posted February 5th, 2013; last edited February 5th, 2013 –– David Sibley

Dark heron/egret

Can you identify the two birds in this photo?

Photographed by William Horden in Big Cypress Preserve, FL, Dec 2012. Used by permission. You can see William's more artistic work at his website: http://www.hipikats.com

It should be immediately obvious that this photo shows two species of dark herons, and their overall slender shape and uniform grayish color, with no distinct markings on head or neck, reduces the options to two: Little Blue Heron and Reddish Egret.

It is rare to see these two species side-by-side, so we rarely get to appreciate the much larger size of Reddish Egret. This kind of grassy freshwater pool is normal habitat for Little Blue Heron, but Reddish Egret is almost always found on expansive shallow saltwater lagoons.

It’s also a great opportunity to compare the differences in overall color, as well as details of the color of bill, lores, eye, legs, etc.

This is an immature Reddish Egret, less than a year old, based on its lack of plumes, drab grayish color overall and slightly paler and brownish tips on all of the wing coverts. Compared to an adult Little Blue Heron the immature Reddish Egret’s paler ashy-gray and mottled color is easily distinguishable. An adult Reddish Egret would be even more distinctive in color, with clean gray body and shaggy reddish neck.

3 comments to Dark heron/egret

  • Mark

    Any idea why the lores on this Reddish Egret are yellow?

  • Reddish Egret, Little Blue Heron

  • Mark the lores on immature Reddish Egrets can occasionally be yellow (see below), but I do no know the actual frequency; from my experience in Texas I’d say it is rare but not exceptional. Sadly all of my field guides show the lores as dark, with no mention of occasional yellow in the lores (David I only have your original large-format guide, so I don’t know if you have included this in any later versions?)
    Here is a link to my web page on the subject:
    http://www.martinreid.com/Main%20website/reddishegret.html
    - I raised the matter on Id-Frontiers back in 2011, since this feature could affect a Records Committee’s assessment of a vagrant Reddish Egret (imagine a description with no photos of the bird above – “…lores yellow…” and how this might be viewed). I did not get any replies.

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