Laughing Gulls, Ospreys, Great Kiskadees, Great Blue Herons

The Laughing Gull is a medium-sized gull of North and South America. It breeds on the Atlantic coast of North America, the Caribbean, southern California, USA, and northern South America. Northernmost populations migrate further south in winter, and this species occurs as a rare vagrant to Western Europe. Laughing Gulls are a common sight along the Belize coast and this shorebird is named for its distinctive voice, which sounds like it is laughing, “ha-haha- ha-haah.” Colors of gulls change with age. The adult Laughing Gull has a black head and neck with a white belly, the sub-adult has a white head and belly and the juvenile has a brownish head and neck. Laughing Gulls breed in coastal marshes and ponds. The large nest, made largely from grasses, is constructed on the ground. The three or four greenish eggs are incubated for about three weeks. These gulls are omnivores and will scavenge as well as seeking suitable small prey.

Osprey, also called fish hawk, is a fish-eating bird. Ospreys feed by making spectacular plunges into water from heights of 50 to 100 feet (15 to 30 meters). They hit the water feet first with a great splash and seize a fish with their long, slender claws. These birds live throughout the world along rivers, lakes, seacoasts, and bays. Ospreys in northern regions migrate to warm areas for the winter. The osprey is a large bird of prey, about 2 feet long, with a wingspread of nearly 6 feet. It has a dark brown back with a whitish head and a white chest with a few streaks of dark brown.

It has a dark brown eyeline broadening behind each eye. Ospreys nest in trees, jagged rocks, or low bushes, or on the ground. Ospreys build the largest nests of any North American birds, with some measure up to 6 feet (1.8 meters) high. Nest-building materials include seaweed, sticks, bones, or driftwood. Ospreys usually lay three eggs and the incubation of the eggs lasts about 37 days.

The Great Kiskadee is a large, striking bird whose name is derived from its call which sounds very much like French for “What are you saying” ...”Quest-ce-que dit”, or kis-ka-dee. It is a robin-sized bird about ten inches in length with black and white stripes on the crown and sides of its head. It has a white line above its eyes. Its chest and undersides are a bright yellow and its throat is white. Its back and wings are brown and its bill and legs are black. They usually travel in pairs and are common throughout Latin America. Although the Great Kiskadee is a member of the flycatcher family, this bird breaks the rules for the flycatcher family. Besides catching insects in the air, it also grabs lizards from tree trunks, hops about in trees and shrubs to eat berries, and will even perch on branches that are low over water to plunge in for fish and tadpoles. It will dine on beetles, wasps, grasshoppers, bees and moths and will eat mice and frogs. It lives near rivers, streams, and lakes bordered with dense vegetation and also in more open country and in parks in most of its range.

The Great Blue Heron stands three to four feet tall and has a wingspan of almost six feet. It has blue-gray feathers on most of its body and a plume of feathers on its chest and back. It has a long, pointed yellow bill and long legs. Adults have white on the top of their heads and long black plumes above their eyes. The largest and most widespread heron in North America, the Great Blue Heron can be found along the ocean shore or the edge of a small inland pond. An all white form is found from southern Florida into the Caribbean, and used to be considered a separate species, the “Great White Heron.” An adaptable bird whose large size enables it to feed on a variety of prey-from large fish and frogs to mice, small birds, and insects-the Great Blue has one of the widest ranges of any North American heron. This wide choice of food enables it to remain farther north during the winter than other species, wherever there is open water, although such lingering birds may fall victim to severe weather. Most Great Blues nest in colonies in tall trees; their presence is often unsuspected until the leaves fall and the groups of saucer-shaped nests are exposed to view. In late summer young herons disperse widely and may be encountered at small ponds, in mountain waters, or even in backyard pools-wherever fish are plentiful.

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