Little Blue Heron

Egretta caerulea

Image by Florida Fish and Wildlife on Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0.

Physical: Small heron with very dark blue, almost slate grey feathers. Their heads are dark purple-maroon. Juveniles, however, have fully white plumage which darkens as they grow. Adults grow to about 56–74 cm, with a wingspan of 100–105 cm.

Habitat: Little blue herons live primarily in freshwater marshes, though they can be found around saltwater marshes too. Their range spans Mexico, Central America, parts of South America, the Caribbean, and up to Delaware. The southernmost birds migrate up to Barnegat Bay to breed.

Feeding: Little blue herons forage slowly and methodically, wading through shallow water or searching on the shore or even in grassy fields. They eat mostly small fish and crustaceans (crabs, crayfish), but also eat grasshoppers and insects on land. They can also eat tadpoles, frogs, lizards, snakes, turtles, and spiders.

Breeding: The breeding season varies depending on where the birds go. In New Jersey, they arrive in late April. The herons congregate in a colony and males claim a spot for themselves to start displaying to females. Courting pairs cross necks and nip at each other’s plumage. They build a nest together in trees or shrubs, 3-15 ft above the water, out of a platform of sticks with a spot for the eggs. Little blue herons lay 3-5 pale blue-green eggs, which incubate for 20-23 days.

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