Friday, May 16, 2014

Shorebirds on the Alabama Gulf Coast

Coastal Alabama is a birdwatcher’s paradise. There are tons of different species to spot and catalog. Avid birdwatchers flock to the area because it is home to such a wide variety of avians. Shorebird identification for some of the most common species:
Warsaw Grouper

Great Blue Heron

The great blue heron is nearly four feet long and has a wingspan of about five feet. These wading birds are commonly found on the shoreline of open water. They are the largest of all of the herons found in North America.

The call of the great blue heron is very distinctive. The sound is reminiscent of a gigantic frog croaking. Herons are more vocal when it is breeding season.

For the most part, the great blue heron feeds on small fish, crabs, shrimp, rodents, small mammals and even birds. They usually swallow their food whole and occasionally will choke trying to consume something that is too big.

Brown Pelican

Brwon Pelican Photo

Pelicans are large water birds that have long, pouched bills. They are good swimmers as they use their strong, little legs and webbed toes to propel themselves through the water. The tail of a Pelican is squared off and short with about two dozen feathers. The wingspan is large and the breast muscles are strong which aid in their ability to glide and soar.

A pelican’s diet is mostly fish but they will eat crustaceans and frogs. Though a rarity, they will occasionally consume small birds. Pelicans will generally search for food in large groups. They will chase schools of fish toward the shore and scoop them up for a quick meal. Pelicans will also catch fish by piercing the fish with their bills. They will then pop it into the air and catch the fish in the air and slide it down into the gullet.

Warsaw Grouper

The killdeer is technically a plover and it is customarily found near the shore. They will also congregate in large, grassy fields such as golf courses and football fields. They eat insects and they stir up the bugs by running around in the grass. Killdeer have the typical characteristics of all plovers. Their bodies are slim and lean with long tail feathers that end in a point. They have round heads with short bills and large eyes. They are tawny colored with a white breast. The breast has two bands of black on it. The face has black and white markings. The rear area of the killdeer is orange in color.


Oystercatchers are wading birds. The feathering is usually solid black or black to brown with a white breast. They have large and long bills that are either red or orange. These birds are noisy. By noisy, I mean incredibly loud and boisterous and they can be very annoying.

Warsaw Grouper

The diet of the oystercatcher is shockingly varied. They will eat bugs, worms, oysters, clams, crabs, mussels and fish too. When they’re hungry they certainly have many options for finding dinner.

All oystercatchers are monogamous birds. They are very territorial and will not only defend each other but their nesting site as well. Researchers studied a pair of oystercatchers that stayed together and defended the same nesting area for more than 20 years!

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