Crested caracaras frequent open pastures
Photo Credit: Tom Dunkerton
Spirit-of-the-Wild’s mix of wetlands and uplands and
its location immediately adjacent to the long, linear wetland known as Okaloacoochee Slough, creates excellent wildlife viewing opportunities. Herons, egrets, ibis, roseate spoonbill and wood stork congregate at ditches and wetlands. Crested caracara, Florida sandhill crane, eastern meadowlark and killdeer frequent open pastures. Scan fence lines for loggerhead shrikes and evidence of their small prey, impaled on barbed-wire. The regularly-burned pine flatwoods host northern bobwhite, several woodpecker species and resident and migratory warblers. Watch for white-tailed deer and wild turkey in clearings and along the edges of woodlands and sloughs. Swallow-tailed kites are a spring and summer specialty usually spotted in flight over open areas. Autumn wildflower blooms in wetlands and roadside ditches attract numerous species of butterflies.
Wildlife Spotlight: Loggerhead Shrike
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
- Loggerhead Shrike
A loggerhead shrike is about the size of a northern mockingbird, but has a distinctive black mask on its larger head and a stout, black, hooked bill. Shrikes are effective predators that hunt from fences, power lines, treetops or other conspicuous perches, yet the remains of their victims may be more obvious than the birds themselves.
Sometimes called butcherbirds, shrikes often impale their small prey on thorns or barbed-wire fences in pastures, fields and open brush lands where they hunt. Insects, frogs, snakes, even mice or birds are captured with the shrike’s strongly hooked bill; a notch or "tooth" near the tip of the bill severs the spinal cord. The shrike may dismember its prey soon after anchoring it on a sharp object or in the fork of a branch, or may return to it later.
The loggerhead shrike breeds from Canada’s Prairie Provinces to Mexico, the northern Gulf Coast and south Florida. It winters in the southern portion of its breeding range. It is the only shrike that occurs in Florida and is a permanent breeding resident in the state. The shrike is commonly spotted in winter in north and central Florida, but is uncommon in most coastal areas and rare in extreme south Florida. Eggs are laid in February or March and two or three broods are raised each season.
The wings are black with a small white patch and the black tail has white outer feathers. The sexes look alike. The juveniles resemble the adult, but are a duller gray and have faint bars on the chest and back. The shrike is declining in Florida and throughout its range possibly due to land use changes, pesticides and competition.