is not always easy to distinguish it from its surroundings
in the wooded or weedy areas in which it occurs.
The Green Heron is not a game bird and the protec-
tion of the law is thrown around it at all times by the
State and Nation.
Length, 40 inches.
The Wood Ibis, sometimes locally called Iron-head
or Flint-head, is about the size of a Turkey Buzzard, and
like the Buzzard, has a bare head, but it is a white bird
with black head and neck and outer feathers of the wings
black and a black tail. Then, too, its legs and bill are
long and it is usually found around water. It is not un-
common along the coast. It lives in flocks as do most of
the Herons. It is our representative of the family that in-
cdules the well-known Old-World Stork, so inseparably
associated in the folk-lore of some countries with the ad-
vent of the little folks. This bird has the remarkable
habit, at times, of mounting to great heights and soar-
ing much like the Vultures. But ordinarily it is content
to remain close to the earth in search of its food of small
fish, snakes, crawfish, and the like which it finds in shal-
low water. Its nest is a large structure of coarse sticks
placed in trees from a few to 40 feet up. Its eggs usually
number three, but four and five are not very rare. They
are white, spotted and speckled with olive-brown or simi-
The Wood Ibis is not a game bird and is protected
at all times by the State.
Length, 25 inches.
The White Ibis is a large white bird, somewhat smaller
than a Turkey Buzzard, with black wing tips and red bill
and legs. It is found around water, usually the lakes,
ponds and swamps of the interior. It is still rather nu-
merous in Florida, always in flocks, and its curved bill,
added to the description above, will always serve to
identify it and distinguish it from any other bird. It
was formerly, and is to some extent today, called Span-
ish Curlew in Florida. It is not a Curlew, however, and
is some distance removed from that bird in the taxonomic
arrangement of birds. They are silent birds and quite
wary, selecting for their nesting sites lonely swamps far
removed from human beings. They feed on frogs, small
fish, and crustaceans and are not uncommon along the
coast in search of these. They fly in close flocks and
hardly a more beautiful picture can be imagined than
one of these flocks passing over on a bright sunlight day.
They build their nests of coarse sticks in trees over or
around water, sometimes at considerable distances up,
and their pale greenish-white eggs spotted with choco-
late are beautiful objects to behold. Three to five eggs
The White Ibis is not a game bird and is protected
at all times by the State.
Length, 32 inches.
It would be difficult to conceive a more beautiful bird
than the Roseate Spoonbill, or Pink Curlew as it was
habitually called in Florida-and note the "was." Once
quite abundant and well distributed over the State, it is
today so rare that it hardly ever is seen and in some sec-
tions of the State, never. This sad condition is due to
feather traders and hunters. It was quite a business in
the early tourist days of Florida to make fans and some
ornamental trappings out of the feathers of this bird,
and St. Augustine was one of the centers of this trade.
There no longer is a legitimate market in this country
for such things and so it is hoped that in time, with the
cooperation of all our people, we may be able to restore
this magnificent bird to something approaching its for-
mer status in numbers and distribution. However, it
may be now too late to save it from extinction in Florida.
As its name implies, it has a spoon-shaped bill. Its
plumage is principally pink. Its legs are long and its
neck also. It is one of the larger members of the tribe
and can not be mistaken for any other bird. Its food
is made up of small fish, various kinds of smaller marine
life, and snails and these it takes in shallow water where
its long legs and neck and spoon bill serve it well.
They nest in colonies, constructing a nest of sticks
and twigs which they place in trees or bushes around
some water area. Two or three eggs are laid which are
prettily spotted and blotched with reddish brown.
The Roseate Spoonbill is not a game bird and the
State forbids its destruction at all times.
Length of adult, 4 feet.
The great Scarlet Flamingo, once found in Florida,
may be seen with certainty in this State now only where
kept in captivity. The best known group in the State is
the trio at the Singing Tower, Lake Wales. To the builder
of the Tower, Edward K. Bok, people of Florida are in-
debted for the opportunity to view them in a setting so
beautiful as to seem fitting for these strange, beautiful
birds. Enjoying the freedom of a miniature lake and the
tropical growth that borders its shores, these birds, whose
native habitat is near coastal waters where they find the
mollusks that furnish a large part of their diet, seem
It takes several years for the plumage of the Flamingo
to reach perfection. The young when first hatched are
covered with white down and their bills are straight.
Later their downy covering is exchanged for a plumage
of greyish white with wings of duskier hue. This in turn
is exchanged successively for pink, rosy red and lastly
for scarlet, with wing primaries black, their inner lining
a deep vermilion, their legs a cerise. Their bills which
long since have assumed the characteristic downward
droop from about midway their length, are black from
the point of curvature to their tip. Just above the black
portion is a band of orange, and beyond this a clear
lemon color that terminates in a sharp apex that touches
a yellow eye.
Dr. Frank M. Chapman in his "Camps and Cruises of
an Ornithologist" tells of visiting, in 1904, a colony of
Flamingoes that were nesting on the Island of Andros in
the Bahamas. In reporting this he says that on approach-
ing, "A thin, pink line, distant at least a mile" to within
about three hundred yards, "We first heard their honking
notes of alarm which increased into a wave of deep
sound. Soon the birds began to rise standing on their
nests, facing the wind and waving, their black, vermilion
lined wings. As we came nearer, in stately fashion the
birds began to move. Uniformly, like a great body of
troops, they stepped forward, pinions waving and trump-
ets sounding; and then, when we were one hundred and
fifty yards away, the leaders sprang into the air. File
after file of the winged hosts followed. The very earth
seemed to erupt birds as flaming masses streamed heaven-
ward. It was an appalling sight."
He says that after he had erected and entered a photo-
graphic blind in the midst of their nesting place, which
he calls a Flamingo City of mud houses, "They came on
foot, a great red cohort, marching steadily toward me
without confusion, with stately tread to their nests. There
was a bowing of a forest of slender necks, as each bird
lightly touched its egg or nest with its bill; then, all
talking loudly, they stood up on their nests, the black
wings were waved for a moment and bird after bird
dropped forward on its egg."
The birds sat on their nests, not straddling them as it
was once thought that they did, but with long legs
doubled under them while each brooded a single creamy
white egg. Male and female birds take their turn on
the nest, according to Dr. Chapman, one taking the night
the other the day.
Nests, he reported, measured at their circular base
twenty-two inches in diameter, and at the top, fourteen;
and varied in height from eight to thirteen inches, the
depression at the top where the single egg was deposited
being not more than one inch in depth.
The note of the old bird resembles the honking note of
a wild goose; that of the young, Dr. Chapman compares
to a whistling crow.
The adult bird, he reports as feeding the young drop
by drop from the tip of the bill with "regurgitated clam
broth," made from a small spiral shell which the adult
obtains from under water by thrusting the head and as
much of the neck in as is required to reach the bed of
It is hoped that when Everglades Tropic Park be-
comes a reality that this strange beautiful bird, finding
a congenial habitat made safe for its kind, may again be
numbered among the birds of Florida.
