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FLORIDABIRDS-L  March 2009, Week 5

FLORIDABIRDS-L March 2009, Week 5

Subject:

Pinkishness at Huguenot Park

From:

James Wheat <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

James Wheat <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 29 Mar 2009 22:22:13 -0400

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This may not be particularly noteworthy, but today I had a chance to study
several hundred freshly-plumaged terns at Huguenot Park in Jacksonville.
Lighting was good, partly cloudy, and my study was between 10.30 - 11.30am.
A definite pink flush was apparent on many birds, which is well-known to
occur in gulls and terns. Here's what I observed:

~300 Royal Terns, zero displayed observable pinkishness. After seeing it in
the Caspians, I went back through each of the resting flocks of Royals,
carefully, and found none.
12 Caspian Terns, ALL of them did. It was a subtle pink, but it was there.
Comparison was easy to the bright white Royals, which surrounded the
Caspians.
10 Forster's Terns, none displayed an observable flush.
7 Sandwich Terns, there was a range of bright white (4 birds) to pale pink
(2 birds) to an almost coral-pink bird, the most strongly pinked tern out
there.

I got a few photos but I need to replace the USB cable for my digicam before
I can tell if they are decent pics by uploading them, though I know the ones
of that Sandwich Tern turned out well.

I understand the source of the pink to be in the birds' diet; possibly a
carotenoid called astaxanthin. I know that my observed sample was not large,
but I found it interesting that no Royals had it while all the Caspians did.
Perhaps the Caspians were all recent migratory arrivals that had access to
different foods than did the Royals.

I also saw 4 female Greater Scaup in the lagoon area, as the birds were
close to the edge and preening, casually displaying their stretched wings on
occasion, and their wider and more rounded heads. A kitesurfer flushed the
birds and I was given another good look at the wings.

On the way home I saw my FOS Swallow-tailed Kite fluttering over Hecksher
Drive a couple miles east of the Dames Point Bridge.

James A. Wheat
Jacksonville, FL

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