Living Bird Magazine
Little Blue HeronEgretta caerulea
- ORDER: Pelecaniformes
- FAMILY: Ardeidae
A small, dark heron arrayed in moody blues and purples, the Little Blue Heron is a common but inconspicuous resident of marshes and estuaries in the Southeast. They stalk shallow waters for small fish and amphibians, adopting a quiet, methodical approach that can make these gorgeous herons surprisingly easy to overlook at first glance. Little Blue Herons build stick nests in trees alongside other colonial waterbirds. In the U.S., their populations have been in a gradual decline since the mid-twentieth century.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Scan the edges of shallow water, particularly where there is adjacent emergent vegetation or overhanging bushes or trees, for this fairly inconspicuous heron. You’ll typically see them only in ones and twos, although they may gather with other herons and egrets, particularly at times when a school of small fish has become trapped in shallow water. In open, marshy habitats you may also see Little Blue Herons flapping slowly on rounded wings across the sky. Little Blue Herons often nest with other waterbirds, so if you can find an active colony, scan through the incoming and outgoing birds for small herons with completely dark plumage.
- Garceta Azul (Spanish)
- Aigrette bleue (French)
- Cool Facts
- During the feathered-hat fashion craze of the early twentieth century, Little Blue Herons’ lack of showy “aigrette plumes” saved them from the hunting frenzy that decimated other heron and egret populations.
- Little Blue Herons may gain a survival advantage by wearing white during their first year of life. Immature birds are likelier than their blue elders to be tolerated by Snowy Egrets—and in the egrets’ company, they catch more fish. Mingling in mixed-species flocks of white herons, immature Little Blue Herons probably also acquire extra protection against predators.
- With their patchy white-and-blue appearance, Little Blue Herons in transition from the white first-year stage to blue adult plumage are often referred to as “Calico,” “Pied,” or “Piebald.”
- When observing groups of white herons and egrets foraging together, look for the slow, deliberate movements of an immature Little Blue Heron. This stately and deliberate pace helps distinguish the Little Blue Heron from its relatives, which tend to move more quickly or erratically.
- A row of built-in “teeth” along the Little Blue Heron’s middle toe serves as a grooming comb. The bird uses this handy tool to scratch its head, neck, and throat.
- The oldest known Little Blue Heron was at least 13 years, 11 months old. It was banded in 1957 in Virginia, and found in Maryland in 1971.