VI. Order Anseriformes-Ducks and Geese.
The Latin word anser means goose. The members of
this order resemble the common barnyard Goose or do-
mestic Duck. All have an odd waddling gait, heavy
oiled plumage, broad bill, flattened body. These birds
are also called lamellirostral swimmers; the word lamel-
lirostral is derived from two Latin words meaning "little
plate" and "beak," and refers to the fact that birds of
this group have ridges or little plates just inside the edge
of the mandible or bill; these little plates serve to strain
the water from the food, as it is gathered by the birds.
There are only two Ducks resident in Florida (Florida
Duck and Wood Duck), but in winter, we have many
northern species of this order in the State.
For species of this order occurring in Florida, see
DUCKS AND GEESE
The great tribe of Ducks and Geese is perhaps to
man the most important among the game birds, from
a recreational and dietetic standpoint. They are rela-
tively large birds, swift of wing, move in flocks, and,
with few exceptions, are quite toothsome. They were
once enormously abundant throughout their ranges but
this was in the days before extensive drainage enter-
prises, modern arms and ammunition, and means of
rapid transportation to their haunts. They have dimin-
ished noticeably in the past 25 years; however, much
was accomplished for their preservation by the treaty
with Great Britain of 1916 for the protection of migra-
tory birds in the United States and Canada and the abo-
lition of spring-shooting under the treaty.
There are some 200 species of Ducks, Geese, and
Swans distributed around the world. They are a re-
markably composite and homogeneous group of birds,
closely resembling each other in general appearance.
They are easily and universally distinguished from other
birds and it is only rarely that some novice confuses the
grebes and some of the smaller ducks. Their plumage
is usually considerably variegated; in some species it is
more or less bizarre or fantastic, as in the male Mandarin
Duck of Asia and its close ally, the Wood Duck of Amer-
Upwards of 35 species have been seen in Florida,
some only occasionally, others in small numbers, and the
With the exception of the Wood or Summer Duck,
the ducks and geese may be hunted in Florida during
the season allowed by law and in the manner and to
the number specified by law.
For the purpose of this Bulletin, particular reference
to the more characteristic or frequently seen species will
Length, 22 inches.
In all except bill this is a typical Duck. The bill is
long and narrow, not flat and broad as in most of the
Ducks, and along the edges of the mandibles are con-
spicuous serrations or tooth-like processes which enable
them to catch and hold their slippery prey which they
pursue and take under the water. The sexes are un-
like. The male has the head and throat black with
greenish on top and a white ring around the neck. On
the upper breast and sides of the neck is a broad reddish
band streaked with black. There is considerable white
on the wings, breast and abdomen, and the upper region
at the base of the tail and the sides are finely barred
with black and white. The female has the top and back
of the head grayish brown washed with reddish and
the sides of the head and throat are reddish. The rest
of the under parts are whitish. There is a white patch
in the wing and the back and tail are ashy-gray.
The Red-breasted Merganser, or Sawbill or Sheldrake
as it is frequently called, is only a winter visitor to Flor-
ida, and is usually seen on the coast. It does not flock
in large numbers with us as do most of the ducks, but
commonly is seen only in ones and twos. It is a wild
and wary bird down here, though not much sought by
hunters because its fish-tasting flesh is not very palat-
able. It is an expert diver and takes and captures its
prey down beneath the surface of the water. It nests
from the northern part of the United States to the Arctic
regions, and builds a nest of leaves, grass, moss and the
like, which it lines with down and places on the ground
near water. It lays from six to a dozen eggs.
Length, 23 inches.
The Mallard is such a familiar duck to nearly every-
body as hardly to need description. It is, perhaps, the
favorite game duck in America, and certainly one of the
most abundant and widespread. The sexes are unlike.
The male has a green head, yellow bill, and a ring around
the neck, with a beautiful purple area in the wing. The
female is much duller colored, more of a black and white
mottled appearance, much subdued in tone.
The Mallard is with us in Florida only in winter and
early spring. It moves about in flocks, often associated
with Pintail Ducks, and is found both on the interior
waters and the coast. It has a loud "quack" which it
habitually utters on its feeding and resting grounds. It
is partial to grain and may be, and often is, attracted to
places baited with corn, wheat, and the like. It also eats
aquatic plants and is something of a vegetarian. It nests
in America in the interior from the more northern part
of the United States to the Arctic regions. Its nest is
usually on or near the edge of a pond or slough among
the flags and other vegetation and is a depression in the
soil or mass of down-weeds lined with broken dead reeds
or flags and down, with a few feathers from the bird's
breast. Sometimes the nest will be located quite a dis-
tance from water and in dry places. The number of eggs
'in a clutch varies from eight to twelve, and sometimes as
many as fifteen.
Length, 20 inches.
In Florida we have a Duck indigenous to the State,
but more commonly found in the peninsula than in the
northern part. It nests in the State and in its distribution
follows around the Gulf coast to Louisiana. It is a big
Duck, resembling the Black Duck of the eastern part of
the United States and not very unlike the female Mallard.
This and the Wood Duck are the only Ducks that regu-
larly nest in Florida.
Length, 16 inches.
The Blue-winged Teal is one of the smaller Ducks
and about the bulk of a half-grown chicken. The sexes
are unlike. The male has a bluish head inclining to ashy,
with a conspicuous white crescent in front of the eye,
extending from the top of the head to the chin or under
throat. Its upper parts are mottled and there is a promi-
nent blue area in its wings. The breast and abdomen
are spotted with black. The female is not so prominently
marked, but has the blue in the wing.
The Blue-winged Teal is one of the earliest, if not
the earliest, Duck to reach Florida in the fall. It comes
in small compact flocks and frequents the lakes and ponds,
especially those which are well weeded, throughout the
State. It appears to be more common early in the season
than later, and as it is given to migrate rather far south
into Mexico and Central America. This is not to be won-
dered at. The food of this Duck is largely vegetable,
but it also eats mollusks, crustaceans, and insects. It
can spring from the water with the greatest ease and
is one of the swiftest Ducks in flight. They usually nest
in the prairie grasses of the northern part of the United
States and Canada on and near lakes, ponds and sloughs.
The nest is a hollow in the ground, filled with thick, soft
lining of fine grass mixed with down, in which from six
to fifteen eggs are laid.
Length, 18.5 inches.
The Wood Duck, or Summer Duck as it is commonly
called, is one of the smaller Ducks. It is the most gaudily
arrayed of all of our Ducks and the male, with its promi-
nent crest and chestnut, green, white, and purple mark-
ings, is not to be confused with any other duck or bird
of any kind. The female is much subdued in her rather
plain, commonplace dress of brownish, in marked contrast
to her mate.
The Wood Duck, as its name implies, affects woody
regions, along the rivers, in the lakes and ponds and
amid the swamps of the State. It builds its nest in the
cavities of trees along the water's edge, usually, but it
may be some distance from water on occasions, and fre-
quently is as high as 50 feet up. This Duck has a peculiar,
and very high pitched note, something akin to a squeal,
which is uttered quite frequently in the mating period,
especially near or after dusk. It lays from six to fifteen
eggs and nests early in Florida, about the last of Febru-
50 FLORIDA BIRDS
ary or first of March. Of course, it may nest later also.
