Little Blue HeronEgretta caerulea

adult
Arthur Morris/VIREO
juvenile
Glenn Bartley/VIREO
immature (2nd yr)
Adrian & Jane Binns/VIREO
adult
Joe Fuhrman/VIREO
immature (2nd yr)
James M. Wedge/VIREO
Little Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron

Description

25-30" (64-76 cm). W. 3'5" (1 m). Adult slate blue with maroon neck. Bill grayish with black tip; legs greenish. Immature is white, usually with dusky tips on primaries. Young birds acquiring adult plumage usually have a piebald appearance. Snowy Egret somewhat smaller, all white, with black bill and legs, yellow lores and feet.

Voice

Usually silent; squawks when alarmed. Various croaks and screams at nesting colonies.

Listen

flight calls (alarm)
typical hoarse calls

Habitat

Freshwater swamps and lagoons in the South; coastal thickets on islands in the North.

Range

Breeds from southern California (rare), southern New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma east to southern Missouri and southern New England, and south to Gulf Coast; more common along coast. Winters along Gulf Coast, in Florida, and on Atlantic Coast north to New Jersey. Also in tropical America.

Discussion

This is one of the most numerous herons in the Southeast and may be observed in large mixed concentrations of herons and egrets. It eats more insects than the larger herons and is sometimes seen following a plow to pick up exposed insect larvae. Adults usually forage alone, stalking the marshes for prey, but immatures tend to feed in groups, their white plumage serving as a signal, drawing distant birds together at good foraging places. Unlike the egrets, it has no fancy plumes and was thus spared by plume hunters.

Nesting

3-5 pale blue-green eggs placed in a nest of sticks in a small tree or bush. Nests in colonies.

Similar Species

adult, breeding

Reddish Egret

30" (76 cm). W. 3'10" (1.2 m). A medium-sized heron, slate-gray with shaggy, pale rufous head and neck, bluish legs, and pink bill with dark tip.

adult, breeding

Snowy Egret

20-27" (51-69 cm). W. 3'2" (97 cm). A small, delicate white heron with a slender black bill, black legs, and yellow feet. In breeding season, it has long lacy plumes on its head, neck, and back.

adult

Tricolored Heron

25-30" (64-76 cm). W. 3'2" (97 cm). A slender gray-blue heron with rufous neck and white belly.

Vireo

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