Top Photo: Great blue heron.
Great blue herons (GBHs) are by far the most often observed heron in our wetlands. They, along with green herons, nest locally. Though green herons tend to move either to the coast or to the south after mid October, great blue herons may be seen at any time of the year. A thick layer of ice on the pond is the only deterrent to a great blue heron showing up.
Frogs, fish, in fact, any aquatic life as well as birds, and small mammals are what GBHs eat. If any of those things are available a GBH will consume them.
A curious behavior of GBHs is what I call the parabol stance. The bird stands upright, neck stretched out, with wings drooped to its sides and cupped, like a parabolic dish.
The heron faces directly into the sun as if to capture as much heat as possible. While in this stance, the bird invariably “pants,” its gular pouch vibrating rapidly (the white area below bill in photo). I’ve heard and seen photos of other species of heron taking the stance but have never witnessed it in person, except in GBH.
I believe the bird is attempting to rid itself of insect parasites who can not stand the heat and are therefore forced to move around through the bird’s feathers to avoid overheating, revealing themselves to the heron. The parasites are picked off during the subsequent preening following this behavior. The “panting” is a way of dissipating heat from the bird’s body acquired during the “stance.”
Great egrets tend to visit during late summer or fall. Spring is the season with the fewest sightings. Though, any season is possible.
Green herons are typically with us from mid April till mid September. Occasionally one shows up during winter.
In April of 2017 a little blue heron dropped in to the wetlands. It was a young bird and hadn’t molted into its adult blue plumage. They’re white their first year of life.
It’s always a treat to see a night-heron here at the museum. I’ve only seen them in spring (April – June) and they have always been birds in immature plumage.
And, black-crowned night-heron.
And finally, a bird I have not seen in our wetlands, but one that could appear, tricolored heron. The one pictured was at Sandy Creek Park, about 6 miles southwest, as the heron flies, from the museum. There’s no reason a tricolored heron couldn’t pop up in the wetlands.