In fact fresh eggs have been found in April. The food
of this Duck is very varied, consisting of insects, small
fish, minnows, frogs, tadpoles, snails, and small sala-
manders. It can "tip up" in shallow water and thus
reach food on the bottom of the stream, lake or pond.
It also consumes, at some times of the year, considerable
quantities of vegetable matter, either bulbs, leaves or
seeds of aquatic plants, and it is quite fond of acorns
which it will seek under oaks long distances from water.
It flies with great ease and precision through the tangled
masses of trees in swamp and forest.
Neither the Federal nor State laws allow this Duck
to be hunted at any time. It was once very nearly on
the verge of extinction, but its constant protection by
law since 1918 has enabled it to regain some of its for-
LESSER SCAUP DUCK
Length, 16.5 to 17 inches.
Rather a plain colored Duck with us in the winter
time-mostly blackish, with a lighter back, and a blue
bill. The head is somewhat glossed with purplish. In
the female the region around the base of the bill is white.
Both sexes have a white area in the wing. They are con-
siderably more bright and attractive in their summer,
or breeding, plumage on their nesting grounds in the
This is by far the commonest Duck with us in winter
and the one of which the most are killed by hunters, both
on the coast and inland. They are one of the medium
sized ducks and go in large flocks, sometimes immense
flocks, as such may be accounted at this day. It dives
with ease and for considerable distances in search of
its food or in sport. It can remain under water for a
considerable time, puddling away in the mud of the bot-
tom for its food. When wounded it often dives and seizes
some firm plant growth below to which it will cling until
dead. Their food is both vegetable and animal-buds,
stems, roots, and seeds of floating and submerged aquatic
plants, small fry and fish spawn, tadpoles, snails, small
mollusks, worms, crawfish, water insects and larvae.
It is a lively and restless bird, and sometimes flies in
erratic courses, much to the bewilderment of the hunter.
Its nesting region covers the more central Northern States,
thence north over a considerable portion of Canada. It
lays from six to fifteen eggs, usually in tufts of prairie
grass in marshy places and near water. The males ap-
pear to leave the females when incubation commences
and flock together in the small pools and ponds. As.with
most Ducks, they line their nests quite well with down
and some feathers.
Length, 38 inches.
The Canada Goose is the largest one of the waterfowl
allowed to be hunted in Florida. It, too, is so universally
known and distinguished as not to need a detailed de-
scription. It is on the whole a grayish-brown bird, with
a black head and neck and a large white patch on the
side of the head behind the eye and on the throat. The
under parts are lighter gray fading to whiter on the lower
The Canada Goose, or simply Wild Goose as it is
usually called, is a migrant to Florida from the North,
arriving sometime in October, with flocks wandering down
at odd times throughout the winter. Their V-shaped
flight formation is a familiar sight and remarked upon
by all out-door observers who delight in watching for a
flock of Geese high up in the air winging their way thus
formed to their feeding and resting grounds. It is said
that the leader at the apex of the formation is usually
some old gander. They assemble on the Gulf coast of
Florida in the region of the St. Marks lighthouse in con-
siderable numbers where they spend the winter feeding
on the vegetable matter in the shallow waters of the
Gulf near shore. It is a common experience of those who
live or sojourn along this coast to hear the loud "honk"
of these birds about daybreak every morning as they be-
gin to bestir themselves for the day. The food of this
Goose is very varied, but they prefer vegetable matter if
it is available. They are more inclined to terrestial feed-
ing than most of the Ducks and often stop on their way
south in some wheat field to gather what grain they can
find, and they commonly go inshore to nibble the grass
in much the same manner as domestic geese. In the
marshes they feed on wild rice and other aquatic plants,
eating the leaves and shoots as well as the roots, which
latter they can reach with their long necks thrust down
under the water. They do not overlook various kinds of
animal matter such as small mollusks, crustaceans and
similar sea-living creatures.
They are said to attain very old ages and it is quite
probable that 50 years may be the average length of life
under normal conditions. They mate for life and are
paragons of parents. The gander attends upon the young
with the fidelity of human parents. Their nests are placed
on the ground in grassy and weedy places near water
and customarily contain a goodly supply of down. They
lay from four to ten eggs, usually five or six, and hatch
in about 30 days.
VII. Order Falconiformes-The Birds of Prey.
The birds of prey were formerly all grouped in an
order called the Raptores. Now the Owls have been
separated out, and occupy their own order (see below).
But the Vultures (Buzzards), Hawks, Eagles, Kites, etc.,
remain to constitute the Falconiformes. The birds of
this order are carnivorous, and, with the exception of a
few species, are predatory, seizing and carrying away
their prey (as the Latin verb rapere would signify). The
Falconiformes have hooked bills, suited to tearing the
flesh of their victims, and, with the exception of the vul-
tures, they all have strong, curved talons adapted to seiz-
ing their prey.
For species of this order occurring in Florida, see
TURKEY AND BLACK VULTURE
There are two vultures in Florida-the Turkey Vul-
ture and the Black Vulture, both called "buzzards."
The Turkey Vulture is about the size of a small Eagle
-26-32 inches. It is a large blackish bird, with rounded
tail, and bare, red head. The Black Vulture is smaller
(24-27 inches), darker, with shorter wings, and with
the head black. A common name for this Vulture is
The Turkey Vulture is much the more graceful bird
in flight. It compares favorably, as a master of aerial
currents, with two other wonderful Florida birds-the
Man-o'-War Bird and the Swallow-tailed Kite. In the
air, the Turkey Vulture is the very embodiment of grace.
Bradford Torrey, who wrote so charmingly of Florida
bird life, said "One might almost be willing to be a buz-
zard to fly like that!"
The Black Vulture has a somewhat labored flight, ac-
complished with more flapping of the wings. This fact
helps to separate the two birds, even when at a great
distance. Closer view shows also that the wings of the
Black Vulture show a light-colored area near the ends.
The Turkey Vulture wings are slightly upturned, as he
soars easily through the air.
One would expect Vultures to nest in the very top of
high trees, but, strangely enough, both species nest on
the ground. No nest is made; the one, two or, rarely,
three eggs are laid on the bare ground, in a clump of
scrub palmetto, or under a log, or in a hollow log or
stump. The fledglings are covered with a light buffy or
Vultures subsist largely on carrion. They occasion-
ally eat freshly killed animals, but their beaks and claws
are not strong enough to tear skin and flesh easily, so
they usually attack a carcass only after decomposition
has set in. The young Vultures are fed on carrion which
is disgorged from the stomach of the adult bird. Fre-
quently a Vulture, alarmed at its revolting feast, will
eject a quantity of its filthy food. As scavengers, Vul-
tures are of use to man.
There has long been a dispute as to whether the
Vultures find their food by scent or by sight. One ex-
perimenter placed a stuffed deer in an open field; Vul-
tures were attracted to it. He then covered some putrid
meat with cloth or grass. No Vultures came near. An-
other investigator covered a dead hen with a box and
left it in the open for four weeks. No Vultures came
near. Then he uncovered the carcass, and within ten
minutes four Vultures were seen to approach the feast.
There is some evidence, however, that in warm weather,
smell may aid the Vultures in finding their food.
