As a native Michigander I’ve long had a bit of disdain for most of our native birds. They’re small, jumpy, and difficult to photograph and identify. I found the even tinier and more elusive insects to be far easier to study.
A few years ago I swore off birds as completely annoying and uninteresting to me. Then I visited Florida.
Many of the birds in southern Florida are completely unlike many of the birds here in Michigan. They’re large, relatively slow, and easy to photograph and identify. Here in Michigan there are exceptions like the sandhill crane, but overall our tiny birds drive me nuts. In Florida I was exposed to a variety of fascinatingly colorful, large, and exotic birds that were far easier to examine. Just outside my room on Grassy Key I watched and photographed this beautiful big white bird right on the beach.
Initially I was unsure if this was a great egret (Ardea alba, Ardeidae) or a related heron. With black legs and a long straight yellow bill, however, I realized this was unmistakably a great egret. This individual was slowly wading along a tidal flat looking for small fish. Every once in a while it would grab one and swallow it.
Around the turn of the twentieth century large numbers of these birds were killed to use their plumage in the fashionable hats of the time. Since conservation measures were put into place their numbers have increased, and they are again common along the southern United States.