ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Beautiful Little Blue Heron

Updated on September 2, 2015
Adult Little Blue Heron
Adult Little Blue Heron | Source

Don't Be Fooled By First Appearances

The Little Blue Heron is a smaller-sized heron, the adult always dark blue-gray in color. The immatures are white, and bear a strong resemblance to the Snowy Egret. The greatest differentiating characteristics for the little blue immatures is the fact that it forages with its neck extended forward, has both green legs and feet, and a thicker bill with a pale base. This bird also has a rounder head.

This retiring beauty has neither showy plumage nor aigrettes, but it is a gorgeous bird in its own right. During breeding season, the bicolored bill turns bright blue, the head and neck receive a dark purple cast, and a few dark head plumes develop. Most of them nest in coastal colonies, but larger groups are colonial in fresh water habitats with Great and Snowy Egret and the ubiquitous Great Blue Heron. Inland nesters prefer the privacy of willow thickets or cottonwoods, snags or otherwise.

Like most herons, they croak or squawk when surprised or disturbed. They have a trumpeting or squealing quality, so it is possible to learn their calls outright.

Pied Little Blue Heron
Pied Little Blue Heron | Source

The Changeling

A second year bird begins a transition, where their feathers show blotchy blue coloration, so they are referred to as “pied” or calico. They can breed before molting into their final slate-blue adult plumage. Their coloring is very unique for herons.

The little blue exhibits individual feeding specialization, which can be early morning or evening feedings, and they are usually found alone, sometimes in small groups. Some herons prefer fish, others favor small frogs, and others might lean toward mollusks or insects, so they learn to catch them successfully, and the aforementioned can become their primary food source. This depends upon what might be available where they are born or are breeding.

Little Blue Heron juvenile in flight
Little Blue Heron juvenile in flight | Source

Courtship and Nesting

The male will use courtship displays like stretching from a vantage point. He will also bow and extend the feathers on his neck, then will move toward the chosen female. They will mandible snap in unison and proceed to mutual neck rubbing and/or preening. Copulation will ensue, and then the creation of the nest begins. He will present her with nesting material(twigs). They spread their wings for each other and might copulate numerous times.

Nests are in dense growth in the heronry, anywhere from three to ten feet high, containing four or five blue-green eggs. Incubation is about three weeks, shared by both birds. Hatching is staggered, and one parent will always remain in the nest while the other seeks food for the young, who are covered in white down. While very young they require protection from sun, rain, and extreme heat, as well as predators.

These herons nest under the tree canopy, about mid-range. Due to the guano(waste material), they have been known to kill trees under their nest sites.

Nestling Little Blue Heron
Nestling Little Blue Heron | Source

Nestling Little Blue Herons

Feeding is by parental regurgitation, and the young seize the parents’ bills in a violent manner. Young birds have black-tipped primaries, which are rarely observed.

Nesting success is variable, due to nesting mortality, as well as egg loss from nest collapse, predation, and starvation.

Migration and Other Facts

Fortunately, Little Blue Heron did not suffer keenly from the horror of the plume trade. Since rookeries during this brutal feather retrieval were disturbed, most likely with this bird being present, disturbance was likely felt to some degree. What might have saved this bird, was the fact that its pied appearance as a young bird isn't that attractive, and it doesn't have beautiful aigrettes(long plumes), like the Snowy or Great Egrets during breeding season.

These are a migratory species, heading to Florida, South and Central America, and the West Indies. Eastern breeders usually head for Florida, and the western birds have an interest in the Gulf coastal vicinity. There should be overlap to some degree between the Yucatan and Cuba.

The longest lived bird was almost fourteen years of age and banded in Maryland.

The slow moving and deliberately intent bird weighs less than a pound, about the same size as a Snowy Egret.

Have You Ever Seen a Little Blue Heron?

See results
Juvenile Little Blue Heron
Juvenile Little Blue Heron | Source
Little Blue Heron in Comparison to Great Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron in Comparison to Great Blue Heron | Source

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 10 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Norma. I certainly don't need too much more extra material with all the variety of birds that I get around here. My Green Herons have really done well this year with five clutches. Last year was the best year with two clutches. I knew with an El Nino year this year that I would have more, but I never dreamed that I would have five. If you're curious to see photos, hop onto my Google+ account.

    • norlawrence profile image

      Norma Lawrence 10 months ago from California

      Great article and beautiful pictures as usual.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 15 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Katharine, I do so enjoy the heron family. I have been observing a Green Heron family for a few years now, and am amassing data for a study. It is rare, but perhaps I will have a colony on the lake. Since this is an El Nino year, chances are very good that if you have not done so, that this will be the year for a valid sighting. Keep up watching the coastline for some very unusual visitors this spring.

