The little blue heron | Local News
This week’s featured creature, the Little Blue Heron, is like a smaller version of a bird more commonly seen in ponds and lakes in the area.
However, it is a distinct species from the great blue heron, which is often seen stalking the shores of Lake Wintersmith.
The Little Blue Heron is more inconspicuous and, although somewhat common, is not commonly seen, in part due to its habitat preference.
According to birders, they are often overlooked in wetlands due to their dark adult plumage, somewhat secretive and solitary feeding habits, and smaller numbers than other North American herons.
Like all herons, this bird uses its dagger-shaped beak to stab or pluck food from the water.
According to the National Audubon Society, due to its dark plumage and lack of long plumes, this species was not a
target of plume hunters who decimated populations of most white egrets and herons in the late 1800s. During the 20th century, the little blue heron extended its range northward and increased its population in many regions.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology reports that a row of “teeth” embedded along the middle toe of the little blue heron serves as a grooming comb. The bird uses the handy tool to scratch its head, neck and throat.
Little blue herons are around 24 to 28 inches tall, compared to the great blue heron’s nearly four-foot height.
They are slate blue except for the purple-brown necks and heads. Their bills are two-colored, bluish gray at the base, with blackish tips.
Immature birds are all white and to some extent resemble snow egrets.
The Little Blue Heron is a permanent resident of large areas of South America, western Mexico, many Caribbean islands, and the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of the United States.
However, during the breeding season, its range expands considerably and includes two-thirds of eastern Oklahoma and much of the southeastern United States.
Swampy areas, shallow parts of lakes, ponds, streams, wet meadows, inundated and sometimes dry fields and canals.
Small blue herons mainly eat small fish and crustaceans such as crawdads. They will also eat frogs, tadpoles, grasshoppers, dragonflies, and other invertebrates.
According to the Cornell Lab, little blue herons nest primarily in shrubs and small trees in stagnant water or upland sites on islands, including man-made islands created from dredged material.
Females lay three to four eggs, which are incubated for just over three weeks. The nesting period is approximately five to six weeks.
(Editor’s note: Randy Mitchell is a freelance writer and photographer. He has been an avid bird watcher, nature enthusiast, and photographer for 40 years. Email him at [email protected])