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The Gatorland Rookery is Covered in Fledging Birds

The Gatorland Rookery is crawling with birds these days.  Fledglings seem to have appeared out of nowhere — all those hidden nests are empty now and their occupants are getting as high in the tree branches as they can.  It was amusing to see the rows of fledglings along the boardwalk, fences, and observation tower as I arrived this morning.

There is a nest near the North Gazebo that started out as a Little Blue Heron nest, then it was reclaimed by some Tricolored Herons.  The eggs have hatched now, and I heard their cries for food before I saw them.

Tricolored Heron mother and babies

Tricolored Heron mother and babies

I was a little surprised to still see tiny babies at the rookery today.  There was even still some incubation going on.  I spent a few minutes watching this nest of Snowy Egrets.  I think those babies are the cutest in the rookery. :)

Snowy Egret mother and babies

Snowy Egret mother and babies

In the trees above, a Double-Crested Cormorant mother was feeding her almost fully grown chick.  Then the mother flew off, leaving the chick to pose in the great morning light.

Double-Crested Cormorant Juvenile

Double-Crested Cormorant Juvenile

I did not see my little cormorant at the Observation Today today.  Like Mike says, he’s too big to have fallen, so he must have fully fledged.  It was sure fun to watch him grow up.

The Cattle Egret chicks have gotten much bigger since my last rookery visit, and a bunch of them have fledged.  As they sat proudly at the tops of the trees over their old nests, there was much fussing each time their parents came by with a mouthful of food!

Cattle Egret fledglings

Cattle Egret fledglings

The Cattle Egret parents seemed rather frazzled with the exuberance of their chicks.  The juvenile birds go into such a feeding frenzy anytime the adults are nearby.  The parents usually end up flying off to a nearby tree to escape the eager beaks of their babies!

Snowy Egret fledgling

Snowy Egret fledgling

There are usually grackles around at the Rookery, but today was the first day that I noticed a European Starling there.  This guy posed in the bright sunlight for me, showing off his colorful feathers.  I had to stop and take a picture for Mum-mum.

European Starling

European Starling

This Snowy Egret posed for me at the second level of the Observation Tower.  He sat there scratching his head and preening for the longest time.  If birds could talk, I think this one might have said, “So what was I thinking when I decided to have all these kids?  How long will it be before they can feed themselves?”

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

A Black Vulture posed for me, too.

Black Vulture

Black Vulture

The Little Blue Herons have a definite presence in the northern part of the rookery, by the North Gazebo, but they like to hide.  There is one nest by the gazebo that hatched a few weeks ago, and now the single juvenile is fledging.  It was hard to get a decent picture of him, but he finally peeked out from between the branches.

Little Blue Heron fledgling

Little Blue Heron fledgling

There is another nest, which has been under incubation for several weeks.  Today I finally noticed a tiny chick moving around in there, next to two remaining eggs.  I suspect the baby hatched while I was there this morning, because I’m pretty sure I saw three eggs when I first arrived.

Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron

There are still plenty of Great Egrets in the rookery.  It’s so funny to see them fussing for food when they are the same size as their parents, and right next to them, smaller egrets and herons of half their ages are already fledged and caring for themselves!

Great Egret juveniles

Great Egret juveniles

There is a dead palm near the Observation Tower that has hosted a Red-bellied Woodpecker nest this spring.  There was a lot of activity around that nest this morning.  First the parents flew in and out of it several times, then I noticed the baby flying around too!

Red-bellied woodpecker family

Red-bellied woodpecker family

I guess I should admit a Photoshop merge here.  The top two birds were photographed together, then the bottom bird flew by a few seconds later.  But I thought the merged shot was more fun, especially since it juxtaposes the adult and juvenile birds.