Friday, February 5, 2010

Ancient looking Wood Storks, Boat-tailed Grackles and more at Clear Lakes Community Park

My next stop was the Eagle Lakes Community Park on the Tamiami Trail. According to BirdsEye I would find some interesting birds there and was not disappointed. The park was an ordinary looking suburban park with a large parking lot, ball courts and a children's play area, not very promising. At the parking lot I had run into a birder carrying a tripod and scope who told me  that there were three lakes. At the one that he had gone to he had only seen some Blue Jays that morning. So I was very surprised when walking past the ball court to the first lake I saw a very tame Wood Stork stand on the grass near the water.

The head appears to be all horned calluses and the neck thick knobbed leather, looking very ancient and out of place in our current Cenozoic (post dinosaur) era. There are no fossil records in N. America. The bill is used for probing for prey -mostly fish - in shallow waters, sometimes accompanied by foot stomping and wing flapping. I have no clue what's the advantage of the naked neck, perhaps as protection against sun, against insects? I could not find anything on it in my reading.

When you see the bird's somewhat lumbering flapping flight it is hard to imagine that it soars and rides the thermals at a height of  more than half a mile up to cover longer distances, which costs about one tenth the energy of flapping flight. 

Other birds at that site included a Great Egret

.... a Little Blue Heron

... a Glossy Ibis in non-breeding plumage

and an Anhinga in a fruit tree

On my way back to the parking lot I ran into a gaggle of Boat-tailed Grackles. These are sleek looking large birds that, when in  group, are almost constantly engaged in a loud chatter, an ever changing cacophony of screeches, jeebs, clucks, gurgles and rattles. With so many different sounds there must be a specific meaning to each.

Female Boat-tailed Grackle

Male Boat-tailed Grackle

An odd fact from  Cornell Lab's All About Birds: "The Boat-tailed Grackle has an odd mating system: harem defense polygyny. Females cluster their nests, and the males compete to defend the entire colony and mate there. The most dominant male gets most of the copulations in a system similar to that used by many deer. But all is not as simple as it seems. Although the dominant male may get up to 87% of the copulations at a colony, DNA fingerprinting shows that he actually sires only about 25% of the young in the colony. Most of the young are fathered by noncolony males away from the colonies."

To be continued....


  1. Hi Hilke,
    What a post again!! I love the two last pictures a lot, first because the birds are extraordinary and second because the pictures are really great! But to say the truth, I found all the pictures very nice and you are lucky to see so many beautiful birds at once!

  2. Thanks again, Chris. Each day was a totally absorbing experience, total immersion in birding and bird photography.


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