    • Sparrowlet profile image

      Katharine L Sparrow 15 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Gorgeous creatures! I'm not sure if I've seen one or not. Can't quite make out Cape Cod on the migration map, so not sure if they come here in summer or not. I have seen a great blue heron before and those are majestic, but seen less and less here these days. On the Cape we have three types of Egrets; the Great Egret, the Snowy Egret and the Cattle Egret. Great Egrets are impressive and marvelous to see, though I've not seen one in years. Your hub made me remember to post my bird watching log for 2016 birding season on my fridge! Enjoy all your birding hubs, very informative and lovely pictures!

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 15 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Laggy, the little blue can fool you as a young one. The secret is the beak, when it hasn't even made the pied appearance yet.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 15 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Some of what I think are egrets just might be the little blue heron. I had no idea that they were white. We saw 3 large birds...one on our roof and the others in trees last night. I did get some photos. At first we thought that they were some type of heron but I am going to have to do some research to make sure. They looked different from the photos here. We had never seen them so close to our home. Sharing and pinning to my birds board.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 20 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Oh, yes, Scribenet--there are lots of different kinds of herons all over the world. They are amazing birds!

    • Scribenet profile image

      Scribenet 20 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      I see the Great Blue Heron back of my house, but I am too far North to see the Little Blue Heron...I did not even know there were two Blue Herons!

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 21 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Glad to hear that, Suhail. Had an adventure today, which you will hear about soon.

    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 21 months ago from Mississauga, ON

      I didn't think we had little blue herons in Ontario and your map now confirms that.

      I enjoyed reading this awesome hub on this bird.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 21 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Glimmer Twin Fan! It is never to late to walk around nature and rub elbows. We can always learn something new about it. Thanks for reading.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 21 months ago

      We love great blue herons and see them frequently around here. I don't think I've ever seen the little blue heron though. Just a beautiful hub and now I want to go take a walk at our local lake! Enjoy your weekend.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 21 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Dolores, since this is an El Nino year, you might see them again, depending upon where you live. As long as they have a food source, they will usually appear, but don't forget that global warming is going to drive them north with the ambient water temps rising. If their food source moves, so will they.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 21 months ago from East Coast, United States

      I love herons and egrets, they are the most beautiful birds. We used to see little blues on our bird watching trips but haven't seen one for quite some time.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 22 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      That would mean a lot to me ad my knowledge base, agusfanani.

    • agusfanani profile image

      agusfanani 22 months ago from Indonesia

      Yes aviannovice, I hope I can share stories about Indonesian birds too.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 22 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Well then, agusfanani, you'll just have to read a few more of my stories. You can write a few for me about the birds from Indonesia.

    • agusfanani profile image

      agusfanani 22 months ago from Indonesia

      I'm crazy about bird watching and reading your hub is like watching them in nature, really !. Too bad that I can't open the images in this hub, maybe my computer needs upgrading.

      Thank you for sharing friend !.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 22 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      You are so welcome, Peachy. Perhaps you could introduce me to a few of yours.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 22 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Ms. Dora. All I can see is what happens and see if the birds will let me capture it.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 22 months ago from Home Sweet Home

      beautiful birds , I had never seen them before, thanks for the introduction

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 22 months ago from The Caribbean

      Congratulations on winning the Best Photographer Award! Won't be missing out on any more of your beautiful photography and interesting information.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 22 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Dianna! They are in most parts of the southeast, and will occasional head further north. They are beautiful birds, smaller than a Great Blue Heron.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 22 months ago

      I do see herons around here but not sure I've seen one like this. They are pretty birds. Thanks for the interesting information.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 22 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks for the kudos, Faith Reaper, but I never got any official word. Glad that you like my pics. I'm still practicing and trying to get better. I appreciate your support, dear friend.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 22 months ago from southern USA

      CONGRATS, DEB, ON WINNING ANOTHER HUBBIE, BEST PHOTOGRAPHER!

      Well-deserved, and glad my vote counted : )

      Just look at these gorgeous photographs here!

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 22 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Chris! It has many costumes, as you can see. You will run across it, as much as you travel.

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 22 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      I've seen the Little Green Heron, but not the Little Blue Heron, unless I thought it was something else. I'll keep my eyes open for this beauty. Thanks Deb.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 22 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      ChitrangadaSharan, it is good to see you, and I am so pleased that you found this wonderful water bird of interest.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 22 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Wonderful hub and the blue Heron looks beautiful indeed!

      I don't think I have seen it earlier. Your information about this unique bird is very interesting.

      Thanks for sharing!

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 22 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Dave! Thanks for reading! Between the two of us, we'll amass some good knowledge on the birds of some of the world.

