Little Blue Heron
Egretta caerulea - Linnaeus
Ardeidae (Egret) Family


Photo courtesy Mike Carter, Pensacola, Florida
 

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.

The Little Blue is of slight body, slender neck, and fairly long legs. It has rounded wings, and a long, straight, spearlike bill that is thick at the base.

The adults are very dark all over. At close range or in good light, they have a rich purple-maroon head and neck and dark slaty-blue body. They have yellow eyes, greenish legs, and a bill that is pale blue at the base, black at the tip. Juveniles are entirely white, except for vague dusky tips to the outer primaries. Immatures molting into adult plumage are a patchwork of white and blue

The Little Blue is a stand-and-wait predator, rather than a frenetic, dashing-about predator. They watch the water for fish and other small morsels, changing locations by walking slowly or by flying to a completely different site. They nest in trees, usually among other nesting herons and wading birds.

Look for the Little Blue on quiet waters ranging from tidal flats and estuaries to streams, swamps, and flooded fields. They are usually found in only small numbers at any one water body, often tucked into hidden corners.

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