A Weekend of Birding at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Titusville, Florida


The following pictures were taken during a weekend of birding at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida, on January 29 and 30, 2005. Most of the photography was done with film cameras: Nikon FE and a FM2 with a 180mm lens and a 300mm lens. The majority of the shorebird pictures were taken with a 180mm lens.
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Short-billed Dowitcher
Short-billed Dowitcher and Ruddy Turnstone and Dunlin

 

This Short-billed Dowitcher is demonstrating rhynchokinesis, the ability of the tip of the bill of many shorebirds to be very pliable. Once the Dowitcher has stuck its head into the kelp to feed (see the Dowitcher in the far right of the next picture) it is able to use the tip of the bill to feel for various organisms.  

 

This picture shows two Short-billed Dowitchers, a Ruddy Turnstone, and a Dunlin to the left of the Turnstone.  
Short-billed Dowitcher
Sanderling, Short-billed Dowitcher, and Dunlin

 

  The Short-billed Dowitcher is on the far left, and the Sanderling is in front of the Dunlin. (This picture was taken with a digital point and shoot.)  
Western Sandpiper
Shorebird Group

 

  Many Western Sandpipers spend the winter on the coast of Florida. This bird shows the typical winter plumage.  

 

  The Short-billed Dowitcher is on the upper left, the Dunlin is on the right and the Western Sandpiper is on the lower left.  
Dunlin
Ruddy Turnstone

 

  Ruddy Turnstone is on the lower right and is feeding in the company of two Short-billed Dowitchers and a Western Sandpiper on the left. Notice how deep the Dowitchers put their beak into the kelp (by the mud at the base of their beak).  
Shorebird Group
Anhinga

 

  There are five species of shorebirds in this picture. From the right there is a Short-billed Dowitcher, Dunlin, Western Sandpiper, Sanderling, and Least Sandpiper.  

 

  Anhingas are related to cormorants and like cormorants have to dry their feathers after swimming after fish.  
Black Vulture
Black Vulture

 

  This group of Black Vultures was hanging out on the roof of the Visitor's Center of Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  

Fish Crow
Fish Crow

 

  Fish Crows are about 10% smaller than their relative the American Crow. Here a group of Fish Crows feeds with a female Boat-tailed Grackle.  
Fish Crow
Northern Mockingbird

 

  It is possible to see the nictating membrane of the Crow's right eye in this picture.  

Florida Scrub Jay
Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

 

  The Florida Scrub Jay was previously considered a sub-species of the Scrub Jay.  

 

  Gnatcatchers, like a few other songbirds, can gather food by a process called hover-glean foraging. Hover-glean foraging is when a bird briefly hovers in the air as it hunts for insects from the underside of the leaves.  
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler

 

  This picture shows one of the reasons why this species was renamed the Yellow-rumped Warbler.  
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