Thursday, October 29, 2020

Exotic paradise in our back yard

Here in south Florida, a large number of our common creatures (including my family) are actually non-native. Florida is inhabited by a great variety of non-native wild creatures, such as invasive and destructive Burmese Pythons, Cane Toads and feral hogs. Green Iguanas ate all our impatiens flowers and their burrows can damage and disrupt building foundations, levees and seawalls.

Here is a sampling of some I have encountered in our back yard.  

White-winged Doves moved up from Mexico and became popular targets for south Texas hunters in the early 1900s. During the 1980s they were spreading into the southwestern US and Florida. By the turn of the century they had been reported in human-disturbed areas through much of the the US and now have invaded  Alaska and much of southern and western Canada. 

In our suburban neighborhood they build their flimsy nests in live oaks and other roadside ornamental trees. One of their common calls sounds like "Who cooks for you?"

This is one of my favorite views of this species, taken through the window of our back patio:

A pair were roosting high on a dead tree along the Levee Trail:

Eurasian Collared-Doves are native to Europe and Asia. They have now spread through most of North America, descendants of about 50 birds which were released in the Bahamas during the 1970s. Favoring populated areas, they also nest in a variety of trees and ornamental shrubs as well as on human structures such as the tops of hurricane shutters and other niches in buildings. Their call seems to answer that of the White-winged species, "You cook too!"

A lovey-dovie pair snuggled up on a power line, while another posed out in the open:

Among the waterfowl, domesticated Mute Swans beautify some of the lakes in our subdivision. I have only seen them once in the wild, a flock of four flying over the Chapel Trail Nature Preserve in nearby Pembroke Pines:

A recent addition to the list of established exotic birds is the Egyptian Goose, a species which probably escaped from aviculturists' collections. Although wild birds were first reported as breeding in Florida in the 1980s, their south Florida population appears to have exploded during the  past 10 years. A few were first reported in our (Broward) County in 2006 and their numbers rapidly increased. I first saw them locally in 2011 and this was my first photo, one of a pair flying over the wetlands:

Since then, they have become a common sight in our back yard lake and are breeding locally.

Muscovy Ducks are not closely related to our native ducks but may be closer to the Egyptian Geese (which are not true geese, but relatives of the shelducks, sort of in between geese and ducks). 

Muscovy had been domesticated by the indigenous people of South America long before Europeans arrived, and many plumage variations have been selectively bred. They raise large families on our lake:

They fly high and roost on trees and rooftops:

Here, a Muscovy shares a neighbor's roof with an Egyptian Goose:

Although many Muscovy Ducks are dependent upon handouts from residents (a practice which is prohibited by the City), they may also be seen out on the wetlands:

European Starlings have been here so long that one might not think of them as "exotic," yet they are anything but ordinary:

Other backyard exotic fauna include reptiles such as the Green Iguana...

...and Brown Anoles native to Cuba and the Caribbean islands, here displaying its dewlap: 

Our native Green Anoles are out-competed by the Brown species:

Other exotic lizards are descended from imported pets. The population of the large Knight Anole is increasing:

The Curly-tailed Lizard is another established escapee:

Our granddaughter caught this baby Mediterranean Gecko in our back yard. They are usually found around or inside human structures.  Adults chirp and sing like little birds:

Cuban Tree frog on our window sill:

The Cane Toad (Bufo marinus), also known as the Giant Neotropical Toad or Marine Toad, was deliberatively imported in 1936 to control insect pests in Florida's cane fields.  (*See added footnote about the Cane Toad invasion in Australia, thanks to Erica*)  It is highly toxic and can kill a predator, including pet dogs and cats:

When threatened it secretes a milky-white poisonous fluid known as bufotoxin from its parotid glands:

Of course, I could go on and on, but I want to share a couple of back yard views of the sky to the east just after sunrise...

...and after sunset

*Erica-- Thanks for the information about the Cane Toad invasion in Australia. I had not heard about it. Here are a couple of links including the 1988 Australian film:

Cane Toads: The Conquest Official Trailer

Cane Toads An Unnatural History 1988

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Linking to:

Fences Around the World

Skywatch Friday

Weekend Reflections

Saturday's Critters

Bird D'Pot

Camera Critters

All Seasons

Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday)

Natasha Musing

Our World Tuesday

Wild Bird Wednesday


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


  1. Wonderful photos of your local wildlife. Wish we had a back yard lake ! The sky shots are also stunning. Keep safe Diane

  2. Hi Kenneth :) The Egyptian goose are beautiful...what a sight, I've never seen one before, I love the photo of them with their little ones. Doves are my favourite birds, I love their coo. We have mourning doves here and I love hearing them! The iguanas and frogs are so neat!

  3. Starlings are a nuisance around here..flying in large flocks eating everything in their paths..We have lots of Doves but I think Rain Doves or Mourning Doves are a different species than yours..They have a mournful call....hence the name..often sounding very similar to an Owl..You have wonderful back yard..Lovely pictures..

  4. Great stuff as usual. You're a real inspiration these days. I hope you don't mind that I mentioned that in my post to Owl's Farm. Finally managed to get some bird photos, even though I wasn't properly prepared when I took them. I do hope you get back to New Mexico at some point, though, being an old desert rat myself who really appreciates great photos of the West.

  5. I moved to Miami back in the 1970's and became friends with an 80-something year old darling. She told so many great stories about early south Florida. Her family was the first to settle and build in what is now Florida City. She said the doves in the sky in early 1900s was so full of doves folks leaned out the back door and shot them down. The birds were there when the first houses were built in Dade Co. I don't know what kind of doves.

  6. That's a lot more invasive creatures than I thought were there. That you could go on and on is a downer. Anyway, beautiful photos of the little beasties. My irritation here is mostly English sparrows and starlings.

