Friday, October 19, 2012

Big White Wading Birds

Stalking Cattle Egret - Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/2000, ISO 320, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm
Some of my friends call large white birds BWBs for Big White Birds, for this post I am just focusing on BWWBs, or Big White Wading Birds.

I'm starting with a Cattle Egret because it is the smallest of the BWWBs at a length of 20 inches. This adult Cattle Egret is in nonbreeding plumage. It has a short yellow bill, light yellow eyes with pale yellow lores, short dark legs and a stocky neck.

Landing Snowy Egret - Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/1600, ISO 200, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 185mm
Next up is a Snowy Egret at 24 inches in length. This bird is also in nonbreeding plumage and while the Cattle and Snowy are both BWWBs there are differences. Snowy Egrets have a longer, darker bill, lemony yellow eyes and lores, dark legs with their trademark (they ought to trademark it) "golden slippers" and a slender long neck.

Hatch year Little Blue Heron - Nikon D200, handheld, f7.1, 1/1000, ISO 200, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm
Some novice birders might wonder why I am putting a Little Blue Heron into a post about Big White Wading Birds, bear with me because the mystery will be solved. Little Blue Herons are the same length as Snowy Egrets, 24 inches in length and during their first year immature Little Blue Herons are white and will gradually turn blue. Immature Little Blue Herons have bills that are thick and tapered, darker towards the tip and gray, green or pink near the base of it, they have pale eyes and lores, dull yellowish green legs and a slender, curvy neck.

White Ibis in the surf - Nikon D70, handheld, f5.6, 1/500, ISO 200, Nikkor 70-300mm VR at 300mm
 One inch longer in length than the Snowy and Cattle Egret is the White Ibis, easy to remember because of their long, curved pink to red bill. The bills remind me of Jimmy Durante's (showing my age) proboscis, sorry Jimmy. White Ibis have baby blue eyes with a partially bald face, pink to reddish legs and a long neck.

Hunting white morph Reddish Egret - Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/1250, ISO 250, Nikkor 70-300mm VR at 300mm
Well here I go again talking about a bird whose name indicates the color red, not white. There are white morphs of the Reddish Egret along the Gulf of Mexico. At 30 inches in length this beautiful bird earns the title of BWWB. The white morph above is in breeding plumage and has a bi-colored bill that is pink near the base and about halfway to the tip it is black, they have pale eyes and in breeding plumage the lores are bluish purple, the legs are a steely gray/blue and the neck has a shaggy appearance to it.

Great Egret on a stormy morning - Nikon D200, handheld, f7.1, 1/640, ISO 160, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 300mm
Next up at 39 inches in length is the Great Egret. The egret above is in nonbreeding plumage. Great Egrets have thin yellow bills that come to a sharp point, yellow eyes and lores, black legs and feet and a very long, prehensile looking neck. I've seen them turn their necks into a pretzel, seriously!

Landing Wood Stork - Nikon D200, f7.1, 1/750, ISO 200, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm
The tall Wood Stork weighs in with a length of 40 inches and towers over the smaller BWWBs. The stork above is a second year bird.  Wood Storks have thick bills that curve downwards that can look like a chunk of wood, they have black eyes and as adults have a bald head and neck that is dark and wrinkly. The long legs are dark gray to black and the feet are a mottled black with bubble gum pink.

There is one other BWWB that I do not have images of and that is the white morph of the Great Blue Heron that is found mainly in southern Florida to the Florida Keys.

So while this post is mainly about Big White Wading Birds I have also covered birds whose names include red and blue.



  1. I'm a fan of using white egret sp! Well, for the egrets that is!

  2. Nice post and wonderful photos! The Reddish Egret and Great Egret are particularly nice.

  3. How nice to see these all grouped together. Love the hunting Reddish Egret photo.

  4. I just love the BWWBs! When I vacation on the west coast of Florida, I always have the pleasure of viewing these beauties. Very informative post filled with brilliant photographs!

  5. I just finished editing segments of a Great Egret in the Great Marsh in Newbury MA on 10/1.

  6. Awesome photos. The Reddish Egret is one of my favorites and I also love the cute Snowy Egrets. They are all great bird and photos. Have a happy weekend.

  7. Wonderful and a lovely collection of images Mia :). I always love photographing heron and egret species, as they provide chance for plenty of action. Its a shame we do not have more variety in the UK.

  8. Thanks so much for your comments everyone, I was in Nevada yesterday when this was posted camoing in Great Basin National Park and couldn't reply until now.

  9. Great photos of all these beauties! The white morph Reddish Egret is stunning!!

  10. Awesome images of some really beautiful birds! Great work Mia.