Its shrill “killy-killy-killy” can help identify this noisy falcon. The adult male kestrel has long, blue-gray wings and a long rusty tail. The plumage of the female and young is rather dull. Kestrels have reddish backs, a rusty, streaked belly, and a white face with double black stripes. A quick and tireless hunter of insects, small rodents, and birds, it is often seen hovering in one position looking for prey. Common across much of the country, it is a winter resident in the Reserve and does not breed locally.
Found in southern swamps and estuaries, the anhinga is also known as the snakebird because it swims with its body submerged, with only its head and long neck above water. Both sexes are dark colored, but the male’s wings have a silvery-gray streaking pattern, and the female has a buff-colored neck and breast. The anhinga has a long, serrated bill that is well suited for spearing fish, and a long tail. Although it prefers fresh water, the anhinga can be seen throughout the Reserve.
A victim of pesticides and human encroachment, the Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) is making a comeback in many areas of its former range. Although it is a year-round resident and breeds in South Florida, the Bald Eagle is no longer on Florida's imperiled list. The adult bird is 30 - 43 inches in length and is easily identified by its white head and tail and large yellow bill. A young Eagle is mostly black. While they are known scavengers, the Bald Eagle's main diet consists of fish. Several Eagle pairs nest on the reserve annually.
The belted kingfisher is a pigeon-sized bird, blue-gray above and white below. Both sexes have the characteristic crest and blue chest band. Generally solitary, the kingfisher uses the same few perches to hunt for fish, although it also feeds on insects, mice, crabs and lizards. Belted kingfishers are commonly seen throughout the Reserve most of the year, but leave the area to breed in summer.
The black skimmer (Rynchops niger) is a handsome black and white water bird with a red and black bill. Its elongated lower mandible, which extends well beyond the tip of its upper bill, slices through the water like a knife as it feeds on small fish near the surface. Black skimmers make shallow scrape nests in the sand from May through August. The black skimmer is a Species of Special Concern seen along Florida’s beaches and inlets.
The black vulture differs from the turkey vulture by its shorter, squared tail and whitish patches on the tips of its broad wings, and its legs are longer and whiter. Its feet extend to the edge of or beyond its tail. Its wings are usually flat in flight. In the Reserve, the black vulture and turkey vulture are often seen flying together.
A tiny but animated bird, the blue-gray gnatcatcher is fairly noticeable year round in treetops as it catches small insects. It is bluegray above with white underparts. Its long tail is darker gray with white outer feathers. It has a white eye-ring. The call of the bluegray gnatcatcher is a nasal “pwee,” which it utters frequently.
The brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) is approximately 48" long with a wingspan of nearly seven feet. It is unlike other pelicans in that it spots fish from the air and plunges into the water bill-first. This is a tricky maneuver that must be quickly learned by fledgling birds if they are to avoid starvation. Immature birds are mostly grayish brown with white under parts, whereas adults have a dark belly and a white or yellow head depending on season.