Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Birds of Sanibel Island, Florida

UPDATE--I corrected some of the ids from tips from "Anonymous" comments below!

Yes, I just had to escape from snowed-in Virginia for a few days to visit my sister in Ft. Myers, Florida. It was not easy--had to leave a day early to avoid a snowstorm to drive to Charlotte for the flight, then delayed on the way back by another (not complaining about that).

When my sister asked me where I wanted to go, I said to the J. N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island. The refuge is an undeveloped mangrove ecosystem with lots of migratory birds this time of year.

Most of my photos were taken from about 100 feet away. The birds didn't want to be close to the road and cars--I could have used a better telephoto lens.

White Ibis

The White Ibis uses its bill to hunt--probably a lot of good worms and crayfish in these rich waters.

The most spectacular bird is the Roseate Spoonbill (in pink) here with a Reddish Egret and White Ibis. The Reddish Egret is quite rare so I am happy to see that.

Roseate Spoonbill with White Ibis

Here you can see how the Spoonbill got its name--a spoon-shaped bill useful for scooping up shrimp (with a White Ibis in the background).

The Spoonbills look great flying.

White Pelicans

These White Pelicans spend summers on lakes and marshes on the upper midwest of United States and Canada. They were safely on a sand island, far from the admiring crowds.

Double-Crested Cormorants

This bird has benefited greatly from the banning of DDT in 1972. Here the black color was a nice contrast to the more common whites and pink of the other birds. Did I mention there were a ton of birds?

Wood Stork

This bird is the only true stork in North America and is most noteworthy for its size--40" length with a 60" wingspan. His neck looks a lot like a turkey's except it's dark gray.

He forages in drying ponds or shallow areas like this one. The Wood Stork stays in the southern states in the summer time and winters in Florida.


These sandpipers are larger than the typical sandpipers but smaller than chickens. They were quite interesting to watch as they walked and foraged along in unison.

I still have lots of photos to go through, including a nice sequence of a Great Egret fishing--stay tuned.


  1. What great pictures. We were in Naples two weeks ago and ran out of time before we got to Ding Darling - went to the Naples Botanical Gardens instead. Big mistake that! A roseate spoonbill! wow!

  2. Great photos! Love the spoonbills :D

  3. The "Unknown Shore Bird" is a Willet. Common on beaches and in saltmarshes along coast. Usually solitary but may gather in flocks when migrating and roosting (from Sibley's Field Guide to Birds).
    Some are resident and nest here and a lot also migrate here for winter.

  4. The "Great Blue Heron?" in the second photo is actually a Reddish Egret, which is the rarest heron in North America! Hunted to near extinction for their breeding plumes near the turn of the century, this species is making a slow recovery. It also occurs as a white morph in less numbers. It can be identified by its active and wild foraging behaviour. A site you'll never forget! Also notice this one is in breeding condition and has the two tone bill distinctive to this species. A great find!

  5. webb--I know what you mean about Naples Botanical Gardens. When I visited south Florida in 2004, I went there but didn't know about the refuge which is a much better place if you are interested in nature.

    Green Gal--yes, I love those spoonbills too!

    Anonymous--thanks for the ids. Now, I'm especially thrilled I saw that Reddish Egret. It was the only one we saw among hundreds of birds there.

  6. How nice to get away from the snow for a while! You got some AMAZING pics here!!

  7. oh..nice photos! I love birding in Florida in the winter..
    Dont you think that Reddish Egret is the silliest thing when it dances and prances around?