This large bird of prey can often be spotted in the Ogeechee watershed as they feed almost exclusively on live fish. They are adept hunters, diving in shallow waters and pulling up fish in their opposable talons. As a species they have adapted fairly well to living near human settlements. They often built sturdy nests on tall structures like telephone poles and channel markers, as well as trees overlooking waterways.
The nests are put together from sticks and other natural materials but can grow to be more than 10 feet wide over many years. Aside from breeding and nesting, ospreys are usually solitary birds. They hatch 1-4 fledglings each year and their numbers have stabilized since the ban on DDT which harmed their eggs.
The birds seem to live about 15-20 years, and according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, they have been known to log more than 150,000 migratory miles in their lifetime. One can spot the osprey with its mostly white coloring, especially on the underneath side of their nearly 6-foot wingspan. They sport the well-known hooked beak look of a bird of prey.
You can watch local osprey nests on Skidaway Island. The live cameras are operated by Skidaway Audubon and Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Watch baby ospreys grow up, leave the nest, and adults come home to roost, or choose clips of past highlights.
The white ibis is a wading bird that lives in coastal areas, marshes, wetlands, riverbanks, and swamps. With long pink legs, it stands about 2 feet tall. Its plumage is nearly entirely white, with a small bit of black on the tips of its wings. The black wing tips are generally only visible when the ibis is in flight.
White ibis feed by dragging their long bill in shallow waters and mudflats. Their diet is a variety of small crustaceans, fish, frogs, insects, and other small creatures. In the 1830s, John James Audubon noted some people hunting and eating white ibis. The flavor was reportedly fishy.
White ibis live in large colonies, usually building their nests in trees. They typically lay 2-4 eggs and the parents take turns staying with their young. As their habitat has changed, particularly in their Floridian breeding locations, white ibis are likely to be seen in neighborhood canals and golf course water features.
They are also common in the lower part of the Ogeechee and Canoochee Rivers. Though they may be seen in coastal areas, they feed and live in freshwater habitats. Native American folklore assigned it to be the symbol of danger and hope, as it is said to be the last animal to take refuge before a hurricane, and the first to emerge after a storm.
The brightly colored bird is a member of the cardinal family and lives in the southeast and south-central United States, including coastal Georgia. Females and immature males are a parrot green color. At about two years old, the male’s feathers turn multiple tones of red, indigo, yellow, and more.
They breed in maritime hammocks, scrubland, briar patches, woodland edges and swampy thickets. The females typically lay 3-4 eggs, twice a year. The fledglings take just a couple of weeks to leave the nest after hatching. The population is estimated at about 4.5 million, but that number is decreasing.
The painted bunting was originally described by Carl Linnaeus in his eighteenth-century work Systema Naturae. The Swedish naturalist did a taxonomy of plants in 1753 and followed up with animals in 1758 and 1759.
Painted buntings are territorial and can be seen throughout the Ogeechee River watershed and nearby areas like Harris Neck Wildlife Refuge.