  7. Beautiful pictures, I especially like the last one.
    Dawn aka Spatulas On Parade

  8. Your pictures are exquisite and you post very informative. I love all wildlife, but I can't say I would be happy to have a Cane Toad around as there are many pets that run loose in many areas. When I lived on a lake, we had wild Mute Swans that lived there and also flocks of them migrating through in the fall. They are beautiful birds, but can be aggressive and dangerous. Interesting that you have a Dove that says "Who Cooks For You". Here we have the Barred Owl who says "Who Cooks For You ... Who Cooks For You All". I would say he belongs in the south, but my guess is that you have them down there as well. This was a wonderful post, Ken. Just curious, where did you live before you moved to Florida?

    Andrea @ From The Sol

  9. Thank you for your nice comment... now I'm reading here and enjoy your fantastisc captures. Lovely birds and ... wow this leguan.

    Stay healthy and well.

  10. Cool critters in your yard! The iguana is fabulous. Your sky shots are awesome!

  11. Interesting collection of non native wildlife in Florida.

  12. Kenneth! I love those geese with the round eye masks :) About Doves, I always thought that Doves are just the white ones on weddings! Silly me! Because we have a local bird called batu-bato (translates to stone stone) because it can freeze like a stone! But I found out just lately that it's called a Zebra Dove! So it is a dove specie! super cool! And it has a cute song :)

    Than kyou so so much my friend Kenneth for joining Timeless Thursdays even from the start until now that it's growing :)

  13. Stunning bird shots, as always! Great shots of the lizards and frogs too; I love you know all the different species' names. Your backyard view shots are absolutely stunning! They took my breath away.

  14. Hi Kenneth, you have a fantastic blog full of extraordinary wildlife photos, everything I like. You have a new follower from the north of Spain. Greetings from

  15. Hello,
    Gorgeous photos of all the birds. Even though birds and critters are non-native, I still enjoy seeing all of them. The non-native Mute Swans can be very territorial chasing away our native Tundra Swans. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Take care, enjoy your day and weekend! PS, thank you for leaving me a comment.

  16. Hello. Wonderful serie of birds and other animals. Although the Starling is common and ordinary, I think it is a beautiful bird.
    Have a nice weekend.

  17. That's very interesting! Most of these we haven't seen here North of you but I would love to see that Dove. The Starling is beautiful too! Enjoy your weekend! The weather is fabulous right now! YAY!

  18. Really interesting reading. Amazing that all those doves (we have the Eurasian collared doves around here, too) came from so few. That's a lot of non-native reptiles around there as well. Love the sunrise and sunset photos!

  19. Have you seen the Australian film about the Cane Toads? I didn't know they were in the US. There are so many non-indigenous species aren't there? Fabulous photos and I learned a lot.

    1. @Erica-- Thanks for the information about the Cane Toad invasion in Australia. I had not heard about it. Here are a couple of links including the 1988 Australian film:
      Cane Toads: The Conquest Official Trailer

      Cane Toads An Unnatural History 1988

  20. Fabulous photos! Thanks for the tour. The pair on a dead tree look like statues in stillness. I have never seen an anole with their dewlap and tail like that before. And the clouds and water - how dramatic!

  21. What a wonderful collection of photos.
    Photos 3, 8, 10, 12, 15, 18, 19, 21 and 28 are my favorite.
    Beautiful Sunday and stay healthy.

  22. You have quite the collection of exotics, Ken!

    We share many of them here in west-central Florida.

    Fantastic sky-scape!

  23. What an amazing collection of wildlife. I love your photos.

  24. I am really behind in my visiting today since "life got in the way". Thanks for linking in at I'd Rather B Birdin this week.

    You shared some great birds & critters. One we have is the Muscovy duck, but I have never seen them flying. Awesome images all the way round Ken!

  25. Glad you found the Cane Toad invasion interesting. Thanks so much for the links!

  26. I enjoyed seeing all the "critters" in your neighborhood, Kenneth. We also have doves here in NH and starlings as well, but no iguanas or lizards in our area. Mu favorites here were those backyards views of sunrise and sunset, which are always spectacular!

  27. I am really speechless what wonderful animal scenes you have. Your report from your world is wonderful but also interesting. How many species are not native animals. The Egyptian geese are too much too much in our big cities. They look beautiful.
    What also excites me is the family character, oh how cute they are the young ones.
    The lovers of the pretty wild pigeons.
    Your landscape photos * wow * take your breath away.
    I was with you with joy and I thank you for your dear Comat with me.
    Take care, take care and I wish you a good November,Elke

  28. Wow, the white doves are pretty white. The muscovy duck and the Eur. starling have a luxurious and classy look about them. Have to admit the Floridian skies rival the Californian ones:) Many thanks Ken for sharing your knowledge in this delightful post with All Seasons, and also for also including the Iguanas. Jesh

  29. Wow, not just avian wonders but incredible reptiles and amphibians too. I loved this walk and as always the sunrise takes the cake.

    I look forward to having you join the next #WW edition. I'm going live soon.

    Have a good week, Ken. Stay safe.

  30. You've got a great collection here! Marvelous photos.
    Thanks for sharing at

  31. Wonderful photos and I especially enjoy the "love bird" photo! Thank you and have a wonderful week!

  32. Hello kenneth
    nice collection, I like the duck with chicks the most
    Greetings Frank

  33. Wow! I don't know how you keep finding such incredible creatures!!

    It's great to see your link at 'My Corner of the World' this week!

  34. Wonderful post! I love the ducklings.

  35. My goodness, this post was amazing. You got some great shots here. We lived on a canal in Miramar for 15 years before moving to Saudi Arabia. I kinda miss all the nature - the ducks (not their messy poop all over the place though!), the iguanas, the turtles. It was peaceful.


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