Birds of Prey in The Everglades
The Florida Everglades is host to one of the most inviting environments for birds (and bird watchers) in the world. From herons to ibis, wood storks to spoonbills, the Everglades always provides a welcome habitat for birds of all shapes and sizes—including birds of prey.
Birds of prey, also known as raptors, are predatory birds, usually distinguished by a hooked bill and sharp talons. These birds are flesh-eating birds and include eagles, hawks, kites, vultures, falcons, and owls. Additionally, most birds of prey have keen vision, a fleshy mass at the base of the beak, and extremely powerful flight.
The osprey is a bird of prey that is found worldwide and can be identified by its mostly white belly and chest and black back. The head of an Osprey is quite striking; it is bisected by a dark eye-stripe and gleaming yellow eyes. The talons of an osprey have evolved to catch and carry fish as they are quite rough and their toes are held with three toes forward and one in reverse. Often confused with gulls while in flight, an osprey traditionally has more bounce to their flight pattern. Ospreys are frequently seen near rivers, estuaries, salt marshes and large bodies of water. When these creatures spot prey, the plunge feet first into to the water to snatch their catch. Additionally, keep an eye out for their large nests. The nests are usually near water located on top of dead trees or utility/nesting poles. The best time to spot an osprey in the Everglades? Winter!
If you are exploring a swamp forest near woods and water, chances are, you are in red-shouldered hawk territory. Identify a red-shouldered hawk by its red and peach colored underside and black and white wings. Feasting on mice, frogs, and snakes, the red-shoulder hawk is a swift predator and a strong, steady flier. Interestingly, red-shouldered hawks return to the same nesting territory year after year. Look for their nests in a tall tree below the canopy but toward the tree top, usually in the main trunk. Nest trees are often near a pond, stream, or swamp.
Keep your cameras ready!