Brown Pelican

If you’ve ever been to the beach or out on a boat in Florida, than you have probably seen your fair share of brown pelicans. Most commonly found around coastlines of the Southern United States, this interesting bird is also quite common in the Everglades. While perhaps best known for annoying fishermen and boatmen, the brown pelican has become generally well tolerated and is now an American seaside staple.

Of the eight species of pelicans found throughout the world, the brown pelican is the smallest, and one of only two pelican species that gets its food by diving into the water. Although it is the smallest species of pelican, the brown pelican is by no means a small bird – they can reach over 5 feet in length, with wingspans of over 8 feet, large bills, and deep throat pouches for draining water after catching prey. While their heads are mostly white, the bodies of brown pelicans come in many shades of brown, black, tan, or gray, often mistakenly giving the impression that these birds are dirty or unclean, when in fact these are just their natural colors.

Brown pelicans can thrive in both saltwater and freshwater environments, and though you may spot a lone pelican hunting from time to time, they prefer to live in large flocks. Although they are usually seen around and associated with water, brown pelicans are excellent fliers, though they tend to be somewhat awkward on land. When feeding, an adult brown pelican will dive bill-first into the water, oftentimes submerging themselves completely before returning to the surface with their catch. After draining the water from their throat pouches, brown pelicans will then swallow their prey whole, eating up to 4 pounds of fish, amphibians, and crustaceans each day.

Because pelicans are often fed scraps from fishermen and boatmen, they have been conditioned to associate humans with their food. Today, they can be found all around fishing ports, piers, and marinas, though many can still be found in more secluded and wild areas, such as the mangrove forests of the Everglades. Protected under the Migratory Bird Act of 1918, brown pelicans are classified as a Species of Least Concern, with an estimated population of around 650,000 birds.

To see brown pelicans in their natural habitat, take an airboat ride with Captain Mitch through the Everglades. Not only will you see plenty of birds on your Everglades tour, but you’ll see plenty of lizards, fish, and amphibians too!

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The Poisonwood Tree is One Everglades Plant You Will Want to Avoid

The Florida Everglades provide a lush and hospitable environment for a variety of plants and animals. While the majority of species found in the Everglades are harmless to humans, there are a few that should be watched out for. Among these are the American alligator, the Burmese python, and the poisonwood tree.

While you might not initially expect a tree to be able to hurt you, the more familiar plant species of poison ivy has certainly proved otherwise. And while poisonwoods are much less common than poison ivy, and typically limited to certain locations, they do need to be avoided. Poisonwoods are prevalent throughout Southern Florida, most notably in the Florida Keys and in Everglades National Park, though their range does extend to The Bahamas and much of the Caribbean islands.

Poisonwoods are a flowering tree from the cashew or sumac family, which from a distance, are not especially unique or easily identifiable. Up close, they can be identified by their teardrop-shaped leaves, which tend to droop from their branches and are outlined in yellow. Poisonwoods can grow to heights of more than 60 feet, occasionally producing flowers that are small and yellow.

Like with poison ivy, a too-close encounter with a poisonwood can leave you with an extremely unpleasant and itchy rash, though unfortunately, poisonwoods are actually ten times more toxic than poison ivy. The poisonwood’s toxins are in its black sap, which can be found oozing from its peeling bark and should be avoided at all costs, though people can be infected by touching the tree anywhere, not just on its exposed sap. People should always avoid walking under poisonwood trees, especially during or shortly after rainfall, when the sap can fall down onto unsuspecting heads through water run-off.

The sap of poisonwoods cannot be washed off with water, and must be treated with oil-dissolving soaps or hand sanitizers. Once a rash forms, it can result in blisters, inflammation, itching, and reddish bumps. If untreated, these rashes can last for days and will quickly spread to other parts of the body past the point of initial contact. Fortunately, rashes detected at the very first signs of discomfort are easily treatable, though more severe cases may require medical attention.

Poisonwoods are abundant in the Florida Everglades, and can easily be viewed while skimming across the water on an airboat ride. Since getting up close and personal with poisonwoods is to be strongly avoided, Everglades airboat tours are the perfect way to enjoy these plants from a safe distance away.

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