Little Blue Heron

So this is another heron/egret that I saw for the first time on the trip to South Padre. It was also the most difficult one to get a picture of–which is why I think I only managed maybe three pictures in total.

This one was difficult to spot, because it liked to stick to areas that had quite a bit of vegetation, where it could hid or blend in with the trees and bushes.

Little Blue Heron walking through the brush at the birding and nature center in South Padre Island, Texas

The adult Little Blue Heron has dark purple and blue feathers–the head and neck are covered in purple-maroon feathers and their bodies are covered in dark slate-blue feathers.

While they look similar to the Reddish Egrets, they can be distinguished by their size (they’re slightly smaller than the Reddish Egret), and their head/neck feathers are more purple than red.

The young Little Blue Herons are all white, and as they molt into their adult plumage (during the second year), their feathers are a patchwork of white and blue.

These birds are either year-round residents or medium-distant range migrants. They can be found along the Gulf Coast year round, and some do migrate a little further into parts of the US prior to breeding season (which includes north-central Oklahoma). Then some will migrate down to Central and South America for the winters.

Little Blue Heron territory map. Map (c) Birds of the world

They prefer quite waters such as tidal flats and estuaries, streams, swamps, flooded plains, and calm lakes and rivers.

Unlike some of the other herons and egrets, the Little Blue Heron is a stand-and-wait hunter (similar to the Great Blue Heron).

Little Blue Heron moving through the brush at the birding and nature center, South Padre Island Texas

Their diet consists of mainly fish, but they do supplement it with amphibians, crayfish, crabs, insects, and spiders.

So here are some other cool little tidbits about the Little Blue Heron:

Young Little Blue Herons are able to blend in with Snowy Egrets and during this time they are able to catch more fish and acquire extra protection against predators.

If it is a semi-bad year for hunting/foraging the older/stronger chicks may attack and kill thier younger siblings (known as siblicide) to ensure that they get the food that the parents bring back to the nest.

Since Little Blue Herons’ don’t develop plumes during mating season–this saved them from over hunting in the 1800s. During the 1800s (particularly the early 1800s), egrets & herons that developed plumes during the mating season were hunted mainly for the plumes–as they were in high demand as accessories for hats.

Though now the Little Blue Herons are in danger of extinction–mainly through loss of habitat, vulnerability to pesticides, heavy metals, and PCBs, and being skittish of disturbances near their nesting sites (where adults will abandon nests, eggs, and chicks).

Preservation of wetlands, reduced uses of pesticides, keeping humans (and pets) away from colony areas (especially during breeding season), and just being better caretakers of the eart can help keep this magnificent bird from becoming extinct.

Photography goals include getting the picture of one more out in the open hunting (not hiding in the tall grasses), and also getting a picture of a young Little Blue Heron that is molting between its’ all-white look and the adult all-dark look.