Monday, March 12, 2012

Little Blue Herons always put on a big show...

With striking slate-blue feathers on its body and muted maroon-purple feathers on its head and neck, it's hard not to notice a Little Blue Heron, especially when it shakes out those feathers!

This Little Blue Heron was watching over chicks in a nearby nest. He fluffed up his feathers and shook everything out, transforming into a little "regal" heron!

...his change is so rapid, it is almost like he slips on royal clothes.

...slowly morphing back into his "average joe" look.

...what a difference!

...here's another noticeable difference. When Little Blue Herons are chicks, they are white and remain so all through their first year. Hints of what's to come are visible, though--they have a small black tip on their bills, and small bits of darker gray or blue can be found at the tips of their wing feathers (but it's hardly noticeable).

Mother Nature always has a reason for her anomalies, and white morph immature Little Blue Herons are no exception. Turns out Snowy Egrets don't mind when baby Little Blue Herons hang out with them and fish. Maybe because the young birds are white, the Snowy Egrets ignore them, which is good for the young Little Blue Herons. For some reason, immature Little Blue Herons who hunt with Snowy Egrets catch more food! I found no definitive answer, but the most common reasoning was the Snowy Egrets hunt differently than Little Blue Herons and stir up more fish, making it easier for the Little Blues to catch dinner. Since the Little Blue Herons remain white for a year, they get a head start by fishing with Snowy Egrets. Because of that, you'll often find Little Blue Herons and Snow Egrets nesting together in rookeries...

A Snowy Egret nest is tucked into the Little Blue Heron section of the Ibis Pond rookery on Pinckney Island in South Carolina. Every year I've found Little Blues and Snowy Egrets nesting together at the Ibis Pond rookery.

For another post showing a Little Blue Heron in his "regal-ware," click here.
(Photographed on 6/6/2011 at Ibis Pond on Pinckney Island, SC near Hilton Head.)

For more information about immature Little Blue Herons and their white color morph, click here for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "All About Birds" site.

25 comments:

Montanagirl said...

They are such beautiful birds! You captured them with pizazz!!

Elaine said...

Excellent series, Kelly! I gotta say I really like the look of the feather fluff.

Carole M. said...

oh wow what wonderful photos; just superb!

Randy Emmitt said...

Kelly,
Stunning photos of the Little Blue heron. We have them along the coast, but I don't recall finding them inland before. Guess you have a good spot to find them in Ohio.

Roy said...

Cool! We used to get Little Blues in the Summer in Newport, although I never saw any with the plumage all puffed out. Nice shots!

Janice K said...

What a difference in appearance, but either way--fabulous! And those babies are precious.

TexWisGirl said...

SO gorgeous! and apparently raising smart babies, too. :)

Hilke Breder said...

Fabulous series, Kelly, so expressive! Thanks for the info on feeding habits of the young.

Nature Framingham said...

Those are some of the most beautiful pictures I've ever seen - of any species! I have never seen a Little Blue Heron, but they just rose to number one in my 'must see' list. I am blown away, Kelly!

Shelley said...

Loved these photos! The first ones with that crazy heron hair made me laugh! They're so beautiful.

Ana Mínguez Corella said...

Beautiful birds!!!... Great pictures!!!... Un saludo..

Guy said...

Hi Kelly

The colours on the Little Blue Heron are spectacular I cannot believe the lovely shading between the blues and purples. It is really interesting that they stay with the egrets, that sort of mutualism? in the animal kingdom creates so much added interest when observing behaviour. And also raises so many questions about how it came about. What fun.

Regards
Guy

CathyO said...

These are wonderful pictures, Kelly! And thank you for all the information - it is really fascinating!

Robert Mortensen said...

Beautiful and interesting as always!

Alan Pavey said...

Wonderful pics of a really interesting bird.

Tammie Lee said...

such a gorgeous creature
amazing how many forms and colors birds come in
i can see why you are smitten

The GIPSY in the PARLOUR said...

OMGoodness, the babies!! Too cute.... brilliant photos as always!

Dan Huber said...

Lovely shots. I have never seen one all puffed up, boy are they gorgeous.

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Hi Kelly, I love seeing the Herons when they puff themselves out and show off their feathers... Makes them look like a different bird...

Love the little WHITE babies...Cute!
Hugs,
Betsy

Carol Mattingly said...

Love these images Kelly. The blue is fabulous. Can't believe how beautiful these creatures are. Hope all is well with you. Carol

Gillian Olson said...

Wow, thanks for these great pictures and the story about the young herns. The adults are quite beautiful when all fluffed up and even when they are not.

Cindy said...

Kelly, these pictures are gorgeous. I love the chicks with their greenish looking legs or is that just the light. In the first picture of the chicks the middle one's face shows some great attitude! LOL

Kelly said...

...thanks, everyone. I love seeing these amazing birds. They are among the most beautiful when they fluff up.
Randy...I wish I were at Pinckney Island now to see these gorgeous blues....but I'll just have to wait until later this summer when I return to Ibis pond. I hope they are nesting there once again.
Cindy...yes, the legs are a little greenish-yellowish. It's not just the light. The color helps distinguish them.

E said...

Beautiful pics of great, wonderful birds. Well done, Kelly, thanks for sharing.
Hugs

rachelle vance photography said...

BEAUTIFUL photography!