Property Owners Handbook - Page 43

V I . H abitats egrets, herons and other wading birds. The pathway adjacent to the wetland is an ideal viewing spot. The large nests built in the tall trees along the Imperial River are made by the large, fish-eating osprey. This bird is frequently mistaken for the bald eagle because of its white head. This white-breasted bird with the dark band across its face is the only hawk able to grasp with two toes in front and two in the back rather than the three and one arrangement. It finds its food by plunging feet first into the water, locking its claws into the fish. Our rivers and river banks also create a pleasant habitat for many mammals including the otter and the manatee. At Riverwalk Park you may observe the playful river otter. These semi-aquatic animals are noted for their chasing and tumbling. Also in the surrounding waters of Bonita Bay lives an animal that has been around for more than 45 million years. This wholly aquatic vegetarian known as the manatee can move up to 12 mph, weighs in around 1,200 pounds, and can be 13 feet in length. It can consume from 150 to 200 pounds of aquatic plants, daily. The greatest threats to these completely docile animals are boat collisions and ingestion of fish hooks and monofilament line. For their safety, please adhere to all signs and restrictions when boating. Beach Park Bonita Bay’s Beach Park provides a natural habitat for aquatic plants and animal life. Sea grapes are a small shrub with nearly round leaves and clusters of fruit. These plants are used for erosion control of the coastline, since they have excellent salt tolerance. The fruit of the plant is used to make wine and jelly. Another plant found along the shore is sea oats. Sea oats help to stabilize the sandy dunes and are an essential part of the coastal habitat. The attractive seed heads of these plants bloom at the end of the summer and remain on the plant for months. Though these were once popular for flower arrangements, it is now unlawful to pick them. Slowly soaring on the beach air currents, with its tail open in its forked “Y” shape is the magnificent frigate bird. Females have solid white breasts and black necks, while the male has a red chest that can be puffed out the size of a football during mating season. This bird is sometimes called man-o’-war, because it has been known to attack other birds for their food. Due to the frigate bird’s huge wingspan, it w w w. B o n i t a B a y Re s i d e nt s .c o m 41