    • D.A.L. profile image

      Dave 22 months ago from Lancashire north west England

      Deb great information another species you have introduced me to and so enhanced my knowledge. Great photography as standard on your hubs. Voted up interesting and useful.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 22 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Sujaya, thanks for noticing!

    • sujaya venkatesh profile image

      sujaya venkatesh 22 months ago

      a true ornithologist indeed

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 22 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Vellur! There's so much that happens at this lake. I should be having an adventure in about another 5-6 weeks in western Oklahoma. No telling what I might find there.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 22 months ago from Dubai

      Beautiful pictures! Learned about the blue heron, enjoyed reading.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 22 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Pat! No doubt that you HAVE seen them, and that adult is a real beauty, too. Since they are changeling birds, they give a variety to their species during their younger years. The pied variety can breed, too, so keep an eye out for them.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 22 months ago from sunny Florida

      What a lovely. Living in Florida I am fortunate to see most amazing birds on a daily basis. I am not a bird expert at all but feel certain I must have seen this showy little one.

      The other night when at my friend's home who lives right on a lake, a blue heron came to visit...one that I see often when I visit her home...and it makes me gasp every time I see it.

      thank you for sharing....absolutley intoxicated with nature's bounty...

      Angels are on the way this morning ps

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 22 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Peg! That's where I saw my first one, then one came to visit me at the lake the following spring.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 22 months ago from Dallas, Texas

      Lovely species and fascinating information and photos of this beautiful bird. They are here in Texas and we see them often.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 22 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Wellllllllll, keep an eye out. Never say never, especially with global warming facing us. They could be heading north for the summer, and it is very possible that they might show up at one of your local, quiet parks.

    • CrisSp profile image

      CrisSp 22 months ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      What joy and beauty! I've never been so lucky to see one in my life and would love to. We definitely don't have them here up north. :(

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 22 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, thumbi, glad that you enjoy birds, too. I find nature so relaxing.

    • thumbi7 profile image

      JR Krishna 22 months ago from India

      We see these birds or the similar looking ones (if I am not mistaken) fly in flock, towards the evening. It is very beautiful to watch them fly against the setting sun.

      Thanks for sharing this informative hub

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 22 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Oh, my no, Larry. I am still learning, hence the name, aviannovice. Seriously!

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 22 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Of course, my friend. And may the love of the Central Park animals grace you and keep you, like they have me.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 22 months ago from Oklahoma

      Your breadth of knowledge is amazing in this field. I can't even profess to a 10th of your knowledge base.

      Always educational.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 22 months ago from london

      Deb,

      You've said a very sweet and touching bit of poetry to me. I wanted you to know that it means quite a lot! My very best wishes to you this pleasant evening here in NY.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 22 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      manatita, my friend, YOU are very special, and I hope you are getting what you deserve from life. I am still catching up, so I hope to see your lovely poem soon. Thank you for the bright star that you are in my life.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 22 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      I know what you mean about caged birds, Jackie. There is an illegal trade in Africa that just pulls them out of the jungle, and ships them all over the world. Last year, a neighbor had a cockatiel in a tree. Her mother went on the roof, and scared the poor thing to death, so it fled. It ended up in one of my trees, and I had to leave for work. Not sure if someone rescued it, but it just disappeared last summer.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 22 months ago from london

      Such beautiful pictures! Well, this is what we know that you are capable of. Such detailed info, too.

      I have probably seen a heron but not sure. It sure looks exquisite and special. A nice and neatly done Hub and I commend you highly.

      Note: I always re-read my and others comments and listen especially to my friends. So I did that poem some time ago for you. I took a six or seven weeks rest and I have been back for about a week. I have posted you a poem and chose to honour you, by mentioning a very special bird. Have a look. Lots of Love, Deb.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 22 months ago from The Beautiful South

      Great shots! Really weird how ugly they are as babies, huh? I have picture of one that is such an ugly raggedly looking grey and it grew up to be a beautiful cardinal!

      I bought me a huge cage so I could get a pair of birds to have plenty of room and you don't know how bad that bothers me. I don't know if I will be able to. They should all be free.

      ^+

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 22 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, John. I'm hoping to hear more about what Australia has to offer, too.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 22 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Interesting and informative Deb. it's always good to find out more about bird and animal species that are not found in our own countries. I have never seen the little blue heron before. Lovely photos as always.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 22 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Faith Reaper! I'm not the best photographer, and I learn new things constantly. One of these days, I'll surely get it right, but it takes a LOT of practice, especially with adjusting light. You're so welcome regarding the ornithology lessons, and thanks for reading!

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 22 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Linda! There are so many gorgeous birds in this world, we are so fortunate to be sharing space with such a wide variety. We must do our part in protecting them. Thanks for reading, and you have a superb day!