Courtesy R. J. Longstreet
FLIGHT OUTLINES OF BIRDS OF PREY
1. Genus Buteo-Red-shouldered, Red-tailed and Broad-winged Hawks.
2. Genus Aeeipiter-Sharp-Shinned and Cooper's Hawks.
8. The Swallow-tailed Kite.
4. Black Vulture or Turkey Vulture.
5. Falcon-Duck Hawk, Pigeon Hawk, Sparrow Hawk.
6. Osprey-Fish Hawk.
MARSH HAWK, OR "RABBIT HAWK"
Length, male 19 inches, female 22 inches.
Old males are light ashy-gray above and largely
whitish below, while the females and young birds of
the year are dark brown above and reddish or brownish-
white below. Both have somewhat owl-like faces en-
circled with an imperfect ruff. Fortunately, Marsh
Hawks may be easily identified in any plumage by
their white upper tail coverts, which are very conspicu-
ous, as the wide-winged long-tailed birds beat slowly
back and forth with a light airy flight, somewhat sug-
gestive of the gull, over their favorite feeding grounds.
They are from 18 inches to two feet long, the females
being considerably the larger.
While an occasional Marsh Hawk remains in Flor-
ida throughout the year, they are largely migrants and
winter residents, appearing in large numbers in Sep-
tember and October and remaining until April, when
they leave for their more northern breeding grounds.
Unlike other Hawks, this species both nests and roosts
on the ground, and seldom perches in large trees, al-
though they spend considerable time on fence posts,
bushes and other low perches.
The rather bulky nest of twigs, weed stems and
grasses is built on the ground in a meadow or marsh,
the largest nests being built in very wet ground. From
three to six pale bluish-white eggs constitute the usual
set, and the downy young are reared in the nest, although
they take up quarters near by in runways in the grass
or brush as they near maturity.
Because Marsh Hawks occasionally attack game birds
or unprotected poultry they are much persecuted by gun-
ners and farmers, who often fail to realize that they de-
stroy vast numbers of rodents and snakes that are enemies
of ground-nesting game birds, or of crops. Like the
owls and many other hawks, Marsh Hawks expel pellets
that contain an approximate record of their diet. Care-
ful and impartial studies of stomach contents or pellets
show that these birds do a tremendous amount of good
to compensate for the little harm done, and this is espe-
cially true of the winter months, when they are sojourn-
ing in the South. Here the abundance of cotton rats can
be roughly gauged by the number of Marsh Hawks that
gather to prey upon them. As many as a dozen to twenty
of these Hawks may frequent a rat-infested field, where
they roost in scattered groups in the dense growth, after
their supper of rats. In addition to their diet of rodents
and snakes, Marsh Hawks kill some small grass-frequent-
ing birds and crippled Doves and waterfowl around gun-
ning grounds, as well as insects, amphibians and other
creatures. Individuals that acquire a taste for poultry
or confined game birds may well be shot, while the species
as a whole is worthy of most careful protection.
SHARP-SHINNED HAWK, OR "LITTLE BLUE
Length, male 11.2 inches, female 13.5 inches
Adult Sharp-shinned Hawks are largely dark bluish-
slate above and cross-barred below with rufous-red,
while the young birds are generally brownish above
and dull whitish below, striped lengthwise with am-
ber or brown. The tail has four brownish-black bands
and is square at tip. Eyes are ruby-red in adults and
yellow in immature birds. Length, 11 to 14 inches;
females usually much larger than males, which may be
as small as Sparrow Hawks. Females nearly as large as,
and often confused with, small male Cooper's Hawks, or
"big blue darters."
Sharp-shinned Hawks are migratory or winter resi-
dents in Florida, appearing in numbers in October and
November and leaving the State for their more north-
ern breeding grounds in March and April. The nest is,
for the size of the bird, a very bulky structure of twigs
and small sticks lined with smaller twigs, strips of bark
or leaves, usually built in the fork of a tree in a grove or
forest, and may be from twenty to eighty feet above the
ground. Usually four or five, rarely more, beautiful
bluish-white eggs, spotted or blotched with lavender or
brownish shades are laid. Incubation is by both sexes
and the young are covered at first with beautiful coats
of white down.
Sharp-shinned Hawks are swift, graceful flyers, much
given to darting and twisting around and through thick-
ets and hedgerows and taking their prospective victims
by surprise, following them with great speed and accu-
racy in their frantic efforts to escape. Often they perch
partly hidden in leafy trees and ambush their prey. The
larger females kill quail and occasionally even birds of
larger size while the smaller males prey largely on birds
of the size of warblers and sparrows. Sharp-shinned
Hawks are bold chicken thieves, and they with the larger,
more powerful, Cooper's Hawk, or "Big Blue Darter," are
largely responsible for the ill repute of the whole Hawk
tribe, and are deserving of the name "chicken hawks," so
generally used for all the smaller species. They are too
destructive to be willingly tolerated on game preserves
or around poultry yards.
While Sharp-shinned Hawks occasionally prey on in-
sects and mice to a limited extent, they are generally
recognized as best fitted to prey on small birds which
constitute their principal fare. They may be classed as
largely injurious to man's interests, although under nat-
ural conditions they undoubtedly prevent undue increase
of small birds.
COOPER'S HAWK, OR "BIG BLUE DARTER"
Length, male 15.5 inches, female 19 inches.
Very similar to and often confused with the Sharp-
shinned Hawk, but somewhat stouter and larger, and
the tail is slightly rounded instead of square on the tip.
The name "Blue Darter," or "Bluetail," is applied to
the adult bird because of its dark slaty-blue upper
parts. Like the Sharp-shinned Hawk, the young bird
of the year is brownish above and whitish below, striped
with brownish. In this plumage Cooper's Hawk is often
confused with the juvenal Red-shouldered Hawk, which,
however, shows traces of the rusty shoulders, while the
wings are longer and more pointed. Length, 14 to 20
inches; the female much larger than the male.
Cooper's Hawk is a fairly common resident in Florida,
becoming more numerous during the cooler half of the
year when their numbers have been increased by an in-
flux of northern bred birds. These Hawks breed in wood-
lands, placing their bulky nests of twigs lined with inner
bark, moss and leaves, in the main forks of trees from
12 to 60 or more feet above the ground. Usually four
or five pale bluish or greenish-white eggs are laid in early
May. As the nesting woods are entered, the loud cac
cac cac of the Hawks often reveal the general location of
the nest, though the birds themselves remain unseen.
Cooper's Hawk may be extremely wary if "educated"
during a life of chicken thievery, or comparatively fear-
less if bred in a wilderness area. It is a true bird-killing
species, preying to only a limited extent on small mam-
mals, reptiles and insects, but largely on birds up to, or
even exceeding, its own size. It is merciless in the pur-
suit of its victims, following their every twist and turn
at great speed, and even plunging headlong after them
into thickets or briar tangles. It is without doubt the
worst natural enemy of the Bobwhite Quail, working about
on foot on the ground if necessary to rout them. Once
awed, the Quail has little chance for its life unless vine
tangles or other refuge cover is close at hand. So greatly
do Quail fear this Hawk that scattered birds may remain
in hiding for a half hour or more after their enemy has
given up the chase and left the vicinity. Silence reigns
when the cac cac cac of the hunting "Blue Darter" rings
through the woodlands.
