The Great Blue Heron
Whether poised on a river bend or cruising the coastline with slow, deep wingbeats, the Great Blue Heron is a majestic sight. This stately heron with its subtle blue-gray plumage often stands motionless as it scans for prey or wades belly deep with long, deliberate steps. They may move slowly, but Great Blue Herons can strike like lightning to grab a fish or snap up a gopher. In flight, look for the widespread heron’s tucked-in neck and long legs trailing out behind.
The Great Blue Heron’s massive size and white in the face separates it from other dark herons; they are not likely to visit a typical backyard. Great Blue Herons fly with their heads pulled back against their shoulders and have smooth, deliberate wingbeats, barely raising their wings above horizontal. Great Blue Herons travel solo, except if you catch them during migration when you might see up to 10 together.
Little Blue Heron
A small, dark heron arrayed in moody blues and purples, the Little Blue Heron is a common but inconspicuous resident of marshes and estuaries in the Southeast. They stalk shallow waters for small fish and amphibians, adopting a quiet, methodical approach that can make these gorgeous herons surprisingly easy to overlook at first glance. Little Blue Herons build stick nests in trees alongside other colonial waterbirds. In the U.S., their populations have been in a gradual decline since the mid-twentieth century.
From a distance, the Green Heron is a dark, stocky bird hunched on slender yellow legs at the water’s edge, often hidden behind a tangle of leaves. Seen up close, it is a striking bird with a velvet-green back, rich chestnut body, and a dark cap often raised into a short crest. These small herons crouch patiently to surprise fish with a snatch of their daggerlike bill. They sometimes lure in fish using small items such as twigs or insects as bait.
Green Herons stand motionless at the water’s edge as they hunt for fish and amphibians. They typically stand on vegetation or solid ground, and they don’t wade as often as larger herons. In flight these compact herons can look ungainly, often partially uncrooking their necks to give a front-heavy appearance.
Black-Crowned Night Heron
Black-crowned Night-Herons are stocky birds compared to many of their long-limbed heron relatives. They’re most active at night or at dusk, when you may see their ghostly forms flapping out from daytime roosts to forage in wetlands. In the light of day adults are striking in gray-and-black plumage and long white head plumes. These social birds breed in colonies of stick nests usually built over water. They live in fresh, salt, and brackish wetlands and are the most widespread heron in the world.
Black-crowned Night-Herons often spend their days perched on tree limbs or concealed among foliage and branches. They forage in the evening and at night, in water, on mudflats, and on land. Adults have all-black bills; immatures have yellow-and-black bills.
The Tricolored Heron, formerly known as the Louisiana Heron; are fairly common, but never in large numbers. Found in open shallow water or marshy pools. Nearly always solitary, but nests and roosts in mixed colonies. Foraging behavior very active; often runs after fish. Unusually long neck on long bill give distinctive shape. Immediately recognizable by white belly and under-wing coverts contrasting with dark gray and brown upper-side.
Be blessed and be a blessing!
(AllAboutBirds.org; The Sibley Field Guide to Birds)