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 22 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Sha, I appreciate that vote, and I am working on getting better pictures. You might have seen the juvenile Little Blue Heron. it is there year round. FL also has the white morph of the Great blue Heron, the only place in the world will be in the Keys.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 22 months ago from southern USA

      Another interesting hub, Deb. Your photos are always such a treat. You have to be the best photographer around to get those amazing shots every time!

      Thanks for always educating us on these fascinating birds.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 22 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks for sharing an informative hub, Deb. The Little Blue Heron looks and sounds like an interesting bird. I love the last photo. That bird looks very handsome!

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 22 months ago from Central Florida

      I may have seen these birds, but I'm not sure. I recall a beautiful white bird with green legs, seen at a park on a lake not too far from me. However, it was quite large and looked like it weighed more than a pound. I have White Egrets feeding in my yard quite often. They usually appear in groups of 10 or twelve. One has black feathers on top of the white, while most of the others are snow white.

      I always enjoy these articles, Deb. I voted for you as best photographer in this year's Hubbie Awards. Good luck!

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 22 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Billy! My pleasure, as always. I love to educate when it comes to nature.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 22 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Mary! You described perfectly the antics of the Green Heron doing baiting tactics. I had young ones again this year, and if I play my cards right, I might get a colony. I'd love to see the striated heron! Perhaps one of these days we could work something out where I could spend summers working for you and get some birding time in. Food for thought. How far are you from Pantanal? Birds and animals really are sentient beings, and scientists are beginning to realize this, as I could give you several examples, and videos, as well. Also, ravens and wolves have a symbiotic relationship. I could go on and on...(grin)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 22 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I've never seen one in person. We don't have them here, so thanks for the great pics and as always, the wonderful information.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 22 months ago from Brazil

      They are lovely. We don't get those in our neck of the woods in Brazil but we get the straited heron. We also get 3 types of egrets as well in our lakes. They are fascinating to watch. When we feed the tilapia, we have seen a heron pick up a piece of fish food and place it on the edge of the water. Then it waited for a fish to take it and it would strike. If the food would float away, he'd pull it back into position.

      Contrary to the phrase, "bird brain", birds are highly intelligent.

      Wonderful information, as always and excellent images.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 22 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Audrey, there are SO many beautiful birds, and I'm happy that you pay attention to them. You must find their behavior relaxing, as I do?

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 22 months ago from California

      What a beautiful heron! We have egrets near my house and I never tire of watching them--

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 22 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Missy. You could easily confuse this bird with the adult Tri-colored Heron.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 22 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, whonu. Hope you have been able to see one of these.

    • Missy Smith profile image

      Missy Smith 22 months ago from Florida

      This article was very interesting to me, because as I live in Florida, these beautiful birds are here year round. I don't see them every day; I live more in the countryside of Florida further from the coastal side, but I still see them here as well without traveling to the beach.

      The most interesting part for me was the colors. I actually don't think I've ever seen the adult blue heron. If I have it's been without me recognizing it. I see mostly the juvenile ones.

      This was, again, was a fun article for me to read aviannovice. Thanks for sharing! Voted Up!

    • whonunuwho profile image

      whonunuwho 22 months ago from United States

      I enjoyed this very much my friend. Beautiful photos and interesting info. Thanks for sharing. whonu

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 22 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Ivan, you are so welcome. It is my pleasure.

    • Ivan Uys profile image

      Ivan Uys 22 months ago from Fort Worth, Texas

      Thanks for all this great information, I really appreciate your expertise

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 22 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Mel, batten down the hatches and get ready for the violent El Nino heading your way. It might blow in some Mexican birds for you this spring. Most likely, your Little Blues went inland and north.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 22 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Buildreps! There are 10,000 species of birds in this world, so I definitely don't know them all, just a very small percentage. My specialty is herons, and there are plenty of those. Great Blue Heron is worldwide and a wonderful bird, in my opinion. I have so many stories that I could tell. I remember a cormorant once nearly landed on one, who bent over and squawked in fear. That was all the cormorant required to veer off and head elsewhere. Thanks for the vote, and I shall catch up on my reading.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 22 months ago from San Diego California

      I've seen plenty of these out here in our Southern California estuaries, Deb, but not for awhile. Great hub, with magnificent photos.

    • Buildreps profile image

      Buildreps 22 months ago from Europe

      Love your wonderful pictures as always. I have never seen a little blue heron. You know a lot about these birds (probably about all birds). The herons we have here is the great blue heron, but that one is not as dark, and is a feared predator among ducklings and probably many other animals as well. Voted up, Deb!

    Click to Rate This Article