Sunday, January 27, 2013

Great Blue Heron

I have seen many great blue herons over the years, 
Great Blue Heron
but never so many and never so close as those we saw in Everglades National Park along the Anhinga Trail. 
As a result, I saw colors in their plumage I'd never noticed before. 
The slaty blue flight feathers, the white face, the black plumes running from above the eye to the back of the head, and the plume-like feathers on the neck are what I think of when I see them in my mind's eye. 
However, when I saw one cautiously staring down a passing alligator (I include pictures even though they are poorly focused), 
Great Blue Heron and passing alligator
I noticed  reddish-brown  on its thighs and legs and thought it was bleeding, perhaps because it had been attacked by an alligator. 
I wasn't totally sure it wasn't injured until getting home and finding that those colors are indeed part of their plumage. I was also surprised to see reddish brown feathers on the front of the neck and a black stripe, along with the reddish brown, on the flanks. 
As I get home and can look at my pictures, I see evidence of those different colors, but they are generally covered up by other plumage. It may have taken the alligator to proverbially rough up the heron's feathers,  before those colors were really made visible to me.  Finally, I took some pictures of one particular heron that I've not been able to identify. At first I thought it might be a reddish egret, but ruled that out. I've finally determined it must be an immature great blue heron, although it was very large. Immature great blues are duller in color, with a dull blackish-gray crown, a flank pattern only weakly defined, no plumes and a bill that is dull gray-yellow.
Immature great blue heron
This bird does have the crown, although more brown than blackish-gray, it is certainly more dull than the slaty blue mature great blues, it does have a very small reddish patch on the flank and it is missing the dark flank patter and has not plumes.

Updated: February 2014

I visited Sanibel Island, Florida in January and got some more fun photos of great blue herons, one standing high in a tree, and another in a small lagoon.
Great blue heron with American white ibis in the background. This gives a great view of the reddish-brown thighs and splotches on its wing.
Lengthening its stride.
Room with a view.

1 comment:

  1. Really beautiful, spectacular birds. It was so fun to see them up close.