Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Bird to look for #5: Great Blue Heron

The Great Blue Heron, the largest heron in North America, is not hard to find in the New Orleans area. They are hard to confuse with any other species because of their size- standing (neck extended) chest high or better on a human.  The only other bird regularly in southeast Louisiana approaching it in height is the Great Egret- which is all white, compared to the dominant gray tones of the Great Blue.

Great Blue Herons are most commonly seen solo- adding to their stoic aura.  The back and wings are blue-gray, and the neck gray; the underparts are flecked dark and light.  If you get a good view, you may see rufous leggings.  Immatures are more mottley than adults, which can be quite dapper.

Yesterday, one flew over River Road in Jefferson near dusk, and wheeled to descend into the batture ponds.  A few weeks ago I see a tight group of nine roosting on a cold, windy morning on the shore of South Shore harbor- viewed from the edge of Lakefront Airport- an odd gathering and probably my largest ever away from breeding colonies.  I spooked four from a wet woodlot in Gentilly one morning last week- perhaps gathered at a night roost.  There is commonly one roosting in a high pine on the UNO campus in the woodlot beside the Fine Arts building.  Another place I frequently see one is on the lakefront seawall between Franklin Ave and the Ted Hickey Bridge (Industrial Canal).  I suspect the latter bird has learned to gather scraps from shore fishermen, though I have yet to confirm this (I have seen similar behavior by the species elsewhere).  If so, it could be a great photo op.


Thanks to Louisiana birder James Beck for the photo:

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