The Marco Island/Isles of Capri area consists of numerous mangrove keys nestled amongst the tidal backwaters of Southwest Florida's 10,000 islands. Here is a brief survey of some of the creatures you may be lucky enough to see.
The West Indian Manatee is a vegetarian mammal that inhabits our coastal and bay waters primarily during the summer months. Their closest land relative is the elephant, but manatees are fully aquatic. Spotting these gentle giants is a rare and special experience.
Two types of pelicans are common in the area, the Brown Pelican and the White Pelican. Brown Pelicans hunt by flying in circles about 25 feet over the surface of the water and watching for a school of fish. When they spot their meal, they dive into the water beak first accompanied by a huge splash. When this graceful bird surfaces, you can usually spot the fish in its mouth before it tosses the meal down its throat.
The Roseate Spoonbill is one of a number of wading birds that can be seen walking along the mudflats at low tide. Its spoon-shaped bill helps it snatch prey items from the watery mud and it derives its rosy color from the crustaceans that comprise a large part of its diet.
Herons like the Great White Heron, Snowy Heron, and the Blue Heron hunt like other wading birds, and when their beaks come down, they strike with deadly force. Herons hunt alone and prefer deeper water than most wading birds.
Anhinga & Cormorants are most well known for diving under water to feed, and then replenishing their body heat by perching on a piling with their wings outstretched in the sun. The Cormorant is almost identical to the Anhinga but has a hooked beak. You may remember images from Kuwait of these birds covered with crude oil after the Gulf War.
Although not seen on Capri (thank goodness), the American Alligator is very prevalent in the area. They spend their day floating in the water or resting on the bank. At night they come out to hunt. Their diet ranges from crustaceans and frogs to the occasional deer or cow. Almost hunted to extinction in the 20th century, these reptiles are recovering in number thanks to the Endangered Species Act.
There are two kinds of ibis in the area - the White Ibis and the Glossy Ibis. Both birds eat by probing the water with their down-curving beaks, sometimes with their heads underwater. They eat crayfish, small crabs and insect larvae often dragged from their burrows. The White Ibis is currently the most common wading bird in Florida.
The Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin resides in our coastal and bay waters. These beautiful animals have home ranges of 8 to 10 miles and keep away from the deeper areas of the Gulf. Like all of our wildlife, dolphins should be treated with respect and caution. Enjoy them from a safe distance.
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