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The Herons: The Green, the Blue and the White

Updated on April 5, 2015
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What Are Herons?

Boomer Lake is now overrun by the heron clan. The darker birds are generally referred to as herons, whereas the lighter(or white) ones are called egrets. This family of birds has four long toes, and a number of the species has bare facial skin that is sometimes brightly colored. In others, the head lacks feathers altogether. These birds have long necks and legs in proportion to their bodies. Many of the long-legged wading birds have long wings and are great fliers. Some of them are particularly adept at soaring. Although many of these birds are associated with water, none of them is pelagic(birds that spend most of their time at sea and are rarely seen ashore). Sadly, humans pose an extinction threat for a number of species due to both persecution and the loss of habitat. Some of the herons, however, have made great strides in comebacks after receiving protection last century.

Green Heron with What Could Be a Crayfish
Green Heron with What Could Be a Crayfish | Source
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Green Heron?

Cloudy and overcast, as well as threatening rain, the fish tend to be very close to the top of the water feeding on bugs. A number of them were jumping out of the water. So what better time to visit with the herons and see what they were doing for breakfast?

Luckily, the first family member that I encountered was the Green Heron. My attempt at observing him fish was thwarted a few days ago by a city worker, who was trying to clean up the shore around the lake. Fortunately, the city of Stillwater cares a great deal about appearances, as well as the safety of birds and animals. Today, Green Heron was actually walking toward me, where I set myself up, so I managed to get some wonderful photos of him in action, even though it was cloudy. Not only did he get several small fish, he managed to capture a crustacean, too. Go, Green Heron!

I was surprised by the length of the neck on this bird once I saw him in action. The neck appeared to stretch about 14 inches from his body, which gave him more length for his size than the Great Blue Heron or the Great Egret.


Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron | Source
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Great Blue Heron?

Then came Great Blue Heron. This one was just south of Veterans’ Memorial, and also made a good showing for himself, as per usual. He also managed to get several fish, and made the nearby Mallards very aware that he was not happy with their presence, but let’s face it, they need to be somewhere, too. He also gave me a number of unusual poses, and to be honest, I think this one enjoys being in the spotlight.

Little Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron | Source

Little Blue Heron?

This adult was alone and is often confused with the uncommon coastal Reddish Egret. The biggest clue is that the Reddish Egret will not come inland. Little Blue Heron is only two feet tall, without the feathered boa neck and back, yet will have a deep maroon-brown neck. These birds also have a pale blue bill with a dark tip, and dull olive colored legs. The bill will show a pinkish hue at the base during breeding condition.

Great Egret
Great Egret | Source
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Great Egret?

It appears that the Great Egret wasn’t interested in getting anything to eat at this time. He was too busy bullying the ducks and making them move from the perching spots that they had previously chosen. He took almost all of them over. Perhaps he had eaten something substantial before I arrived this morning, and was just biding his time.

Oh, wait a minute…here we go! Good for you, Great Egret. I was beginning to think that you weren’t going to strut your stuff today and show us that you had it in you. Chalk up a small fish for the egret, and I guess we’ll see you again next time.

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Snowy Egret?

This is the bird that is a star. Its moves are deliberate, though quick, and it can strike like lightening when hungry. It moves quickly, as its nature is to stir up food on the bottom where it is feeding. This is a medium-sized heron with a black bill and "yellow shoes." This is a relatively common water bird that can be seen quite far north in the continental US.

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Cattle Egret?

This little beauty in breeding plumage is truly a show stopper. It boasts a crown, chest, and a full back of reddish plumes has been seen. This is the smallest egret that I know in this area. It is very rare that it calls, but if located in or near a breeding colony, it grunts in communication. This bird has been seen in groups of three or four, but generally is seen alone. It will be seen in numbers around cattle, picking up the insects that they stir up from the ground. Many other times, besides farms, they can be seen on roadsides, but they are always on the move.

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron | Source
Great Egret
Great Egret | Source
Cattle Egret
Cattle Egret | Source
Snowy Egret
Snowy Egret | Source

© 2012 Deb Hirt

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    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      That will be a very exciting trip, Suhail! I certainly want to hear all about that, from start to finish.

    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 2 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      LOL Deb! I will put my pictures somewhere soon, but remember those were from film age circa 80s.

      Meet we will someday over a birding adventure soon. Btw, did I mention that I am very close to finalizing my photography tour of following Yellowstone National Park's wolves in January 2015?

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Glad to hear it, Suhail. I'd like to see you put your material on line, so you can show me what you have. Perhaps we can meet one of these days in a birding adventure. What say you?

    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 2 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      Awesome article on my favorite birds! Aren't they truly majestic! Well, I started my wildlife photography from taking pictures of pond heron, night heron, cattle egret and all. Si I have a natural affinity for them hahaha.

      Thanks for sharing Deb.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, ignugent! Thanks for the votes, and I am happy to know that you have a pond in the area. I find water so restful,don't you?

    • profile image

      ignugent17 4 years ago

      Thanks for the information about these birds. We have a pond near our house. We see egrets and herons sometimes .

      Voted up and more. :-)

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, kashmir! They are easy to learn from, with a little observation.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Any time, mhatter, for a strange story, come visit me.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      klara, they sure are characters. Good to see you. Hope all is well...

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Connie, I have only heard the Green Heron squawk, but that's about all from him. Thanks for sharing the koi story. Birds will fish anywhere that they can, and once the fish are gone, so are they!

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      gamby, they are all so funny, when they want to be.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, whonunuwho, you are very welcome.

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Great well written hub with a lot of good information, i really enjoyed learning about the Herons, green ,blue and white.

      Vote up and awesome !

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Entertaining, thank you.

    • profile image

      klarawieck 4 years ago

      Beautiful creatures, Deb. That last picture looks like the egret is directing traffic. Lol And yes, that heron was definitely posing for the camera.

    • grandmapearl profile image

      Connie Smith 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Once in a while I am lucky enough to cast my eyes to the sky and catch a glimpse of a great blue heron. They seem to fly so high and so elegantly. It's always a joy to see them.

      My uncle had a pond very near his home. He and my aunt would walk out to the pond and feed their koi fish every night along about dusk. They had folding chairs set up on a wooden dock near the waterside. I don't think they enjoyed anything more than that pond. Alas, one day they spied a large heron fishing in their pond. When they checked on their fish that evening, the largest ones had been speared and left on the bank. I guess they were tempting, but too large for the heron to ingest. Once all the koi were gone, the heron moved on.

      Needless to say, they didn't appreciate that bird at all. However, they did respect the fact that it was only following its natural instincts and hunger! After that, they stocked the pond with catfish and bullheads!

      I have heard that green herons make crazy screaming sounds. Is that true, or am I thinking of another bird?

      Voted Up, Interesting and Shared.

    • gamby79 profile image

      gamby79 4 years ago

      Awesome photos aviannovice! They are all wonderful and a very enjoyable read too! Good to see they're eating well this morning. The last pic, of the back of the great egret, really made me chuckle. It's as if he/she decided enough was enough and turned around to wave bye to you Voted all up! Love these birds. Thanks so much for keeping us updated.

    • whonunuwho profile image

      whonunuwho 4 years ago from United States

      Beautiful photos and a very nice hub on these wonderful birds of the wild. Thanks for sharing this with all.

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