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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Boat-tailed Grackle

Boat-tailed Grackles range along the northern Gulf and Atlantic coasts but seem to be everywhere in south Florida. These big blackbirds populate the parking lots of shopping centers, looking for handouts, and paint our cars with their droppings. We hear their persistent raucous calls from the rooftops and treetops. Their noises can only be described as a highly variable jumble of whistles, squeaks, crackles, rattles and non-vocal bill-snapping and rustling of wings

Boat-tailed Grackle

Boat-tailed Grackle 3-20091129


Boat-tailed Grackle 20090326

Boat-tailed Grackle 20091119

Although they are birds of the marshes and Everglades, Boat-tailed Grackles adapt well to the suburban environment and set up colonies of females dominated by a single male who may defend a "harem" of several dozen females, permitting only a few other older ranking males to mate with them. Dominance between the males is maintained by an elaborate display which involves confrontation, alternate vocalizing, fluttering and posturing. This seems to ward off most violent struggles. Eye color varies from dark brown or black in south Florida to yellowish or straw-colored to the north and along Atlantic seaboard and the Gulf coast.

Boat-tailed Grackle fight 20110526

Boat-tailedGrackle2008_03_14


This display took place on our south Florida lawn. The males each took turns calling and fluttering as the other froze in a bill-up posture:

Boat-tailed Grackles 20110729

Boat-tailed Grackle Dance1 20100730

Boat-tailed Grackle Dance2 20100730

Boat-tailed Grackle Dance3 20100730

Boat-tailed Grackle Dance4 20100730

Linking to WEEKEND REFLECTIONS:

Crossed swords 20110202


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Female Boat-tailed Grackles are smaller and quite different in appearance from the males. For much of the year they gather in same-sex flocks away from the males, whose displays intensify as the breeding season approaches. Younger males and females often passively watch the competition between the dominant older males. 

Boat-tailed Grackle female 20130922

BoatTailGrackFemale2008_03_26

Boat-tailed Grackle female 20111122

Our local population is essentially non-migratory but in winter is supplemented by visitors from the north. At dawn and dusk we may see large flocks moving back and forth between communal roosts. They are opportunitic omnivores, seeming to eat anything from linsects and lizards on our lawns to seeds, grain and garbage. Their long legs are an adaptation to feeding in shallow water, where they capture small aquatic organisms by sight, almost like miniature herons. 

To the west, the similar Great-tailed Grackle species replaces the Boat-tailed. The former have bright yellow eyes.

Great-tailed Grackle:

Great-tailed Grackle 2-20111110

Linking to GOOD FENCES:

Great-tailed Grackle 20111110

The smaller Common Grackle also has yellow eyes:

Common Grackle 3-20110414



Common Grackle 20110923

A winter gathering of a mixed flock of grackles against a gray sky, Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY :

A gathering of grackles 20121127


Linking to BirdD'Pot

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday

Linking to CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to SATURDAY'S CRITTERS

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Please visit the links to all these memes to see some excellent photos on display

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Bald Eagle's mate update

As reported in an earlier post, we have been monitoring a Bald Eagle nest for the past 8 breeding seasons. The same pair, named "Pride" and "Joy" hatched out at least 13 chicks over that period of time, all but two of which fledged successfully. Now many of their young are old enough to have families of their own. 

Sadly, "Joy" disappeared in late October, 2014 and Pride continued refurbishing the nest, sitting in it and also apparently making forays in search of a new mate. After some confusing appearances of at least three young eagles, Pride may have settled on the first female he introduced to us, whom we are calling "Newfie" (for new female). After we know they have settled down the nest watchers plan to use a poll to select a permanent name for her. 

One of the favored fishing grounds for the eagles is the large lake in Sunset Lakes, our development, here seen at sunrise:

Sunset Lakes3 sunrise HDR COREL 20150202

They sometimes roost atop the lighthouse in the middle of the lake:

Lighthouse Island at dawn 20150202

Pride appears to be bonding well with Newfie. Very large and in early 5th year plumage, she is assumed to have just turned 4 years old. Her head and tail have not yet turned fully white, although we have watched the progress of her molt over the past three months of their on-again off-again courtship. I arrived at the nest at about 9:40 AM on January 28 and found fellow nest watcher Liza already there. 

Pride had been spending much time on the nest, apparently trying to lure her to join him. Pride and his first mate usually had eggs by mid-December and eaglets would have hatched out a couple of weeks ago. We are concerned that the ideal period for breeding has passed. 

Bald Eagle male in nest 20150102

Two days earlier, "Newfie" was visiting the nest, but only stayed on it briefly.

Bald Eagle Newfie on nest 3-20150126

Liza had been watching for some time but had not seen any eagles. After about 20 minutes the female flew in from the west to the nest area.  She was carrying a good sized fish that looked like a shad. 

Bald Eagle female with fish 20150128

The female circled with it and ended up roosting on top of  a Melaleuca snag to the west of the nest and proceeded to eat the fish. 

Bald Eagle female in flight 20150128

Bald Eagle female with fish 5-20150128

Bald Eagle female with fish 992-20150128

Bald Eagle female with fish 96-20150128

About 10 minutes later (10:20 AM) the male flew in from the SW carrying a small fish which he promptly devoured. 

Bald Eagle male returns to roost 2-20150128

He roosted on an adjacent snag slightly above the female, watching her as she ate. The female finished, at about 10:26 AM. 

Bald Eagle male arrives 20150128

Pride flew out over the road briefly and promptly returned. 

Bald Eagle male returns to roost 20150128

Then Pride flew down and they copulated for about 1 minute 10 seconds. 

Bald Eagles copulating 2-20150128

Bald Eagles mating 2-20150128

Bald Eagles mating 4-20150128

It appeared to have been a successful mating, unlike some the brief attempts that had previously occurred. The male then flew back up to roost briefly before flying off at 10:31 AM. "Newfie" remained on the roost until the male came flying back carrying a stick, and at about 10:50 AM she joined him. 

Bald Eagle female after mating 20150128

Bald Eagle male carries stick 20150128

Both circled high over the nest area, but the male disappeared to the south. When I departed at about 11:00 AM the female had disappeared high and to the south. 

Bald Eagle female soaring 3-20150128

Bald Eagle male soaring 2-20150128


As of February 16, 2015 the nest remained empty. I believe that the chance for a successful breeding season this winter is nil. Hope they will both return as a bonded couple next October!

Bald Eagle empty nest 20150216

Back in March, 2009 a protective fence was put in place by the City of Pembroke Pines, owner of the property. This year as in all the subsequent years, the traffic cones will remain in place until May 15, the official end of the eagles' breeding season:
Fence Construction At Eagle Nest Site Underway 20090306

One of the adult eagles chases an Osprey, forcing it to give up its fish (December 20, 2010). Admittedly there is only a very faint reflection because of the waves:

Bald Eagle 0739-19 AM 20121010

Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,

Linking to GOOD FENCES by Tex (Theresa). 

Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY by Yogi, Sylvia and Sandy

Linking to WEEKEND REFLECTIONS by James

Linking to BirdD'Pot by Anni

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday by Stewart

________________________________________________

Please visit the links to all these memes to see some excellent photos on display

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