In a previous post
, we looked at how to tell the difference between the white-colored herons and egrets that you can find regularly in the U.S. In this post, I'd like to look at those that are not white. To save space, we'll consider the night herons and bitterns in future posts. With herons and egrets that are not white, your task to identify them is much simpler.
Great Blue Heron
|Great Blue Heron|
Great Blue Herons are the largest herons in the U.S. They are blue-grey on their backs and can be reddish-grey on their necks with a whitish head and a black stripe that extends from their eyes to the back of their head. Their bills are thick and are dark on the top and yellow on the bottom. As we said in the previous post, there is also a white morph in Central and South Florida.
Little Blue Heron
|Little Blue Heron|
Little Blue Herons are smaller, and adults are entirely blue-grey in color. Their bills also become dark toward the tip. And as we said before, immature little blues are all white during their first year, and while they are molting they can often appear as blue-grey and white.
Reddish Egrets are relatively large herons, though smaller than the Great Blue. They have an overall reddish color and can sport a two-toned pink bill that become black at the tip. They are also very active feeders, often running while feeding and spreading their wings as they strike at their prey. Also, there's a white morph of this species, as we saw in a previous post.
Tricolored Herons are some of the prettiest herons. They have dark backs and necks with white on their bellies and under their wings. Their bills sometimes appear to be blue, adding a little extra color to this beautiful bird.
Green Herons are the smallest of these herons, with a stocky and overall green appearance and a black crown. These birds are the most fun when they cause their crown feathers to stick up. They have yellowish legs. When their necks are retracted, they almost look like they have no neck.
|Little Blue Heron Getting Adult Plumage|
Under most conditions, these birds can readily be identified by their color, size and shape. I have red-green color blindness, though, so sometimes I can't use color to distinguish between them. And I suspect that even those with normal vision can be fooled under difficult lighting conditions. For instance, a Reddish Egret may appear to be white or grey over distances and in poor lighting. So here are some checks I use to confirm my initial identifications of these herons/egrets:
- Look for white on the belly or under the wings in flight. If you see that, you're looking at a Tricolored Heron.
- Look for its behavior--the Reddish Egret's "canopy feeding" style can help tell it apart.
- Compare the bird to other nearby birds that you can identify. A Little Blue Heron will look smaller next to a Great Blue Heron than will a Reddish Egret.
- Look at structure--that is, the form of a bird. Tricolored Herons look more slender than other herons. Green Herons have shorter legs.
- Look for a two-toned bill, which can point you to a Reddish Egret, Little Blue Heron or Tricolored Heron. And if you can see the color of the bill, even better--a pinkish bill will distinguish a Reddish Egret from the more blue-grey looking bill of the Little Blue Heron.
|Tricolored Heron with Worn Feathers|
There are variations in color within the same species. Coloration can change based on the birds age--for instance, immature Tricolored Herons can look a little more reddish than adults. Their coloration changes as they molt as well; weathered feathers look different from new ones. During breeding season, these species can grow longer, more colorful feathers to attract a mate. Over time, you'll be able to learn to tell which variations are normal variations within a species and which field marks are useful to help you identify the various species of herons and egrets.
Nice photos and helpful too!ReplyDelete