Footprints in the Sand - Eco Trail
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Wading Birds

Wading birds are generally long-legged and long-billed birds of the backwaters, away from the surf. They hunt by stealth, using their long legs to wade the shallows and their dagger-like bills and long necks to seize a variety of small prey.

The Snowy Egret

The Snowy Egret is a medium-sized, totally white egret with a long, slender black bill with yellow lores. Their eyes are yellow and legs are black while feet are bright yellow. They often choose urbanized nesting locations over isolated ones because isolated locations have more predators.

Great Blue Heron

The Great Blue Heron is Pensacola Beach’s largest wading bird, standing at an average height of four feet tall. It primarily feeds on small fish, though it is also known to feed on a wide range of shrimp, crabs, aquatic insects, rodents and other small mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and small birds. It locates food by sight and usually swallows it whole.

Egret vs. Heron

It can be very difficult to tell the difference between an egret and a heron. They are closely related and share a number of characteristics. The easiest way to distinguish them is by color; most egrets have white plumage, while most herons have dark.

Water Birds

Each winter, the waters around Santa Rosa Island are home to wintering ducks, grebes, and loons.

Red-breasted Merganser

Among the ducks, you will find the Red-breasted Merganser, usually swimming and diving in a group off shore, looking for fish. The male has a dark head with ruffled feathers and the female sports an orange-brown shaggy crest. Both have thin, orange bills, hooked at the tip.

Common Loon

The Common Loon is fairly large and easy to identify in its gray winter plumage, with a long mottled gray back and head and white cheek, throat, and breast. With a straight, dagger-like beak, it dives for fish as close as 60 feet from our beach, remaining under water up to 30 seconds before surfacing. In late spring, it is possible to see the Common Loon in its striking black and white breeding plumage before it heads to its northern breeding grounds.

Horned Grebe

A small diving seabird, the Horned Grebe winters here in large numbers. Nonbreeding grebes have a white and gray winter plumage, red eyes, and a short, straight, thin beak. When searching for fish, they dive quickly and then bob to the surface several seconds later.

Snowy Egret and Great Blue Heron © Dean McCallum