Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Immature Herons

The weather radar indicated that a cold front accompanied by showers was moving slowly down the Florida peninsula, so we did not want to take a chance on being caught by the rain a mile out in our local birding patch. Therefore we decided to walk the 1/4 mile boardwalk at nearby Chapel Trail Nature Preserve in Pembroke Pines. If we saw the rain approaching we would have time to rush back to the parking lot.

Here is the Chapel Trail boardwalk on a mild morning earlier this year:

Chapel Trail boardwalk 20140528

Chapel Trail boardwalk 2-20140528

It was a good move. Minutes after we started walking out, we spied two white herons. One was a Great Egret, and the other, an immature Little Blue Heron which suddenly flew up and roosted on the boardwalk railing. It is distinguished from the egrets by its green legs and dark-tipped bill. Its feathers are also slightly off-white. By the time it is a year old it will molt into the dark adult plumage.

Little Blue Heron immature 2-20141118

The heron scratched an itchy chin:

Little Blue Heron immature 20141118

It was so close that I had to back away to fit the entire bird in the viewfinder of my telephoto lens:

Little Blue Heron immature head 20141118

All herons have an elongated sixth vertebra in their upper neck which is attached to its adjacent vertebrae at right angles and acts like a double hinge. See a drawing of the neck bones in this earlier postThe above photo shows the resulting"Z" shape it creates. This allows herons to strike at prey with sudden force, but also permits them to preen their feathers in areas that would be otherwise inaccessible:

Little Blue Heron immature neck 20141118

An adult Little Blue Heron flew in, still with green legs and dark-tipped bill, but otherwise presenting a markedly different appearance from the immature:

Little Blue Heron adult 20141118

Almost as if providing a second movement to the theme established by the Little Blue Heron, an immature Tricolored Heron arrived and settled down in the Spike Rush:

Tricolored Heron immature in flight 20141118

Also in its first year of life, this bird had mostly rusty brown upperparts:

Tricolored Heron immature 2-20141118

Yes indeed, this really happened-- an adult Tricolored Heron then moved in, as if to show off its contrasting wardrobe:

Tricolored Heron adult in flight 2-20141118

Tricolored Heron adult 2-20141118

The adult now took center stage, flying up to the railing and once more causing me to back down the boardwalk in order to take its photograph:

Tricolored Heron adult 5-20141118

I especially liked this pose, which exhibited its plumes:

Tricolored Heron adult 20141118


  1. Awesome. My dad loved herons and birds of all kinds. The herons always remind of of the lake house he loved so much. I like the last picture too. I am also loving the one of youngsters preening itself.

  2. Beautiful pictures as always, Doug.