I was motivated to write this follow-up article after reading “The Almost Invisible Iguana” by Conrad Stenton from Midland Ontario in last week’s Jaltemba Bay Life newsletter.
Having observed the iguanas close up for a few years, we have learned a few interesting facts about them. Yes, they are almost invisible to the untrained eye, but knowing their morning routine high in the canopy and aided with a pair of binoculars you can get a good view.
If you miss the descent to the lower trees, the first clue to its presence is the rustling and movement of the tree branches. They spend most of their lives in the canopy, descending only infrequently to mate, lay eggs or change trees. Having these resident iguanas near us, we were able to photograph their downward journey many times and study their habits.
Primarily herbivores, iguanas are active during the day, feeding on leaves, flowers and fruit. They usually live near water and are excellent swimmers. Green iguanas can fall 40-50 feet to the ground without getting hurt. We can attest to that, as one year we had about 6-8 large iguanas living in the canopy of the palm tree directly in front of our casita rooftop. Every morning, we watched as they sought a sunny branch to warm up before descending the tree. One particular morning, their routine was interrupted as a coconut harvester climbed up their tree. Instead of their usual leisurely climb down the tree, they used plan B which was to jump, crashing through a not-so-kind Acacia tree before landing in the estuary and swimming away. They can also hold their breath under water.
It is not unusual to see small boats on the estuary hunting the green iguanas as they are good to eat and are referred to as “Bamboo Chicken.”
The iguanas are very aggressive in mating season and will attack small animals. You will most likely start to see some orange or rusty red appearing. It may start on his head and neck, back and spread to the tops of the legs. There will also be an increase in head bobbing.
One year, while I was photographing a flock of Black-bellied Whistling ducks that took up residence on a little island in the estuary, I was amazed at what else I saw later when I was editing the day’s photos. When I zoomed in, I saw no less than six iguanas that cohabited with the ducks.
This tiny green iguana spent the night wrapped up in the table umbrella, and it took him a few minutes to raise his body temperature so was content to snuggle in the warmth of my hand.
But what comes down must go up and the saga will be repeated day after day, whether we are there to see it or not.
by Bea Rauch
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