The Raptors are Coming! The Raptors are Coming! Scooter… Bar the Door!

"Dinner's here! Dinner's here!"

“Dinner’s here! Dinner’s here!”

Remember when we were children and we’d grab a bowl of popcorn to watch the Wonderful World of Disney and all the great characters on the shows? There we were… huddled on the floor with blankets… excited smiles gracing our tender faces; bathed with innocence and the light, blue glow of the TV screen? We learned to love all the animals that played together, happily safe in the trust that everyone got along well and no one got hurt. So sweet! 

And, then…we grew up, discovered Wild Kingdom and were rightly… horrified! 

That’s when we learned that cartoons aren’t  -in fact– real… and that nature isn’t all “Thumpers” and “Bambis”. Paging Dr. Freud!! Owls don’t offer wise advice to the poor, lost blue birds and the sage hawks could really care less what plights the sparrows were in. As much as we’d all like to picture nature in the Disney sense; masses of furry little moppet-like rodents with bulbous, dewy brown eyes and cherubic cheeks dancing alongside ever-protective hawks and wise old owls, nature isn’t quite so PC about things. With all due respect to Disney’s attempts at a Utopian animal society, it’s really more like… well… a hurried “cooking” scene from Breaking Bad where the top of the food chain dine upon the lower rungs and no apology is afforded.

Sorry, Walt!

But, much to Scooter’s chagrin, raptors play a vital and very important role in Florida’s ecosystem. While some wild birdwatchers lament the site of a hawk or eagle perusing the unsuspecting feather buffet at their backyard habitats, they should know that one of the best signs of a healthy backyard wild bird habitat is a good selection of raptors. It’s a big catch 22. We know.

To coin a Disney phrase, “It’s the circle of life” that we can’t deny. At this year’s RaptorFest, hosted by the Boyd Hill Nature Preserve in St.Petersburg, Wild Birds Unlimited in Clearwater/Safety Harbor was invited to set up our booth. We learned SO much about these stunning birds, their habitat and breeding habits and, yes… what they like to eat.

Sorry Scooter… you are on the menu.

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Let’s take a look at some of Florida’s local raptor guests and see if we can’t gain some understanding of their purpose, their usefulness and their undeniable beauty.

peregribe falcon
Peregrine Falcon:
These stately birds nest in metro areas and feed on many birds we would find common in our back yard habitats in Florida. As prolific breeders, Peregrine Falcons are found on every continent but Antarctica and are known as the fastest flying birds in the world with a dive speed of nearly 200 miles per hour.
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American Bald Eagle

Eaglets_Nesting_F_TSteffer bald eaglesFamous as America’s symbol of strength, resilience and beauty, the American Bald Eagle is one of only a handful of wild bird species that many aviary experts consider truly monogamous. Here in Florida, our live streaming videos of our local Bald Eagles make for entertaining and educational viewing.

 
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american kestrel
American Kestrel
Although they dine mostly on a diet of insects and lizards, these beautiful raptors in the falcon family will occasionally make a meal out of a small bird.
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vulture        Vultures  

 Whether the turkey or the black, these useful partners in the health of Florida’s delicate ecosystem serve to clear away the remains of deceased animals. In doing so, these year-round Florida residents help to prevent the spread of disease and provide a useful service in ensuring the health of Florida’s wildlife population.

Although seemingly unwelcome in Florida’s backyard habitats, raptors actually serve a very important role in Florida’s eco-structure. By keeping rodent and reptile populations in check, as well as ensuring the health and longevity of strong generations of our favorite wild bird visitors, these beautiful birds ensure a healthy and fortified progression of our treasured Florida habitats.
Sorry Scooter! ‘Tis true!
Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop
Sigh… Scooter remembers! 
Credits:
FWC logoFlorida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission 
http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/profiles/birds/raptors-and-vultures/
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Hammock Bird Banding

A dynamic update on the Migratory Bird Banding Project in Hammock Park, Dunedin, Florida.

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