In Florida, mating season is normally April but can start as early as March. It really depends on the temperature.
Alligators can reach sexual maturity by the time they reach 6 feet in length. Females this is about 10-15 years of age. While male alligators reach maturity at 8-12 years. Female alligators rarely grow over 10 foot long, but males grow much bigger. Florida record in length is a 14 foot 3 1/2 inch big male found in Lake Washington in Brevard County.
When the season is right, the alligator will start looking for a mate. They do this by a low bellowing that goes through the water to attract other alligators. Male alligators will slap the water with their jaws and lift their tails high, causing vibrations throughout the water. Like most animals, alligators use scents as well, releasing an odor from their musk glands.
When an alligator finds their mate, they initiate direct courtship by rubbing and pressing each other’s snouts and backs. This behavior is very important, it shows strength proving they’re better than other suitors.
After mating, female alligators will begin to build a nest from mud, plants and sticks into a big mound that can be up to 10 wide or bigger. The alligator will lay her eggs in late June or early July. She digs into the mound of dirt and lays between 30 to 50 eggs and covers them all up. Now she waits…. and waits…. and waits. About 65 days later, they will start to hatch. Under the dirt, they chirp, and dig to the top. Momma gator are very protective of their nests and will help dig the hatchlings out and sometimes she will pick them up in her mouth to get them into the water.
Alligator eggs are soft, not hard like chicken eggs and the sex of an alligator is determined by 2 factors, depth and temperature. Female gators temps are below 82.4 degrees and male gators are 91.4 degrees or above. If the eggs tempt are in the middle, 87.8 degrees or so, they will be a mix of both male and female.
Hatchling are tiny when born, only between 6 and 7 inches long, so they stay very close to mom for protection, but they are on their own for food. A female alligator can have up to 3 years of babies around her called a “pod”. Around 4 years of age, the hatchling finally start to venture out on their own, to start a new cycle of life.
They mate for life, but if one show die, they do find another mate. They female chooses their partners based on dancing displays. The male birds stretch their wings, pump their heads, bow, and leap into the air. They then build their nests from the dominant vegetation, such as cattails, bulrushes, or grasse, using dried plant materials early in the season and adding green materials later on. The female lays 1-3 eggs, it takes around 30 day to hatch, but sadly, most of the time only 1 baby makes it to fledging. I personally think they look like baby chickens with long legs when the are born. They eat a variety of animals, including frogs, small animals, insects and snakes, along with grains. Adults will often feed the little ones earthworms and grubs. Mated pairs and their babies stay together all through the winter, until the 9 to 10 month old babies finally separate from their parents the following spring. They spend their winter in Florida, Texas, Utah, Mexico and California. The Florida sandhill crane is protected by the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and can not be hunted.
So, the next time your in Florida, look for these amazing birds
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- On March 23, 2021
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