St. John's River -Wild Life in Florida
St. Johns River & Ducks
N. Florida - St. Johns River
The St. John’s River is the longest river in Florida (310 miles); therefore it is home to numerous exotic birds, manatee, reptiles and fish. It is sometimes called the “lazy river” because it has a flow rate of a one third mile per hour.
This slow movement makes controlling pollution a more difficult task. Take a trip up the river with me to see the most amazing birds, dolphins and maybe even a manatee.
The river is fed primarily through rainfall, which is typical of all the rivers in Florida, although some of the water comes from the Florida Aquifer. This river also has the distinction of being one of the few rivers in the U.S. that flows north. It includes marshlands, many tributaries, plus it flows through the city of Jacksonville and as the river meets the Atlantic Ocean in Jacksonville the fresh water mixes with saltwater. This is called brackish water, which is important for some unique animal species.
Fuller Warren Bridge
Boating Under Hart Bridge, Jacksonville
Recreation on the River
The river is used for recreation in many areas, which include boating, sailing, water skiing, fishing and cruises. More than 500,000 acres of land has been acquired by St. John’s Water Management District, which encompass 18 different counties in Florida. They fight hard to keep the river free from pollution. Jacksonville is a city with multiple bridges to cross the river.
Beauty of Egret Feathers
There are numerous splendid birds that inhabit the river and one of the most beautiful is the Egret. The bright white color of the Egret makes him stand out in the green marshlands. They are typically 41” tall with a 55” wingspan.
At one time they were hunted nearly to extinction for their plumage. The Egret has a yellow bill, which helps distinguish it from other birds. It flies slowly with its neck retracted.
They wade and feed in shallow water on fish, frogs and small reptiles. Egrets congregate in groups, particularly at night. When they hold their heads high with their bills straight up it emphasizes their head and chest plumes and this signifies they are ready for mating right now. The female usually lays two beautiful blue eggs in a nest made of small branches.
Great Blue Heron
The great Blue Heron is another unique bird of the herons family. They are waders, just like the Egret and are found along coastlines, in marshes or other bodies of water. They walk slowly and stand still for a long time in order to snare their aquatic prey as they are also carnivores.
They have a blade like bill and along with their long necks they are able to quickly they snap up their prey and swallow it whole. These birds have actually chocked to death on their prey if a fish is too large for their S shaped neck. Their body length is 3.2 to 4.5 feet, but their wing span is 5.5 to 6.6 feet, which lets you appreciate the beauty of this bird in flight. They can fly at 20-30 MPH.
While they nest in colonies, they hunt alone. The colonies are typically in tall trees and typically 160 nests per colony, but can range from 5-500 nests. Both parents incubate and protect their baby birds. The female usually lays 6 blue eggs, which take 28 days to hatch. The chicks are able to survive on their on after two months of age. There are also different varieties of Herons, like the White Heron, which has a yellow bill.
Great Blue Heron - Feeding Young & more
The Anhinga, also called the Snake bird is another interesting bird that lives near the water in the south from Texas to North Carolina in the US. This bird is protected in the US. It has much darker plumage than the first two birds in this article. It also has a very long neck, with a wingspan of 46”.
When this bird is swimming quite often you can only see its neck above water, which is why the Snakebird name arose. The dark neck looks like a snake in the water.
This bird is different from many others as it is unable to oil or waterproof its feathers, which can cause them to become waterlogged. The up side to this is the bird can dive down easily to search for underwater prey. It eats fish and amphibians and it can stay under water for a significant period of time.
When necessary the Anhinga will dry its feathers and wings by spreading them into a semicircle. It will perch for long periods of time to allow its wings to dry. Obviously it can not fly well if its wings are waterlogged.
American White Pelicans
American White Pelican
The pelicans are one of the largest birds in America, and they are found all across America, typically breeding inland on lakes or rivers. They have short legs, similar to a duck, but have a long, broad wingspan. They dip their head underwater to scoop up fish and often hunt for their prey in a group.
They move into a circle to concentrate the fish in one area and dip their heads simultaneously to catch the fish. They often breed on small little islands found in fresh water, but they like shallow coastal bays and inlets in the non-breeding season. They lay eggs on the sand, soil or gravel and rake up nearby vegetation or sand to make a flat nest with a low rim.
They are very graceful when they fly, and it is a real treat to see them in flight formations or when they are alone.
Must Remember the Allegators
Nature on the St. Johns River
The St. Johns River Management does a wonderful job of managing the river and have worked tirelessly to keep the river clean for all to enjoy.
The St. Johns River is beautiful and very interesting if you take note of the birds, manatee, reptiles and fish. The river is teeming with wild life and the birds are especially beautiful. If you enjoy taking bird pictures, then this river is the place to be.
This river is enjoyed by thousands of people year round, whether fishing, boating or photographing gorgeous birds.
The copyright, renewed in 2018, for this article is owned by Pamela Oglesby. Permission to republish this article in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.