Although we may admire Cooper's Hawk for its prow-
ess as a hunter and acknowledge that it has a real place
in Nature's plan, we shoot it nevertheless when oppor-
tunity presents, for it is the bane alike of the poultry
raiser and the game preserver, and destructive in gen-
eral to man's interests. It is also well able to take care
of itself where much persecuted, for it becomes most
elusive and wary.
RED-TAILED HAWK AND HARLAN'S HAWK
Length, male 20 inches, female 23 inches.
The Red-tailed Hawk is the largest and most robust
of our Hawks (length, 20 to 25 inches; spread of wings,
four to four and a half feet). Adults are dark brown-
ish above and whitish below, more or less streaked with
dark brown and washed with buffy. The rusty-red tail
is the best field mark, and serves to distinguish it from
the Red-shouldered Hawk and other large species. The
young birds have dark gray tails, cross-barred with nu-
merous darker bands, and the streaking on the abdomen
forms a dark band of blackish that appears solid at a
distance. A largely blackish race or subspecies, the
Harlan's Hawk, also occurs sparingly in Florida. They
are similar in habits to the common Red-tail.
Red-tail Hawks are permanent residents in Florida,
being fairly common for members of their family in the
northern and western portions of the State. A very
bulky nest of coarse sticks, lined in most cases with weeds,
grasses, dead leaves or other finer material, is built from
30 to 80 feet above the ground in a large tree, usually in
woodland. In Florida, pines are most frequently chosen
for the nest. From 2 to 4 white eggs, sometimes spotted
or blotched with brownish, are laid in March or April.
Red-tails have several call notes, the most often used
being a "long-drawn squealing whistle." This is fre-
quently used when the birds are circling, especially in
the vicinity of their nesting territory.
Although Red-tails are not very numerous, they are
conspicuous birds due to their vulture-like soaring and
circling high above the earth, and to their habit of wait-
ing by the hour, perched on the limb of a dead tree or
similar lookout, for some luckless rodent or reptile to
Red-tails occasionally acquire the habit of raiding
chicken yards, but do not deserve the name "hen hawk"
so often applied to them, for chicken thievery is excep-
tional, while rodents, reptiles, insects and occasionally
birds constitute their usual fare. Although poultry steal-
ing individuals may well be shot, the food habits of the
Red-tail are generally beneficial and they more than make
up for the harm they do. They are interesting, pictur-
esque birds, and deserve protection for aesthetic as well
as economic reasons. Unfortunately their numbers have
been seriously reduced by prejudiced persons who think
that "the only good hawk is a dead hawk."
RED-SHOULDERED HAWK AND FLORIDA RED-
Length, male 18.3 inches, female 20.3 inches.
Two forms of the Red-shouldered Hawk are found
in this State, but the difference is one mainly of size,
the bird resident over most of Florida being somewhat
smaller and not quits so richly colored as the northern
form, which enters the State in winter. Adults are
reddish-brown above and lighter reddish-brown below
with transverse bars of buff. "Shoulders" (lesser wing
coverts) are rufous or chestnut, which gives the bird its
name. In flight the sharply defined narrow bars of white
on the brownish-black tail are a good recognition mark.
The young birds are dark brown above and whitish be-
low, streaked with dark brown, and the lesser wing cov-
erts show some rusty coloration. Red-shouldered Hawks
somewhat resemble the larger Red-tails, but are lighter
built birds. Length, 18 to 22 inches.
Florida Red-shouldered Hawks breed abundantly all
over the State, their loud, piercing kee-ah, kee-ah call
notes being characteristic sounds of the hammocks and
lowland woods. Bluejays imitate this note so skilfully
that they sometimes fool the most observant, and most
of the "hawk" call notes heard in some sections issue
from the mischevous Jays.
The nests are rather bulky structures of dead sticks,
lined with inner bark, moss, leaves and similar material,
usually built in the main forks of forest trees fifteen to
fifty or more feet up. The three or four whitish eggs,
blotched with umber or yellowish-brown, are laid in Feb-
ruary or March.
Red-shouldered Hawks may frequently be seen
perched on dead trees on the border of woodlands or in
open country, or soaring high in air in the manner of the
Red-tail. They are not timid as a rule and frequently pay
little or no attention to passing vehicles. Under such
conditions these handsome birds may be studied to ex-
Although great numbers are shot annually by farm-
ers and sportsmen under the impression that they are
seriously destructive to poultry and game, they should
be spared as a rule for the good they do greatly out-
weighs the harm. While a few birds are eaten, the great
bulk of their food consists of mice and other small mam-
mals, snakes, insects and other animals. This species
is frequently noted with snakes dangling from their tal-
ons, and their snake-eating habits should be viewed with
favor by sportsmen, for egg-eating snakes take fearful
toll from quail and other ground-nesting birds. Red-
shouldered Hawks should be spared with the exception
of individuals that have formed the habit of raiding poul-
try yards, and such form but a small percentage of the
Length, male 15.8 inches, female 16.7 inches.
Similar in shape and carriage to the Red-tailed and
Red-shouldered Hawks, but much smaller, 14 to 18
inches in length. There is considerable variation in
color but adults are usually dark-brown above and
whitish below, cross-barred and streaked with tawny.
Wings long and broad. Tail similar in color to back but
crossed with three distinct grayish-white bands. Young
yellowish-white below, boldly marked with spots and
streaks of dark brown. Seen from below in flight, the
wings of this species appear white with black tips; a good
Broad-winged Hawks breed in North and West Flor-
ida, and more northern bred birds enter the State in late
fall. Many journey on into Central and South America,
while others winter in Florida, departing for the North
The bulky nests, usually placed in main crotches of
trees from 20 to 80 feet above the ground, are constructed
of sticks, inner bark, rootlets, moss and sometimes sprigs
of green. The two to five grayish-white, brown-spotted
eggs are usually laid in May. This species is partial to
woodlands and is one of the gentlest and least suspicious
of Hawks, often permitting a close approach. The call
note is weak and somewhat resembles that of the wood
pewee. Young birds which have just left the nest and
are sitting in nearby trees call a great deal, but it is fre-
quently difficult to locate the source of the sound, which
seems to come from several directions at once.
Due to their lack of wariness, Broad-winged Hawks
are frequently shot by uninformed persons who consider
all Hawks chicken thieves and game killers. As a matter
of fact, these birds very seldom molest poultry or game,
and kill very few birds of any kind, their prey consisting
largely of insects, small mammals, reptiles and batra-
chians. They may be classed as almost wholly beneficial,
and should not be shot. Unfortunately a great many
Broad-winged Hawks are killed under the impression
that they are "Blue Darters," although there is little ex-
cuse for this mistake.
Length, male 33 inches, female 86, spread 84 to 89 inches.
The adult Bald Eagle is a brownish-black bird, with
pure white head, neck, and tail. The young birds, even
after their first year, lack the white head and tail, and
their plumage is streaked or mottled with whitish; the
general color, however, remains very dark. The female
Bald Eagle may attain a length of three feet. The aver-
age male is about four inches shorter.
As the sunshine falls on a soaring Bald Eagle, the
white head and tail stand out as excellent field marks.
The great expanse of wing also serves to identify the
birds, even at a distance. Some Eagles have been taken
which measured almost eight feet between wing tips
The Bald Eagle, or White-headed Eagle (to use its
more appropriate name) is a master of the air. On its
great wings, it soars in ascending spirals almost beyond
the sight of man. But even at great heights, the eye of
this noble bird is so keen that it can see a fish on the
water's surface. Eagles have been observed to plunge
after a fish that, when caught in the bird's talons, a man
with a strong glass could not descry.
The Bald Eagle is usually seen flapping slowly and
at no great height, as it courses about looking for food.
But it is capable of tremendous speed and has been known
to catch the swiftest Ducks in full flight.
Eagles are found chiefly along the sea and the shores
of lakes and rivers, for their chief food is fish. How-
ever, they prey also on other birds and animals, and not
infrequently join the vultures in a feast on carrion.
It is common opinion that a Bald Eagle will attack
and has strength to carry away a small child. But de-
spite this belief and occasional newspaper "stories," there
is on record no case of this sort that is scientifically cor-
rect. The Eagle does attack lambs, and animals as large
as the fox. But on the whole, the bird which is our na-
tional emblem, has good rather than bad food habits.
To the Fish Hawk or Osprey, however, the Bald Eagle
is a bad character. For the Eagle, sometimes too lazy to
fish for itself, watches the Osprey until it catches a fish,
and then gives chase and compels the poor smaller bird
to drop its prey. The Eagle then swoops down and has
been seen to catch the falling fish before it could strike
the water or land beneath.
Bald Eagles build their nests in the tops of tall
trees, usually pine or cypress. The nest is occupied year
after year by the same pair of birds, and annual addi-
tions of material are made to it. The result is that some
eagle nests measure seven or eight feet in diameter and
as much or more in height. One to four eggs are laid;
two is the usual number.
This bird is protected by State laws.
SPARROW HAWK, OR LITTLE SPARROW HAWK
Length 10 to 11 inches.
This little Falcon, which is only about 10 to 11
inches in length, is not likely to be confused with other
small Hawks because of its characteristic coloration and
actions. It is generally bright reddish-brown above
barred with black, has three upright blackish bars on
sides of head, is buffy-whitish beneath, spotted or
streaked, and has more or less bluish on head and wings.
The tail of the female has a narrow cross-barring of
black, she lacks the ashy-blue wings, and is of slightly
duller coloration throughout.
The actions are as characteristic as the coloration, for
Sparrow Hawks have the habit of hovering for a moment
over spots here and there as if to look over the ground
beneath with special. care, after which they fly to some
favorite lookout perch and alight with a sprightly jerk-
ing of the tail, sitting very upright until ready for another
sally. The usual call note of killy-killy-killy-killy-killy
gives the species its common name of "Killy-Hawk" which
is in general use over much of the State. They are con-
spicuous birds of pasture lands and fields that contain
dead trees and stubs for perching and nesting sites. They
are frequently seen perched on telephone or telegraph
poles along roads and railroad right-of-ways, where they
often permit a close approach.
While they are identical for all practical purposes,
the resident Sparrow Hawk of the peninsular portion of
the State is classified by ornithologists as a subspecies,
the Little Sparrow Hawk, the slightly larger birds nesting
to the northward being present in numbers only during
the winter. Another subspecies, the Cuban Sparrow
Hawk occurs only as a straggler in the southern portion
of the State.
The four to seven, usually five, eggs are variable in
coloration, being reddish-white or creamy-buff, spotted,
blotched or marbled with various shades of brown or
cinnamon. They are usually laid in April in a deserted
Woodpecker hole or natural cavity in a dead tree from
ten to forty or more feet above the ground.
For several reasons this species might have better been
named "Grasshopper Hawk," for grasshoppers, when
available, are eaten largely to the exclusion of other food.
When grasshoppers are scarce, however, these birds eat
other insects, and occasionally small mammals, lizards,
snakes, and small birds to a very limited extent. In gen-
eral they are harmless to poultry and game, and worthy
of full protection both for economic and aesthetic rea-
Length, 22 inches.
Audubon's Caracara is a South American bird that
ranges north as far as southern Florida. In general ap-
pearance, this bird resembles a Hawk or Eagle. It is a
sort of cross between Hawk and Vulture, as a matter of
fact. The head and neck are whitish; the crown black;
the tail is whitish with blackish bars and a plain white
tip; the wings are black; the white breast is black-barred;
the back is brown. The bill is large, yellow and hooked.
The feet are yellow. The legs are long, well adapted to
running, and this bird spends much of its time on the
Caracaras are restricted to the prairie country of south-
central Florida. They are not found in the flatwoods
and cypress swamps. The Titusville-Orlando road may
be said to mark their northern range along the East Coast.
Caracaras, like most birds of prey, breed early in the
season, sometimes laying eggs in December. The nest
is often placed in a cabbage palm. One to three dark-
colored eggs are laid.
Caracaras feed on carrion, like the Vultures, but, like
the Hawks, they also catch live animals. Small rodents,
and especially small turtles, seem to constitute the chief
items in their fare.
THE OSPREY OR FISH HAWK
Length 2 feet, wing spread 41/2 to 51/ feet.
The Osprey or Fish Hawk is widely distributed over
the globe, being found in all parts except in New Zealand,
Iceland, Australia, southern South America and the ex-
treme Arctic and Antarctic regions. Since their food con-
sists exclusively of fish taken alive they are found in the
vicinity of bodies of water that afford this food. In Flor-
ida they are most abundant in the coastal areas.
Though like other raptorial birds the Osprey hunts
alone, they are more gregarious than most other Hawks,
migrating in numbers; and, where undisturbed, nesting
near each other, sometimes in colonies. Not infrequently
they utilize the nest of the previous year adding to it new
nesting material until it grows to large dimensions, some-
times attaining six feet in diameter and four or five feet
in height. These nests are usually built in trees in Flor-
ida. In other parts of the country they are sometimes
found on rocky ledges on the ground.
Unable to dive the Osprey must depend upon fish that
it can get in shallow waters or near the surface of deep
waters, Its keen vision is so great that the Osprey can
distinguish at great distances a fish of neutral hue. It
has been seen to dive for its prey from a height of three
hundred feet or more, dropping like a.bolt from the blue,
and striking the water with such force as to send the
water into a high spray where it strikes, while its long
talons, equipped with scale-like processes and long,
powerful claws, grasp the luckless fish for which it
reaches. And seldom does it fail to secure its prey. Well
for the Osprey that it possesses this high degree of skill,
for not infrequently where a Bald Eagle ranges in the
vicinity will the Osprey be called upon to stand and de-
liver in mid-air to this bold robber.
The Osprey is a handsome bird. The head, neck and
under parts are white, the head being narrowly lined
with black feathers which coalesce in the center of the
crown to run delicately to the nape. Above each eye the
white feathers predominate so greatly that they form
bands of white that appear like extended eyebrows reach-
ing to the back of the skull. On the breast are large
heart-shaped spots of brown on each feather, the shafts
of the same being black. These spots are more numerous
in the female than in the male bird. The rest of the
underparts are unmarked. The back, shoulders, wings
and tail are a deep burnt umber with a faint purplish
gloss; tail barred with seven, even, dusky bands, inner
webs and tip white; the feathers of the upper parts
edged with paler hues. The strongly curved bill is a
bluish black, the cere a grayish blue, as are the feet.
