Siesta Key is home to a wealth of mammals, birds, sea life, reptiles, and vegetation and is ideal for nature watching, as the diversity in the warm climate is great.
Perhaps the most revered bird on Siesta Key is the Brown Pelican. One of the largest birds on the east coast and having a wingspan of 7 feet, the Brown Pelican is majestic in flight. From Siesta Beach, they can often be seen in their trademark fishing technique, the plunge dive. Flying 50'-60' above the water surface, they use their very keen eyesight to spot their prey and then plunge straight vertically to capture their meal just below the surface. They easily consume 4 pounds of fish daily and can often be seen flying in a single line along the coast in search of fish. Once plentiful along Florida's coast, the Brown Pelican's numbers dwindled dramatically due to DDT use by farmers and widespread killing by fisherman, who viewed them as threats to the fishing industry. Placed on the Endangered Species list in the 1970's, their numbers grew to about 60,000 by the mid-80's. Today, the Brown Pelican, the mascot of Sarasota, is considered a threatened species.
The Great Egret is one of the largest varieties of the white heron in Florida. Over three feet (1 m) tall, it has a yellow bill and black legs and feet. Known for its fabulous long white head and neck plumes called aigrettes, the great egret was hunted almost to extinction during the early 1900’s when it was fashionable to wear feathers on hats. Great Egrets hunt in shallow wetlands, salt marshes and around the edges of lakes, picking off fish, frogs and any other small creature they can catch.
Although they may look daunting, lizards are harmless and quite common throughout Siesta Key. The Fence Lizard is perhaps the most common variety, typically 5"-6" long. Look for them around rocks, woodpiles, abandoned buildings, and fence posts. These lizards, which feed exclusively and heavily on insects, are active and alert, and usually move to the other side of the tree or fence post if you approach them. Although they do not fare well indoors because of the lack of food and water available to them, they may venture indoors through open doors. Outdoors,they are often seen basking. Adult males are territorial, and defend their areas with head bobs and push-up threat displays. Breeding season is April to August.
The Cabbage Palm is Florida’s state tree. It is commonly found along beaches, tidal flats and marshlands. It has an un-branched trunk that is often latticed with old leaf bases. The leaf bases tend to slough off the tree as they get older and dry out, eventually giving the trunk a smooth appearance.
Cabbage palms produce a cluster of cream-colored flowers that protrude from the crown of the tree. The flowers turn into black fleshy fruits that are popular with birds and other wildlife. You will find several cabbage palms among the tropical foliage in the Siesta Key Escape house back yard.
The citrus industry is big business in Florida, so it's not surprising to find Orange Trees everywhere. Citrus is the State’s leading agricultural crop. The first oranges were brought to Florida about 500 years ago by Spanish explorers and settlers. By the late 1800's, Florida's orange crop replaced the large imports from the Mediterranean.