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Bryan Brillhart Photography present the “Dig IB” Bird of the Week, the Little Blue Heron

May 13, 2020 12:47PM ● By Paul Spear

An Imperial Beach Hidden Gem and Bird of the Week, Bryan Brillhart Photography present the “Dig IB” Bird of the Week, the Little Blue Heron

This weekly column provides photos of birds photographed locally in the Tijuana Estuary or on IB's beaches along with background on the bird.

This week’s “Bird of the Week” is the Little Blue Heron   (Egretta caerulea). Despite its different last name, the Little Blue Heron is probably a close relative of the Snowy Egret. It looks much like a Snowy when it is young, but molts to a dark slate-blue plumage as an adult. They are generally wary and hard to approach.

Because of its dark plumage and lack of long plumes, this species was not a major target for 

 the plume hunters that decimated the populations of most of the white egrets and herons in the late 1800s. During the 20th century, the Little Blue Heron has extended its range northward and increased in population in many areas.

Their habitat is in marshes, swamps, rice fields, ponds, and shores. In North America they are most numerous on fresh waters inland, around river swamps and marshy lakes. They also feed in wet meadows and even dry fields, and less commonly in salt water, although they may favor such habitats in the Caribbean. They nest in trees or in dense low thickets near water.

Feeding behavior is usually slow and methodical in its foraging, walking very slowly in shallows or standing still waiting for prey to approach. They may feed in shallow water or on

  the shore, and also in grassy fields. Diet consists of mainly fish and crustaceans, with its diet quite variable. They eat mostly small fish (including larger ones than those favored by similar-sized Snowy Egret) and crustaceans, including crabs and crayfish. Away from water they eat many grasshoppers and other insects. Other food items include tadpoles, frogs, lizards, snakes, turtles, and spiders.

After mating, females lay 3-5,and sometimes 1-6, pale blue-green eggs. Incubation is by both sexes, in about 20-23 days. Both parents feed young by regurgitation. Young may climb out of nest onto nearby branches after 2-3 weeks, and are capable of short flights at 4 weeks, becoming independent at 6-7 weeks.

Little Blue Herons breed in colonies. Males establish a small territory within the colony and display there, driving away other males. Displays by male include neck-stretching and bill-

 snapping, and pairs in courtship may nibble at each other's plumage, and cross and intertwine necks. Nest sites are in a tree or shrub, usually 3-15' above ground or water, sometimes up to 40' high. Nests (built by both sexes) are a platform of sticks, varying from flimsy to substantial, with a depression in the center.

Lately, I have seen a few of these elusive birds wading along the banks of the Tijuana River in our own Tijuana Estuary. They are often difficult to spot when standing in the shadows. Look for this beautiful bird, and other numerous species, while walking on of the 

many great trails there. 

If you would like to see more of Bryan's Bird Photos you can click on this link:

Bryan Brillhart Photography or visit all the "Birds of the Week" at: Bird of the Week 


Bryan Brillhart

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Paul Spear, Publisher, and Editor of Dig Imperial Beach 


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