Monthly Archives: January 2013

CENTRAL FLORIDA CRITTER OF THE DAY: Common Ground-Dove (Columbina passerina)

While it has a common name of “common”, they are less prevalent at my place then their distant relatives the Mourning Dove. Smaller, they have an orange-colored bill with a black tip and when they take flight, you can see the underside of the wings is pinkish. The most distinguishing characteristic would be the scales on the neck. They do hang out with the Mourning doves and all feed in flocks in the grasses and on the gravel driveway where they are sure to also find flatcoil snails to snack on.


Note that despite being a “ground” dove, this guy was photographed on the roof of the house behind me 🙂

Photo below shows one (top) feeding with a Mourning Dove (bottom).


CENTRAL FLORIDA CRITTER OF THE DAY: Eastern Hognose Snake (Heterodon platirhinos)

I pretty sure this is the Eastern Hognose Snake. This species has been a regular visitor to my place and it looks like maybe they like living under my shed. This guy (gal?) was quite hefty, the largest I’ve seen.

They make for interesting encounters, as they “feign death” to fool predators (such as my Irish setter):


Here’s a better look at the head:


CENTRAL FLORIDA CRITTER OF THE DAY: Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

Ok, the photo is LOUSY, but it is a critter and it was here in Central Florida, so you’ll have to take my word on the species :).

This raptor has been the national emblem of the United States since 1782.


It’s funny that the black vultures who are close in size to an eagle soar overhead all day and I sometimes watch, but generally pay little attention. However, an eagle has a definite majestic flight, drawing your attention and making it easy to distinguish when one of these beauties comes soaring.

The following picture is of one that landed in my yard back in 2010. To read the tale of the encounter visit:


CENTRAL FLORIDA CRITTER OF THE DAY: Obscure Grasshopper (Schistocerca obscura)

DON’T THINK PEST, THINK BIRD FOOD! Nymphs of grasshoppers are an important food source for birds especially fledglings who cannot eat seed.

If you maintain a balanced garden and don’t use pesticides which can kill the beneficial insects, damage should be minimal to ornamentals.

Tachinid flies (Tachinidae family) are parasites of grasshoppers

“Predators: Birds, lizards,mantids, spiders, and rodents eat grasshoppers.” (source:

Positive “Impact on the Ecosystem:
As herbivores, grasshoppers link plants to the rest of the ecosystem. Frass (droppings) contribute to nutrient turnover by returning nutrients as fertilizer for the plants. They provide food for birds and other arthropods.” (ibid.)

“Obscure grasshopper, Schistocerca obscura (Fabricius). This species belongs to a group of especially strong fliers called “bird” grasshoppers. Its taste for certain valuable ornamental plants such as hibiscus often brings it into conflict with humans.” (Source:

Learn more about grasshoppers in Florida:


CENTRAL FLORIDA CRITTER OF THE DAY: Gulf Fritillary Larvae (Agraulis vanillae) (Caterpillar)

I was pleasantly surprised to see this caterpillar in January but we have been having unusually high temperatures of close to 80 in recent days so the adults are still flying.

Shown on larval host: PURPLE PASSIONFLOWER (Passiflora incarnata), a vine native to Florida.


My take:


This bird was dancing in the Groundsel bush (Baccharis halimifolia), reaching for a morsel of seeds or perhaps an insect.

Around here they are called “Butter Butts” because of the bright yellow patch which peaks out of tail feathers.

They eat mainly insects in the summer. Their digestive systems are “uniquely suited among warblers to digest bayberry” (wax myrtle) (Myrica cerifera) where I often see them feeding. At this time of year they are also fond of the seeds of Bidens alba and the bluestem grasses which they flutter above to grab.

Learn more:


This gal was attracted to a bouquet of dried native wildflowers that I gathered from around the yard and placed up on the platform feeder. I don’t really use any commercial bird food these days (with the rare exception of sunflowers seeds). A regular visitor, you can read more about this bird’s antics in my garden: