Monday, June 14, 2010

Two Great Blue Herons face off in a threat display.

Birding Longboat Key, Florida
Evening was falling quickly and the sun’s light was nothing more than a rosy wash over the waters at Quick Point Nature Preserve when Rick, Matty and I arrived to enjoy the last few minutes of the day. A flock of Ibis, several Little Blue Herons and Snowy Egrets, and a single Great Blue Heron were fishing in the shallows. The water was still and the birds were quiet until a second Great Blue Heron decided he wanted to fish right where the first Great Blue Heron had set up camp. As he coasted in for a landing, First Heron immediately showed his displeasure by spreading his wings and raising his head in a warning.

First Heron wasted no time defending his territory and immediately went into a threat display.

...he really does look taller, bigger, and scarier!

First Heron was vehement in his display, and walked around in this posture eyeing the interloper.

Second Heron as he coasted in. You can tell he knows he's up to no good! ;-)

As soon as he landed, Second Heron answered back with his own threat posture, but he wasn't quite as convincing.

He spread his wings...

...and lifted his head, but never quite as high as First Heron.

...a feeble attempt at best! He soon flew off.

First Heron victorious!

Rick, Matty and I really enjoyed watching this behavior. At first we wondered if the two herons were engaging in courtship behavior, but their body language soon let us know it was a threat display. At the heronry in Cincinnati, we've seen a lot of courtship displays in the trees, but we were never lucky enough to witness threat postures and displays because the birds are too timid to fish near humans. I love Florida birds...

25 comments:

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Great pictures, Kelly. I love see both of the Great Blue Herons in their 'threat' positions.... I wondered if they were actually going to have a FIGHT... Glad one gave up and left!!!!!

Thanks for these marvelous pictures.
Hugs,
Betsy

JKoenig said...

Mr. Victor seems to be strutting along in that last picture with arrogance written all over his face.

Great pictures!

Roy said...

Great shots, Kelly! Our Great Blues are pretty spread out (it's not a big population here in the first place) and there's plenty of territory for all, so I've never witnessed any clashes. I did see a little Snowy Egret courting display about a month ago, though, with the wings spread and the crest all the way up. Alas, too far out of camera range!

Elaine said...

Wonderful shots! What a great encounter to witness. When's your next trip to Florida?

Laure Ferlita said...

Did you hear any kind of screech to go with that posture? They intriguing to watch and they generally leave no mistake as to their intent when threatened.

Beautiful shots, love that one of the 2nd heron landing.

Roy said...

Wow! dramatic shots Kelly.

Marilyn said...

Just awesome!

Marie said...

It's always a treat to see behavior other than the usual feeding and preening. We get treated to the antics of sandhill cranes here in SE Michigan, who congregate in groups every evening on a lake near our home. What fun!

Chris said...

Great sequence Kelly and nice behaviour. It is so coll when they display like this. Fantastic post!

Katherine Thomas said...

Breathtaking photos. They are so clear and perfect! They should be on the cover of Birds and Blooms!

Roberta said...

Wow! What a magnificent display and how lucky to witness it, yet alone photograph it. I need to get to Florida before the birds are gone.

holdingmoments said...

What a great sequence Kelly. It's fascinating watching the behaviour, and even better when we can capture those moments.

Steve Borichevsky said...

At least it didn't come down to blows! These are wonderful shots.

Warren Baker said...

Fantastic shots Kelly. Well done!

Montanagirl said...

Stunning series, Kelly! Loved this post. You are so talented with that camera! Do you use the Canon 300mm f/2.8 lens? Can't remember. Anyway - smashing photos.

Kathy A. Johnson said...

Wonderful photos--I can certainly see why Blue Heron #2 left! Glad they didn't come to blows!

Jain said...

Astonishing photos, Kelly! I'm awestruck.

Susan W. said...

That is incredible! I've never seen such a thing - and I've been watching herons for a long time! Great post!

Phil said...

Just great pictures as ever Kelly, your series captured the drama of the stand off

Wanda said...

How do you get such perfect photos Kelly? Those Herons seem to be showing of for you. You really captured very beautiful scenes!

♥...Wanda

Allison said...

Amazing--I grew up near a salt water marsh in Maine and Herons were common--but I never had the pleasure of seeing them as closely as your photos have allowed me to do tonight! THANK YOU!

francescbb@hotmail.es said...

WWWOOOWWW Excelent shots, Congratulations
Frank

http://balapertotarreu.blogspot.com

Kelly said...

...thanks, everyone! I'm definitely heading back to Florida next spring break--I hope!!! I want to go back to Longboat Key. This was a fantastic shot. I thought I had video somewhere, but I haven't been able to find it. I'll keep looking.

Kathiesbirds said...

Outstanding post! I have never witnessed this behaviour either!

Mary said...

I've never seen this behavior before....neat shots!