The Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea) is a small heron. It breeds in the Gulf states of the US, 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 US or beyond in winter. There is post-breeding dispersal to well north of the nesting range, as far as the Canada–US border.
This species is about 60 cm (24 in) long, with a 102 cm (40 in) wingspan, and weighs 325 g (11.5 oz). It is a medium-large, long-legged heron with a long pointed blue or grayish bill with a black tip. Breeding adult birds have blue-gray plumage except for the head and neck, which are purplish and have long blue filamentous plumes. The legs and feet are dark blue. The sexes are similar. 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 dull greenish legs. They gradually acquire blue plumage as they mature. [Wikipedia]
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. [All About Birds]
Little Blue Heron Facts [All About Birds]
- During the feathered-hat fashion craze of the early twentieth century, Little Blue Herons’ lack of showy “aigrette plumes” saved them from the hunting frenzy that decimated other heron and egret populations.
- Little Blue Herons may gain a survival advantage by wearing white during their first year of life. Immature birds are likelier than their blue elders to be tolerated by Snowy Egrets—and in the egrets’ company, they catch more fish. Mingling in mixed-species flocks of white herons, immature Little Blue Herons probably also acquire extra protection against predators.
- When observing groups of white herons and egrets foraging together, look for the slow, deliberate movements of an immature Little Blue Heron. This stately and deliberate pace helps distinguish the Little Blue Heron from its relatives, which tend to move more quickly or erratically.
- The oldest known Little Blue Heron was at least 13 years, 11 months old. It was banded in 1957 in Virginia and found in Maryland in 1971.