The Birds of Shoreline
The following are some of the birds that inhabit the Shoreline environs. We invite you to take a walk along the paths at Shoreline and discover some of the following.
The Great Blue Heron
The Great Blue Heron (Ardea Herodias) is a wading bird. It is blue-gray overall, with black flight feathers, red-brown thighs, and a paired red-brown and black stripe up the flanks. The neck is rusty gray wit black and white streaking down the front. The head is paler with a nearly white face, and a pair of black plumes running from just above the eye to the back of the head. The feathers on the lower neck are long and plume-like. The Great Blue Heron also has plumes on the lower back at the start of the breeding season. The bill is a dull yellowish color which becomes orange, briefly at the start of the breeding season. A similar color change occurs likewise, at the start of the breeding season when the bird’s lower legs appear gray. The call is a harsh croak and is most often heard bring the breeding season when the bird is more likely to vocalizing. They do, however, vocalize throughout the year, though most often only when they have been disturbed or involved in a territorial dispute.
The Snowy Egret
The Snowy Egret (Egretta Thula) is a smaller version of a white heron. It has a slim black bill and long black legs which terminate with their yellow feet. The ear of the upper bill, in front of the eyes, is yellow but turns red during the breeding season, when the adult also gain recurved plumes on the back, giving the bird an almost shaggy appearance. The birds subsist on a diet made up primarily of fish, crustaceans, and insects. The birds stalk their prey in shallow water by running or shifting their feet so as to flush the prey into view. The also partake in “deep fishing” by flying with their feet just over the water. At one time the beautiful plumes of the Snowy Egret were in great demand by market hunters as decorations for women’s hats. This reduced the population of the species to dangerously low levels. Today the Snowy Egret is protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and as such, this birds populations have rebounded.
Black-Crowned Night Heron
The Black-Crowned Night Heron (Nycticoraz) or Night Raven is called such as a correlation to the species nocturnal habits and the sound of its harsh crow-like call. The heron is considered a migratory species outside the tropical boundaries of its typically extensive range. For example, the North American population winters in Mexico, the Southern United States, Central America, and the West Indies while the Old World birds winter in tropical climates of Central and Western Africa, and Southern Asia.
The Song Sparrow is considered to be a medium seized sparrow with a short bill, round head, bulky body, broad wings, rounded tail. The bird, which spends most of its time inhabiting small trees or shrubs is easily identifiable as one of the most common of all North American Birds. It has a body of mainly streaked brown feathers with a white chest and similarly colored flanks. The diet of the bird consists mainly of small insects and seeds and they forage for their food by flitting though underbrush, though they do occasionally emerge from said underbrush and venture into open areas in search of food. The Song Sparrow typically lives in open areas such as marsh areas, dessert washes, or overgrown fields.
The Common Yellowthroat is a wood warbler which is easily identifiable thanks, in part to its white chest, yellow throat, and brown back. Males also exhibit a black mask around their face and eyes. Females of the species however, are typically brown, lack a mask, and retain only a slight hint of yellow on the body, when compared to males. The Common Yellowthroat commonly inhabits dense wet areas of land with low vegetation or dense shrubbery. They breed typically in marshlands, with females laying three to five eggs in a cup-shaped nest.
The Burrowing Owl (Athene Cunicularia) is a small long legged owl found throughout the open landscapes of both North and South America. The Burrowing Owl is unique in that both males and females are approximately the same size which is a characteristic not commonly found in other species of Owls. Adult owls are predominantly brown in color with white spotting and their bellies are white with brown spotting. Juvenile owls, however, while similar in appearance lack most of the white spotting above and brown barring below. They also have a buff colored bar across the upper portion of their wings and their breast will appear more of a buff color that the white of the adult counterparts. Mature males differentiate themselves only slightly for the females of the species in that their feathers appear lighter in color, though that tends to be as a result of the bleaching that occurs due, in part to the time they spend outside of the burrows darkness. The average adult is only slightly larger than the average American Robin at 9 - 11 inches in height and with a 21 inch wingspan. They weight approximately 6 ounces.
They nest and roost in burrows often abandoned by prairie dogs and live in close proximity to ground squirrels., though tend not to prey upon those animals. The make their burrows in loose sand utilize aspect of the natural world around them to enhance the burrows as necessary. During nesting season, for example, Burrowing Owls will collect mammal feces for the twofold purpose of maintaining a relatively consistent microclimate within the burrow as well as for its insect attracting properties. The insects can then be added to the owl’s diet.
Burrowing Owls are considered to be one of the most diurnal of all owls. While considered diurnal, and are often very active during the day, they tend to avoid the mid-day heat though their hunting activities occur both during the day and night. They tend to perch and wait for prey to enter their space, then fly towards it and swoop down on it, often catching insects in midflight. However, that is not their only means of catching prey as they are often found chasing their prey on the ground. Their diet includes, but is not entirely limited to some small animals and other birds, species of amphibians, and various insects though they tend to subsist primarily on rodents and large insects.
The Burrowing Owl is an endangered species in Canada, threatened in Mexico, and is considered a Species of Special Concern in Florida and the majority of the Western United States. The species are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in all those aforementioned locations. The main reasons for a decrease in their populations in North America in no particular order are, motor vehicle accidents, Prairie Dog mitigation, and an overarching loss of natural habitat space. For information on habitat restoration, improvement, and programs utilized at Shoreline click here.