Readers’ wildlife photographs

October 8, 2015 • 7:45 am

It is a fact universally acknowledged that most of the photographs that readers send me are of birds. There are millions of birders out there, but why so few “snailers” or “froggers”? I suppose it’s because birds are beautiful, colorful, and abundant. Their beauty is certainly on tap in these photos sent by reader Damon Williford, who lives in southern Texas.

And readers, bring out your wildlife photos, for the tank is growing quite empty! Damon’s notes are indented:

The Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus), which has declined in parts of its range, is still relatively abundant in southern Texas (I’m not sure what the juvenile in the photo was trying to accomplish).

Loggerhead Shrike (Lanisu ludovicianus)_Kingsville_2015-06-20

The Northern Bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) is another grassland species that has declined, mostly due to habitat loss. But, like the Loggerhead Shrike, it’s still fairly common in South Texas, especially during wet years. Bobwhites have become one of my favorite birds, partly because it was the focus of 2 of my dissertation chapters.

Northern Bobwhite (Colinus virginianus)_Riviera_2015-05-03

The Plain Chachalaca (Ortalis vetula), the only member of Cracidae native to the U.S., is still restricted to the 3 southernmost counties in Texas. The chachalaca is considered a game bird in Texas, and attempts have been made to introduce it into other counties but these have failed.

Plain Chachalaca (Ortalis vetula)_Estero Llano Grande SP_2015-02-14

I’ve included some photos of Reddish Egrets (Egretta rufescens) from previous years, showing both color morphs. [JAC: The first three photos below are of this species.]

Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens) dark_Corpus Christi_2014-05-10_2

Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens) dark_Corpus Christi_2014-05-10_3

JAC: These color morphs are quite distinct; I had trouble believing it was the same species! Wikipedia says this about the morphs:

The sexes are similar, but there are two color morphs. The adult dark morph has a slate blue body and reddish head and neck with shaggy plumes. The adult white morph has completely white body plumage. Young birds have a brown body, head, and neck. During mating, the males plumage stands out in a ruff on its head, neck and back.

I’m sure there has been some speculation about these distinct forms. Their lack of intermediates (or so I gather) suggests a single gene is responsible, but if there’s any adaptive significance to this polymorphism (presence of distinct forms in a population), I don’t know what it is. Perhaps some readers can enlighten us.

Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens) white_Portland_2010-04-23

The last photo shows juvenile Wood Storks (Mycteria americana). Wood Storks wander northward into Texas after the breeding season ends in Mexico. There hasn’t been a confirmed case of Wood Storks nesting in Texas since 1960.

Wood Storks (Mycteria americana)_Bishop_2014-08-06

13 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photographs

  1. When I was much younger the Bobwhite was everywhere here in southwest Iowa but not nearly so much now. The whistling call will always let you know if they are around.

      1. Most research indicates that landscape-scale habitat loss is the main culprit in the bobwhite population decline and range contraction. Multiple factors have contributed to habitat loss, including highway construction, intensive agriculture, silviculture, suppression of fire cycles, urbanization, and suburban sprawl.

  2. Nice Texas birds. My dad is trying to establish a bobwhite covey in Wyoming. He’s been partially successful, but they have many predators and Wyoming winters are brutal.

  3. Beautiful photos. Reddish egrets are favorites of mine, from bird survey work I did in the Gulf of Mexico. They dance and dart around in the water, waving their wings as in the first photo above, when feeding. They nest in large colonies with other species of herons, egrets, pelicans and others. The juveniles are so cute, going out in the water to practice the dancing, then hurrying back to the nest. The adults appeared to give them lessons. White morphs are lovely, but I most enjoy the gray-red color that is more common for the species.

  4. Wonderful, Damon! You are so lucky to live there! I spent two weeks birding in the LRGV a couple years ago and it was like paradise.

    ==

    JAC: These color morphs are quite distinct; I had trouble believing it was the same species!”

    Have you seen Eclectus Parrots? They were thought to be two species at first. Sexual dimorphism–and the female’s the gaudy one!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eclectus_parrot

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