Breeding Colors on Display at Gatorland

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It was cloudy and rainy for a good half of my vacation week.  On the first day that it wasn’t raining, I headed over to Gatorland, figuring that the 80% cloudcover would let me shoot all morning.  I was pleased to find that many of the birds were still in their brilliant breeding plumage.  I love the Cattle Egrets with their showy pinks, purples, and oranges.  All morning I saw Cattle Egrets who had already lost their bright colors.  Finally I spotted one still in bright color, and I stalked him with my lens until I had some good images.

Cattle Egret in Breeding Colors
Cattle Egret in Breeding Colors

I love using my 500mm Beast at Gatorland.  It makes it so easy to isolate birds and get great head shots.  I think the sun actually came out for a very short time just as my target Cattle Egret posed.  Sweet!

When I wasn’t watching the Cattle Egret, I spent most of the rest of my time with a Snowy Egret who was still in pretty good color.  The Snowies are such show-offs.  With that lacy breeding plumage and bright red face, they are very pretty.  They are also very animated, doing this little gobble-gobble-gobble call and chasing each other from branch to branch as they pursue their courtship activities.  I watched this one repeated throw his head into the air to show his superiority to all females looking for a mate.

Showy Snowy Egret
Showy Snowy Egret

I was surprised to see a few Great Egrets still in their bright green colors.  The Great Egrets are the first to move into the rookery in early February.  By late April, most pairs have mostly-grown babies.  It’s funny how the biggest birds take the longest to fledge.  The Great Egret teenagers are still standing on their nests, begging for food, long after the younger Snowy chicks have fledged.

Great Egret in Green
Great Egret in Green

Anhingas also nest in the Gatorland wading bird rookery, mostly on the “afternoon light” side.  Because we had no light, I was able to turn around and shoot in that direction.  I spotted this nest nestled in a tree, and one very tired-looking Mom who was trying to keep her four babies fed.  I love how all four beaks are in her face in the photo below.  The one who is begging the hardest is the one who had just finished sticking his head down her throat to eat some nice regurgitated fish.  Such demanding children!

Demanding Anhinga Chicks
Demanding Anhinga Chicks

There was a pair of Great-crested Flycatchers that were courting in the rookery as well.  High up in the trees, they were a little hard to photograph.  It’s fun to think that there will be tiny crested babies.

Great-crested Flycatcher
Great-crested Flycatcher

So it was a fun morning, despite the bad weather.  I didn’t spent much time in the rookeries last spring, and it was nice to walk around and observe the birds.  They always make me laugh.  Here’s another shot of my Cattle Egret in his beautiful colors.  Look at those red eyes!

Cattle Egret Head On
Cattle Egret Head On

Want to learn more about nature photography at Gatorland Rookery?

Check out my Gatorland Rookery page with more information about the location, map, website, photography tips, etc. It is archived by date so you can see my images from previous visits. Maybe you'll be inspired for your own trip!

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4 thoughts on “Breeding Colors on Display at Gatorland

  1. I think you finally identified a bird that I have been trying to figure out for years! Every spring, I get a bunch of those fly catchers all around my house (near a wooded area). They peck on my windows! I’ve looked in all of my bird books and could never find a bird that fit. THANK YOU for solving my mystery! :)

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