Seeing Florida animals up close and a hippo too.

Birds you can see up-close at the Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park include a pair of whooping cranes that are both missing wings. They winter in Florida and were injured at some point and brought here to live. I overheard someone say “They cut off one wing so these birds can’s fly away.” and that is not true. Most of these animals are here due to man made injuries (hit by a car, a parent was hit by a car and now they are orphans, fishing lines, some were shot with a bb gun or arrow). I follow several wildlife rescue groups on facebook and it’s horrifying the things that happens to these animals.

Big animals that live at the park. On a recent episode of “Secrets of the Zoo:Tampa”, a baby bear was brought in to the zoo to be checked out when his mom died getting hit by a car. The zoo was able to secure a home for the cub here.

A snake up close.

Lu was a tv star on Flipper and was given to the park to live out his retirement. Lu is very popular with the kids and he just turned 60 in January.

I really went up to the park in January to see the manatees but there are also a lot of other fun animals to see as well.

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White, brown and pink at Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park.

It’s not often you get to see white pelicans up close. They usually only spend the winter in central Florida and even then they are usually across a lake. There are a few that live at Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park year round, having ended up there with some form of injury.

The pelicans there are all missing a wing or partial wing from injuries, usually that involves fishing line being tangled up around their wings. They nest at the park and their offspring grow up there and then fly off.

The flamingos were spending the morning preening, eating or napping.

A girl and her manatee

Just outside of the Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park, you can go on a tour to swim with in the river where the manatees hang out. There are many roped off areas that you cannot enter so the manatees can get away from the humans if they want to. There’s a dock inside the park that looks over this area and this is where I spent part of a recent Saturday morning watching the manatees swim by.  A young girl was hanging out close to the dock and a manatee swam right up to her.

She wasn’t moving and the manatee came right up to her and bumped her in the face. He definitely wanted a scratch. She would scratch him for a few minutes and he would swim away but then come back again several times. It was pretty amazing to watch and I know she had to be so excited for this encounter.

At one point another manatee started swimming back and forth against her flipper like he was using it as a scratching post.

What a great memory for her.

There are manatee patrols out keeping an eye on things to make sure no one is chasing the manatees or the area doesn’t get too crowded. They are all volunteers and I would think “What a great job” but they probably have to deal with some unsavory people at time. Probably not everyone is as respectful as the girl was with the manatees. I’m not a big fan of people being allowed to swim in the same area with them but it was great even being out on the dock watching the girl and her manatee.

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Birds at Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park

Nested season had already started for the great blue herons at Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park. Some were just starting to work on nests, some were still showing off for their mate and some were already sitting on eggs.

Resident pelicans.

The permanently injured resident white morph great blue heron was showing his breeding colors in his beak.  The colors were really pretty against his white neck.

A caracara yelling at something. It’s rare to see a caracara in the Tampa bay area so this is a new bird for a lot of people They can usually be found more inland in central Florida. unfortunately this bird is here because he was injured out in the wild and lost a wing.

An eagle with a missing wing.

A wild phoebe flew right in front of me and posed so I had to take his picture.

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Quiet time with spoonies.

I walked into the big aviary at Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park and the spoonbills were lined up along the railing. They didn’t move at all when I walked in. I had to stand in the doorway to get them across the boardwalk with my 300mm lens. They are beautiful birds, like pink cotton candy. The colors and details in their faces are amazing. They seem to be just waking up from their morning nap when I had walked in, stretching and preening.

The two above were taken with my phone.

The northern pintail taking a nap on the boardwalk didn’t move when I walked past him. I enjoyed a few minutes of quiet time with the spoonies before a big family came in the aviary. At that point, the spoonies and pintail knew it was time to leave the boardwalk and head to the bushes and water in the aviary.

Up close with some crazy animals

It’s not often you can get up close to a bald eagle.  Especially a juvenile one (the all brown one in the last shot). These eagles are all missing a wing and now live at the Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park. They are in an open enclosure and just love to pose.

Pelicans were just starting to nest.

A night heron in the first shot. He crept up pretty close to me. The wild great blue herons were working on nests in the top of the trees over the alligator exhibit.

A burrowing owl trying to sleep.

Other animals were all just chilling out the morning I was there in early January. Lots of fun animals at the park. Unfortunately most are injured but have a home here at the park.

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Big rocks in the water

From far away it looks like big rocks out there in the water. They were really manatees.

It’s not often you can get this close to manatees. At Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park you can see them up close on a bridge that crosses over Homosassa River where the wild manatees congregate in the winter. The water is crystal clear so you can really see the details on these big sea cows.

They were staying close together keeping warm. It had been cold for a few days but the water in the springs stays much warmer.

When they come up for air you can really see their faces.

There are tour guides that take you down the river and swim in the area that the manatees are hanging out. The tours are heavily monitored by volunteers to make sure the people don’t bother the manatees if they are in the no-swim zone. I’d rather just let the manatees stay wild and admire them from the bridge. There were over 20 boats by lunch time.

“Fishies” swimming by the underwater observation window.

From my annual winter road trip in January.

Pretty in pink and white

Permanently injured white pelicans that live at Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park. They are beautiful birds.

Getting their morning snacks from a park ranger.

They have a white morph great blue heron missing a wing that lives there.

Wood stork also getting breakfast.

Pink fluff balls (spoonbills) all lined up.

You can get up close to all of the beautiful birds at Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park just north of Tampa. The sanctuary is home to a lot of injured birds.

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