February 22, 2019
I took a picture of a bluejay the other day that was splayed out on the ground in a peculiar fashion and appeared to be injured, but I wasn’t sure. So I kept watching and I kept taking pictures –all the while wondering what was going on. Eventually, though, the bird moved—but only to spread itself out again a few feet away. I’d never seen this kind of behavior in a bird before and was surprised to find out later that it is called ‘sunbathing’ or ‘sunning’ and that many other birds do the same thing.
“Bird sunning is the act of spreading out in full sunshine to expose plumage and skin to direct sunlight. Hundreds of bird species engage in sunning, and some of the most common birds that birders may see sunning include doves, pigeons, vultures, cormorants, darters, anhingas, tits, titmice, jays, and sparrows.” (https://www.thespruce.com/bird-sunning-386442)
I’ve seen the anhingas here in Florida ‘sunning’ themselves in order to dry out their wings, but they never splay themselves out on the ground like this bluejay. They stand out in the sun with their wings spread as if they were greeting the day with open arms.
On the very same walk as the sunbathing bluejay, I saw a type turtle that I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. It was swimming along in the creek under the bridge where I was standing. My Internet search led me to believe that it was a Florida Box Turtle, but a few things didn’t add up. The coloring and the patterning were a definite match, but the turtle I saw seemed bigger than the ones described and didn’t seem to have the ‘highly domed shell’ that’s typical for box turtles. Its apparent ‘flatness’, though, may have been because it was in the water and I was looking at it from overhead. The thing that perplexed me the most, though, was that this turtle was swimming through fairly deep water and, according to what I found online, “The Florida box turtle…usually does not enter water deep enough to swim.” Maybe this one was an anomaly.
Both of these mysteries got me thinking about some of the other critters I have seen over the last few weeks here in Florida and I set off to find out something interesting or perplexing about each of them. Here’s what a found…
Wood Stork Fun Fact: The wood stork has earned the nickname “Preacher Bird” because they insist on the practice of standing around, as if contemplating life, after eating.
Tricolored Heron Fun Facts: When stalking prey, the Tricolored heron will go deeper into the water than any other heron. As the sun sets and the light is disappearing, herons become more frantic in their attempt to catch some prey before nightfall.
The other fun thing to know about pelicans is this limmerick that was written in 1910 by Dixon Lanier Merritt. I first learned it from my mother-in-law many years ago:
A wonderful bird is the pelican
His bill will hold more than his belican
He can take in his beak
Enough food for a week
But I’m damned if I see how the helican
This poem is actually quite accurate– a Brown Pelican’s pouch can hold more than its belly can! The pouch under its bill holds up to three gallons of water, while the stomach only holds about a gallon.