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Not a lot of words but plenty of pictures in this Dawn Chorus.  All of these pictures were taken on March 5 of this year at the amazing St Joseph Peninsula State Park, on the coast of the Florida Panhandle.  

Everybody and every bird has to eat.  A few months back Kestrel did an excellent diary about bird beaks that showed some of the highly specialized forms of bird beaks.  A birds beak/bill is the crucial part of its anatomy allowing it to feed.

Royal tern and black-bellied plover
For example this Royal Tern and Black Bellied Plover are sharing the beach but the different forms of their beaks indicate very different modes of feeding.

This pair of Willets have long beaks for probing in the mud.

In this not so great photo one of the Willets has captured a fairly large food item, probably a Polychaete worm. It was moving around rapidly so I only got this one shot but the long thin worm was not something easily handled by the long thin bill.  There is definitely a tradeoff here.
Willets Feeding
Specialized coastal feeders abound.  Pelicans of course dive and scoop up fish with their beak pouches.  Cormorants and mergansers pursue fish underwater and grab them.
Brown Pelicans
Double-crested cormorant
I'll take the liberty of introducing a few non-bird feeders here.  Above are the remains of a sea urchin.  Urchins are grazers, feeding largely on algae.  The white object is its mouthparts, a five sided structure name Aristotle's lantern.  Below are a pair of mating Horseshoe crabs.  Their mouthparts are the bases of their legs!
Sea Urchin remains
Horseshoe Crabs
But on the main part of my story. Herons and egrets are a common site here in Florida.  They come in a variety of colors and sizes and preferred habitat.  But they all have long sharp beak for rapidly stabbing/grabbing prey items. As you can see in this Great Egret.
Great Egret
Herons and Egrets are mostly sit and wait feeders (really stand and wait but the general term used by biologists is sit and wait).  Some, such as Reddish Egrets are more active.  It is not uncommon to see Great Blue Herons standing around for long periods waiting for food to come by.
Great Blue Heron
And sometimes they are spectacularly successful.  We stumbled across this Great Blue Heron that had captured a Gulf Coast Salt Marsh Snake. This was also a 'life snake' (note irony) for me so it was doubly exciting.  However Heron beaks are not well designed for handling a snake and it was having a lot of difficulty.
I was having problems with the spotting scope at first so the first three pictures were with my Canon on maximum zoom.  The latter three are through the scope.  We left after a while because we didn't really like watching the snake go through what was obviously going to be a very prolonged process.

Just a few minutes later we stumbled (not literally fortunately) across another sit and wait predator, this Cottonmouth that was crossing the trail.  I know a lot of people don't like snakes and particularly don't like venomous snakes but these are a really great example of a highly specialized feeder.  They will sit in the same spot for days at a time waiting for food to walk/swim by.  They have heat sensitive pits on their faces and fangs that are essentially hypodermic needles that fold up.  This one was four feet long and would have been a great meal for a bold heron.

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