Claws are black. The iris is yellow or red.
The eggs of the Osprey, numbering two to four to
a clutch, usually three, are yellowish or dull white in
color, blotched with Indian red and different shades of
The Osprey is protected by the law of our State.
VIII. Order Galliformes-Quails and Turkeys.
The word Galli comes from the Latin gallus which
means "cock." Gallinaceous birds are those bearing a
resemblance to poultry. They are mostly heavy-bodied,
with short wings, and with legs adapted to running and
scratching on the ground, where they find their food.
The Galliformes are often polygamous. The young are
hatched with a full suit of down and run as soon as they
are hatched. Bob-whites and Wild Turkeys are the only
Florida representatives of this order.
For species of this order occurring in Florida, see
For description see page fifty-four
Courtesy of National Assocliauon of Audubon Societies
Accipiter velox velox
For description see page fifty-six
Courtesy of National Association of Audubon Societies
Buteo borealis borealis
For description see page fifty-eight
"^W S~y;;,.. .*.*r'.t^ "
Courtesy of National Association of Audubon Societies
Falco sparverius paulus
For description see page sixty-three
Courtesy of National Asosoction of Audubon Societies
Colints virginianus virginanus
Colinus virginianus floridanus
For description see page sixty-seven
Oxyechus vociferus vociferus
For description see page eighty-one
C(ouIrteCy of NaitionalI Association of Audlibon Societies
For dli'scrip)Iiont see pae cLight3 -si'
sr' # 1 -' : '"`i; "
Courtesy of National Association of Audubon Societies
A ; 4W'
BOBWHITE QUAIL, OR PARTRIDGE
Length 8.50 to 10.50 inches.
The Bobwhite Quail is too well known to require tech-
nical description and its appearance is well illustrated in
the colored plate. This deservedly popular species ranges
over much of the United States east of the Great Plains
and south of the center of the northern tier of States, and
together with the slightly smaller, darker but otherwise
similar Florida Bobwhite of the lower two-thirds of the
peninsula, occurs in suitable situations all over Florida.
The Bobwhite Quail is one of the several species of birds
thpt increases in size slightly to the northward. The bird
i, South Florida averages about five ounces, in North
Florida nearly six, while in Illinois or Massachusetts they
weigh seven to eight, with a corresponding increase in
measurements (8.50 to 10.50 inches).
The Bobwhite has an extensive vocabulary, the per-
sistent bobwhitee" of the unmated cocks in summer and
the mellow ka-loi-hee or "scatter call," uttered by both
sexes throughout the year, being best known to country
dwellers, while the various "conversational" notes, ut-
tered for the ears of the companions alone, are little
known to the majority of people.
Bobwhites usually pair off in April, the exact time
depending on the season. An average of about fifteen
glossy white, top-shaped eggs are laid in either a roofed-
over or open type nest, constructed of dead grasses,
leaves and similar material, in a shallow, scratched-out
hole in the ground, usually in open grassy growth near
a road, path, or other opening in fields or open wood-
lands. The first eggs are laid in late April or early May
in the north part of the State, usually earlier farther south.
Due to numerous natural enemies that eat the eggs or
destroy the newly hatched young, Bobwhites may be
forced to try again and again (captive Bobwhite hens
have laid up to 135 eggs in a season) before hatching out
a brood of active, brown-striped chicks which leave the
nest within a few hours. Either the cock or the hen, more
frequently the latter, may perform the duties of incu-
bation, which normally requires twenty-three days. Some
broods hatch as late as September, or very rarely October.
Except while attempting to bring off a brood, Bob-
whites prefer to range in groups referred to as coveys or
bevies, numbering from a dozen to thirty, or rarely more,
their numbers being kept up by combination and recom-
bination of the remnants of aggregations depleted by
their numerous natural enemies, or by shooting. Due to
this habit the covey of April may contain as many as
that of November, even though the total population has
been greatly reduced.
While in covey Bobwhites roost on the ground in cir-
cular formation, tails together and heads out, an arrange-
ment ideally adapted to conserving body warmth, and
permitting freedom of wing action in case of night a's-
Bobwhites are very partial to, and reach their greatest
abundance in, country given over in part to crude agri-
culture, although they are found to a lesser extent in
well drained portions of the open pine woods. They are
dependent everywhere upon thickets of brambles in close
proximity to their feeding and roosting grounds, and seek
them for refuge when pursued by natural enemies, such
as "Blue Darters" (Cooper's and Sharp-shinned Hawks).
When disturbed, mature Bobwhites flush together with
a thunderous roar most disconcerting to enemies and fly
together with great rapidity for the refuge covert. Such
flights, however, seldom exceed five hundred yards, for
the birds soon tire and prefer to depend upon their strong
legs for escape.
Bobwhites have a varied diet, most of which is se-
cured on or near the surface of the ground. The chicks
eat a great many insects until they are three weeks or a
month of age, after which their diet becomes practically
the same as that of the adult bird. Bobwhites of all ages
consume many insects during the warmer portion of the
year, when this food is more readily obtainable. As the
chicks develop, however, they turn more and more to
seeds of grasses, weeds and leguminous plants, while
small wild fruits of wide variety, acorns and the seeds,
or "mast" of pines, sweet gum and other trees contribute
an important part of their diet. In general, Bobwhites
are rightly classed among the birds most beneficial to
farming interests, for the occasional slight damage done
to strawberries, tomatoes, grapes or other crops in re-
stricted areas is repaid a hundred fold by the vast amount
of good done everywhere through destruction of noxious
insects and weed seeds. These birds should be conserved.
As Bobwhites are the most highly prized of all south-
eastern game birds, sportsmen are vitally interested in
measures for increasing their numbers, and large sums
are often spent on huntingW estates in the development of
their food supply and cover, in artificial propagation and
in controlling their more destructive natural enemies.
Such measures are frequently necessary where a large
surplus is desired for shooting year after year, but sim-
ple and inexpensive measures can be taken by any owner
of suitable area that will insure a satisfactory increase.
The first thing that may require attention is the mat-
ter of adequate refuge cover, without which Bobwhites
cannot survive the attack of "Blue Darters" and similar
enemies. Brushy tangles have a natural tendency to
grow up along fence lines and in uncultivated corners as
well as around field borders, and all that is usually neces-
sary is to let it alone. With adequate refuge cover must
go an ample year-around food supply. This likewise re-
quires little attention if peas are grown in the corn, which
may be planted early and "laid by" early to insure a
supply of Florida beggarweed and other weeds. Rag-
weed, pigweed, partridge pea and a host of other food-
producing plants have a tendency to spring up around
field borders, and native lespedezas (bush clovers) and
beggarweeds in open woodlands and "cut-overs." Such
conditions are typical of tens of thousands of Florida
Given such ideal surroundings and the third requisite
is a measure of protection from such outstanding natural
enemies as house cats and cur dogs, skunks, opossums,
foxes, weasels, black and coachwhip snakes, "chicken
snakes" anf "Blue Darters" (Cooper's and Sharp-shinned
Hawks). There are others, such as the small red meat-
eating ants (Solonopsis molesta), which enter the eggs
at hatching time and consume the protesting chick alive,
which cannot be controlled over a large acreage. and
must be considered in the same category as floods, storms
and other losses caused by the elements.
If shooting is carefully regulated to the annual sur-
plus and food supply and cover properly attended to,
Bobwhites multiply rapidly during normal years and fur-
nish splendid shooting, unexcelled food, and are always
at hand to combat insect and weed pests of the farm,
meanwhile delighting the eye and ear of the true lover
FLORIDA WILD TURKEY
Length approximately 4 feet.
As in the case of the Bobwhite Quail, two forms of
the Wild Turkey occur in the State, the bird of the south-
ern half of the peninsula, at least, being the typical Flor-
ida Wild Turkey, those of the extreme northern and west-
ern portions probably referable to the northern form,
and those of the remainder of the State more or less in-
termediate. The Florida subspecies differs from the
northern bird mainly in its considerably darker cast of
plumage. But however classified, the Wild Turkey is a
truly magnificent game bird, reaching a length of about
four feet and a weight of twenty pounds; rarely more.
Although until recently Wild Turkeys were killed in
season and out by fair means or foul, and exterminated or
made rare over vast areas in consequence, these grand
birds have been extended better protection of late, thanks
to the efforts of the Game Department, and are still fairly
numerous in the vicinity of the larger and wilder swamps
and hammocks, where they find an abundance of food
in the form of acorns, "mast" from pines and gums, wild
fruits of wide variety and an abundance of insects and
other animal matter.
Wild Turkeys are polygamous and the mixed flocks
of winter break up in early spring when the birds mate
during a period of much strutting and gobbling similar
to the familiar barnyard performance. From eight to
twelve buffy, brown-spotted eggs are laid in late March
or early April in a simple ground nest of leaves, grasses
and breast feathers of the hen, usually in a tangle of
IN THE FLORIDA WOODS
vegetation in open woodland or hammock. Unless the
nest is found by any one of numerous prowling enemies,
the rather delicate, downy young are hatched in about
twenty-eight days. As the broods of an area develop,
more or less combination frequently takes place, and two
or more hens and twenty or more poults of assorted sizes
may range together, the gobblers forming small groups,
or remaining solitary at this season. As the birds ma-
ture the flocks are joined by the gobblers, however, and
mixed flocks of forty to seventy Wild Turkeys can some-
times be seen on the most carefully managed game pre-
Like that other natural woodland game animal, the
white-tailed deer, Wild Turkeys respond readily to pro-
tection from over-shooting and may again be brought to
abundance in largely wooded country if given sufficient
protection from the greed of man. When they can do
so with a reasonable degree of safety, Wild Turkeys thrive
even in country given over in half to cultivated fields.
IX. Order Gruiformes-Cranes Rails, etc.
This order was formerly named the Paludicolae, the
word being derived from Latin words meaning "marsh
dwellers." This is the group to which the true Crane be-
longs. The Cranes and Rails somewhat resemble the
Herons and Egrets; all are long-legged, long-billed, and
long-necked. But the Gruiformes are much the more se-
cretive. In fact, some of the Rails are seldom seen, so
exclusively do they inhabit the deep marsh grass. The
Coots or "Blue Peters" are probably the least secretive
birds of this order. They may often be seen swimming
in open water.
For species of this order occurring in Florida see
Length, 40 to 48 inches; spread, 6 to 7 feet.
Though many apply the term "Crane" to several
species of Herons found in the State, there is but one
species of Crane now found in Florida, the Sandhill
Crane, erroneously called by some "Whooping Crane."
The Sandhill Crane is found on the prairies of southern
and central Florida and in certain localities in the north-
ern part of the State. The Sandhill Crane is silvery-gray
in color, with crown of red. It has black feet and long,
black legs and bill. The wing primaries and coverts are
darker than the body, the cheeks and throat are lighter,
the iris is brown. Its larger relative, the Whooping Crane,
now extinct in Florida and almost wiped out of existence,
has white plumage with black wing primaries, and a head
which, though bare of feathers, is carmine in color. The
loud ringing notes of the Sandhill Crane have led to its
confusion with the Whooping Crane.
Once abundant, breeding not only in Florida and
Louisiana-where it is still resident-but from Ohio,
Indiana, Illinois, Nebraska, Colorado and California
northward to Canada, it is now rare east of the Mississippi
except in Florida, and is said to breed commonly now
only in Florida and Canada.
The resonant quality of a Crane's cry is probably due,
it is said, to the great length of windpipe peculiar to these
birds, which in the mature bird lies coiled in the keel
of the breastbone. In the Whooping Crane, when it is
mature, this part of the trachea is said to approximate
thirty inches in length, and the entire length of the organ
from the throat to the lungs, to be fully five feet.
Unlike Herons the Sandhill Crane spends most of its
time and gets much of its food on land. This consists
largely of roots, bulbs and grain, to which it adds in-
sects, frogs, lizards, snakes and mice.
This bird nests on the ground, usually on a knoll.
The nest is generally a slight depression in the ground,
lined with dry grass and weed stems, in which two eggs
that range in color from pale olive to buffy brown, and
marked over the entire surface with spots of burnt-umber,
are laid. Two eggs are a full set.
Selecting the open prairie or treeless marsh for the
site of its nest and range, the Crane is always on the alert.
Its keen vision enables it to observe an enemy afar off.
Its long sharp bill proves a dangerous weapon. If the
enemy be man, after a few minutes observation the Crane,
running with a few long strides, takes to its wings,
sounding its defiance in a wild cry. The few birds of
this species remaining in the State should be given close
The Rails, using the term in its technical sense as
including the Gallinules and Coots, constitute a large
family of aquatic or semi-aquatic birds, some 180 species
in all, pretty well distributed over the face of the earth
and forming one of the interesting features of the avi-
fauna wherever they occur. The typical Rails, with
some exceptions, are long-legged, long-billed birds, ot
more or less somber hues and reclusive habits. The
Gallinules are usually gaudily colored and not so wary,
while the Coots are rather conspicuously tinted and in-
clined to regard man with considerable tolerance.
The Rails have rather compressed bodies and large,
strong legs, enabling them to make their way rapidly
and with ease through the tangled and reedy marshes
to which they are, with few exceptions, confined. Their
courtesy K. J. Longstreet
KING RAIL ON NEST
toes are long, adapted to their mode of life in walking
over the mire or floating vegetation without danger of
sinking. Their wings are comparatively short and never
pointed, and their flight, except during migration, rarely
exceeds brief spaces. Their tails are very short. The
sexes are usually indistinguishable. Their food is gath-
ered from the surface of the ground or water and con-
sists of a variety of animal and vegetable substances.
Some 13 species and subspecies of Rails occur in Flor-
ida, but between several of the subspecies the differences
are so unsubstantial as to be of no practical importance
here, and it will be satisfactory enough if the pupil learns