Coastal Birds

Educational Resources-Coastal Birds

This section is designed to aid the teachers in fulfilling the following AHSGE Standards and Objectives requirements.

  • Standard: III-3

Types of Coastal Bird found on the Alabama Gulf Coast

Brown Pelican

brown pelican
Pelicanus occidentalis

Learn More about the Brown Pelican

  • 50″ in height with a wingspan of 8″ (Kaufman, 2000)
  • Nearly became extinct in the early 1970’s due to pesticides containing DDT
  • Population has made a strong comeback since the use of DDT was outlawed (Kaufman, 2000)

Dixon Lanier Meritt has a children’s limerick that starts out, “A wonderful birds is the pelican, his bill can hold more than his belly can”. According to US Fish and Wildlife this is not far from the truth; “The pouch suspended from the lower half of the pelican’s long straight bill can hold up three times more than his stomach.”

Great Blue Heron

blue heron
Ardea herodias

  • The great blue heron is known as the largest heron found in North America
  • Height 47″ and a Wingspan of 38 inches (Kaufman 2000, USGS)
  • They live lakes, pond, rivers and marshes. They are adapted for fresh and salt water
  • When feeding they wade slowly through the water or stands still in a shallow pool of water till a fish swims close enough to grab it
  • They feed on fish, frogs, snakes and insects
  • Great blue herons nest together in colonies at the tops of trees (Butler, 1990)

Laughing Gull

Larus atricilla

  • Length: 17″ Wingspan: 41″(Kaufman 2000, USGS)
  • Habitat: Lakes, Salt Marshes, Beaches, Ocean
  • The Laughing Gull has a highly varied diet. It is a carnivore as well as a scavenger
  • In the wild, it will eat insects, fish, shellfish, and crabs. (Patuxent Wildlife Center, 1998) They can get their food from the water while they are airborne by either skimming the surface or diving. (Patuxent Bird ID InfoCenter, 1998)
  • They also get food from man-made sources such as garbage, sewage, refuse from fishing boats, and anything tossed to them by humans. (Patuxent Bird ID InfoCenter, 1998)
  • Nest in Colonies.

Snowy Egret

Egretta thula

  • Small white heron with slender black bill, black legs and yellow feet (Enature, 2000)
  • Length: 24″ Wingspan: 38″ (Kaufman 2000, USGS)
  • Egrets commonly live in fresh and salt water marshes, ponds and shores
  • Feed on shrimp and minnows by sprinting rapidly through shallow water chasing their meal
  • Nest in trees or on the ground. Nests are often found with other herons

Double-crested Cormorant

Phalacrocorax auritus

  • Large dark water bird, with an orange throat pouch, long neck and hooked bill
  • Length: 32″ Wingspan: 50″ (Kaufman 2000, USGS)
  • Cormorants are found coastally as well as in lakes and rivers. Can often be found where pelicans are feeding
  • Feed on fish and crustaceans
  • Nests made out of sticks or seaweed and they nest in colonies in trees or on cliffs (E-nature, 2000)

American White Pelican

white pelican
Pelecanus erythrorhynchos

  • A large white bird with a long flat bill. The white pelican has a horny plate on the upper mandible of the bill. (Enature, 2000)
  • Length: 62″ Wingspan: 110″ (Kaufman 2000, USGS)
  • They commonly live in lakes and coastal lagoons
  • White pelicans are migratory birds. They winter along the gulf coast; and summer at their breeding grounds in Canada and northern US
  • “During migration you can see white pelicans in long line in V formation and often soars at great heights” (Robbins, Brunn & Zinn, 1983)
  • White pelicans do not dive for their food, instead they work cooperatively to surround fish in shallow water, so that they can scoop them up in their bill

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