Boaters and anglers who have a bit of curiosity about the world around them will often wonder about the creatures they see while they’re on the water. Among the most visible of these animals are long-legged wading birds. Most of you can identify a heron, but can you tell one heron from another? Getting a close look or a good photo of the bird in question always helps. In some cases, determining species can come down to fairly small details — so the better you can see the bird, the more sure you can be of the identity. If you’ve ever wanted to know, here’s how to tell.
Take a look at the bill first. Most wading birds have straight bills, but a few have distinctive schnozzolas that are dead giveaways: A roseate spoonbill, for example, has a beak with a broad and flat tip. Of course, it’s also pink, which is a pretty good hint as to which species you’re looking at. Some people mistake spoonbills for flamingoes, which aren’t (normally) found in Florida except as lawn decor. If you think you might be looking at a flamingo, again, check the beak. Flamingoes have a heavy bill that is bent downward for half its length.
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