Little Blue Heron

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Common Name: Little Blue Heron
Scientific Name: Egretta caerulea

Size: 22-29 inches (56-74 cm)

Habitat: North and South America; breeds from the Gulf states of the USA through Central America and the Caribbean south to Peru and Uruguay. It is a resident breeder in most of its range, but some northern breeders migrate to the southeastern USA or beyond in winter. Found in freshwater swamps, lagoons, coastal thickets and islands.

Status: Least Concern. Global Population: 300,000 - 450,000. Protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

Diet: Fish, frogs, crustaceans, small rodents and insects. Little Blue Herons stalk its prey methodically in shallow water, often running as they do so.

Nesting: Breeding adult birds have blue-grey plumage except for the head and neck, which are purplish and have long blue filamentous plumes. The legs and feet are dark blue. Sexes are similar back. Non-breeding adults have dark blue head and neck plumage and paler legs. Young birds are all white except for dark wing tips and have yellowish legs. They gradually acquire blue plumage as they mature.

The male usually chooses the nesting territory before selecting a female. The male will court the female by stretching his neck out and pointing his bill up. He then crouches and may snap his bill, sway his neck back and forth and vocalize. The female may approach him aggressively at first, but soon the pair will groom each other and twine their necks together. Both the herons build the nest. The male then gathers twigs for the nest and presents them to the female who will build the nest. The nest is made of sticks, reeds and grass. The nest is usually built a few feet above the ground in a tree or a bush, although sometimes it is built on reeds or on the ground. The female lays three to five eggs. The eggs hatch in about three weeks. Both parents incubate the eggs. Chicks are fed regurgitated food by both parents. They fledge when they are 35 and 40 days old. The little blue heron has a lifespan of up to seven years.

Cool Facts: White Little Blue Herons often mingle with Snowy Egrets. The Snowy Egret tolerates their presence more than Little Blue Herons in adult plumage. These young birds actually catch more fish when in the presence of the Snowy Egret and also gain a measure of protection from predators when they mix into flocks of white herons. It is plausible that this is because of these advantages; they remain white for their first year.

The Little Blue is the farmer’s friend, too… It often follows farmers as they are plowing fields and then grabs the insects that are disturbed by the plow.

Found in Songbird ReMix Shorebirds Volume II: Herons and Bitterns

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