January 26, 2010
Birds of the Everglades
More than 350 bird species are found in the Everglades
The Everglades National Park is more than a million and a half acres of subtropical wilderness that comprises the largest wilderness area east of the Rocky Mountains.
Dubbed the “River of Grass,” by Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, the park includes the largest freshwater prairie in North America, an amazing expanse of sawgrass astride a shallow and ever-moving 50-mile-wide sheet of fresh water fed by summer rains.
In winter this vast landscape contains ponds and alligator holes that sustain enormous numbers of wading birds. Added to this is the largest protected mangrove ecosystem in the Western Hemisphere, a gigantic engine of biological productivity that creates food resources and refuge for countless other birds.
Today’s visitor to the Everglades is astounded by the bird life seen there, in variety and in numbers. Birds are everywhere, busily coming and going in search of food and foraging sites—a tapestry of types and forms and colors. The slideshow above features some of the bird species found in the Everglades: great egret, snowy egret, osprey, white ibis, nuthatch, the prehistoric-looking anhinga, the great blue heron, gulls, black skimmers, brown pelicans, sandpipers—to name a few.
What today’s visitor does not see, or even know perhaps, is that the numbers and variety now seen are but a fraction of what was here not long ago. It is estimated that today’s colonies of wading birds are reduced by 90% of their former size. The many reasons for the decline all share a common thread—they come directly from decisions made and actions taken by humans.
Go and enjoy this beauty, but give thought as well to what it still might be. Only by protecting the remaining habitat will this extraordinary ecosystem continue to invite both birds and those who would seek them.
Text by John Hadidian.