On a recent beach walk at Don Pedro and Palm Islands I enjoyed seeing a number of beautiful birds that feed on different portions of the beach and which have become tame due to familiarity with beach-walking humans which do not threaten them.
This male ruddy turnstone is becoming brightly colored in preparation for breeding after an upcoming long flight to northern Canada. Its name is appropriate since one of its feeding strategies is to flip over shells and beach debris looking for small crustaceans.
In contrast with the turnstone, this Wilson’s plover will breed right here on our beaches and is doing the “low walk” which is one behavior associated with a mated pair. The large beak is well suited for catching and cracking small ghost crabs that live on the lower and middle beach.
You might be surprised to see this yellow-crowned night heron out on the beach during daylight, but they specialize i n eating crabs and this is a prime location for it to catch ghost crabs. It is more typical to find them back in the mangroves or on mud flats chasing fiddler crabs.
Snowy egrets are everyone’s favorite with their beautiful plumes and elegant “golden slippers” on their feet, which are used in a shuffling gait to scare up prey in shallow water. Here on the lower beach the snowy is looking for a variety of prey including small fish and mole crabs. This particular snowy is unusual in that its nasal region is bright red- a condition rarely seen but characteristic of breeding animals.
So while out on the beach catching some rays or looking for sharks teeth, pause and enjoy the remarkable birds that share our sandy paradise.
Bill Dunson, Englewood, FL & Galax, VA