Wildlife in the Bayou – Part 3

Shrimp

Shrimp are an abundant and widespread crustacean that can be found all over the world. As such there are a huge variety of species of shrimp that thrive in all sorts of different habitats. They are of course common in North America too, particularly across the South East of the Gulf Coast and in the Mississippi River (and its bayous). Unlike other crustaceans like lobsters or crabs, shrimps do not have strong walking legs but instead thin and fragile ones that are used primarily for perching. The are more accustomed to swimming using the small swimmerets on the underbelly. Evidence shows that shrimp have been a food source in the Deep South over 2600 years with evidence of shrimping in Native American culture dating at around 600 BCE.

Herons

Herons are a long-legged bird that usually dwell in coastal regions or along rivers and these too have adapted to many different climates the world over. Here in the Mississippi you’ll find the Great Blue Heron which is the largest species of the bird in North America at around four feet in height. These birds are renowned for being patient hunters, wading through the shallow wetlands and waiting for their prey to approach them. Here they will find fish, crayfish, leeches, insects, frogs and small turtles to feast upon using their long serrated, pointed beak in order grab or stab its meal. Interestingly many fish here have developed sharp spines on their fins as a defence mechanism, the heron will always swallow fish head first, compressing the spines against the body making them less likely to cause an issue.

Roseate Spoonbills

Much like a flamingo the roseate spoonbill, due to its diet has a remarkable pink plumage. It gets its name from its large spatula or spoon shaped bill which I have no doubt comes as no surprise. The roseate spoonbill, unlike the heron, is something of a rare species, in fact it’s the only species of spoonbill in North America and dwells only across the south coast, particularly in on the Gulf Coast. Their low numbers can mainly be attributed to the over hunting of the species, hunters desired them for their unique feathers as early as the 1830s either as prizes or for clothing and even fans. Few breeders for the species existed but these were most prominent in both Florida and Louisiana.

Snakes

The Mississippi is home to a large variety of these slithering reptiles, snakes in all shapes and sizes can be found. Despite their reputation as viscous and sneaky killers’ snakes are actually fairly peaceful creatures and will usually only attack if they feel provoked. Most species in the Mississippi are harmless to humans though there are a few species that are venomous so if you happen to see one it can’t hurt to be cautious. Snakes tend to feed on smaller creatures like rodents, small birds, frogs, lizards and insects all of which (as I’m sure you are aware by this point) can be found here in the bayous of the Deep South.