A white Great Blue Heron in Massachusetts

I wrote about white Great Blue Herons in 2007, and thanks to a recent comment there by David Ammerman alerting me to a whitish Great Blue Heron chick in a nest, I made the short trip to Bolton, MA yesterday (July 7, 2016). It was not hard to find the nest, and I was able to get some photos of the white nestling with its nest-mates and one parent.

This bird brought up several questions posed by my 2007 post on Great White Herons. In particular: is this bird distinguishable from the white morph (“Great White” Heron) of southern Florida, and it certainly is, having gray-brown flight feathers. It’s clearly a dilute plumage (partial albino) individual, simply lacking some melanin, and very similar to one photographed in Massachusetts in 2005 (scroll down to the bottom of my 2007 post for a photo).

This doesn’t help answer questions about the white nestlings that have been found in Texas, but it highlights the absence of fully white birds in the rest of the species’ range, and reaffirms the distinctiveness of the south Florida population.

The white bird is clearly larger than the other nestlings, so it must be the oldest, as Great Blue Heron eggs hatch on average just under 2 days apart. Dilute plumage partial albino Great Blue Heron in a nest in Bolton, MA, 7 July 2016. photo ©David Sibley
Dilute plumage partial albino Great Blue Heron in a nest in Bolton, MA, 7 July 2016. photo ©David Sibley
Dilute plumage partial albino Great Blue Heron in a nest in Bolton, MA, 7 July 2016. photo ©David Sibley
Dusky flight feathers show a ghost of the normal dark morph Great Blue Heron pattern, unlike the Great White Heron. Dilute plumage partial albino Great Blue Heron in a nest in Bolton, MA, 7 July 2016. photo ©David Sibley
Dilute plumage partial albino Great Blue Heron in a nest in Bolton, MA, 7 July 2016. photo ©David Sibley
Dilute plumage partial albino Great Blue Heron in a nest in Bolton, MA, 7 July 2016. photo ©David Sibley

22 thoughts on “A white Great Blue Heron in Massachusetts”

  1. Pingback: Blog Birding #279 « ABA Blog

  2. I have had a great white heron at my lake in Leverett Ma this year
    I have never seen one before.
    Great blue herons are here regularly

  3. I saw one of these remarkable birds today in Leesburg, VA. I was driving, so no option to photograph. The bird was an adult and caught my attention as it flew from my left to the right in front of the car. Looking for all the world like a Great Blue, but white! And with the light grey flight feathers as well. We live very near the Potomac River and Great Blues are plentiful here.

  4. While kayaking on the west branch of the Westport River in MA yesterday, I saw what appeared to be a Great Blue heron only it was white. Egrets were in a neighboring marsh. I could see the size and shape difference. Great to hear albino a possibility!

    1. Hi Rebecca,
      I just saw a white great “blue” heron on our pond. I live in Chatham NY. I have pictures but they are at a great distance.

  5. I saw this bird or one similar flying over the assabet river in stow near the apple orchard in the past week. Was very striking as I haven’t seen one before and I spend a lot of time on the river

  6. We have had a lot of leucistic birds here in western Montana the last 20 years, but I haven’t seen a leucistic Great Blue Heron here yet. Leucism here is usually the result of mineral deficiencies. There are some photos of leucistic birds in my recently published book on birth defects in vertebrate species, especially birds and mammals. The name of the book is Changing Faces: The Consequences of Exposure to Gene and Thyroid Disrupting Toxins. One of the toxins we think is responsible for the leucism and underdeveloped facial bones on birds and mammals is Roundup and its main ingredient glyphosate. Roundup is a patented mineral chelator. When a lady in our area fed four hatchling starlings cheap dog food with a lot of corn and wheat in it, they were all leucistic when they grew feathers. My book is available on Amazon. All profit goes to the fund to buy food and medicine for birds and animal in rehab, I don’t need or get any money. If you don’t know how crossbills make their bills cross, you might want to also get my second book Amazing Wildlife. Profits from it go to the wildlife fund also. There are lots of other things told in the book about what amazing wildlife do, including things that ducks, owls, woodpeckers and bears did. If you would like photos of the defects, including underbite, leucism, and underdeveloped feathers on birds, just email me and ask.

  7. I have nesting GBH’s in my pond, and have photographed them for years. That is why I was curious when I saw this bird that looked like one in every way, but was very white in color fishing in a small pond near the town library. How do I post a photo?

  8. We live in Elwood In. But travel to Marion In. regularly. Yesterday I observed an Albino Great Blue Heron in flight from approx.50ft. distance. Was without a doubt all white from my observation point and was positively a Blue Heron,just unclear if was true albino but was all white from my viewpoint…….a truly rare beautiful sight.

  9. I just spotted a white Great Blue Heron at Buckley Ponds outside of Bishop, CA. It was with it’s blue mate. I will try to return to photograph the bird.

  10. I just a White Blue heron outside my door in Bainbridge Pennsylvania. I see Blue Herons all the time seeing we are only a few blocks from the Susquehanna River .

  11. I just saw lone white heron in the pond behind our home just north of Cincinnati, Ohio. We often see blue herons, but this was a total surprise!

  12. We saw a white blue heron on Lake chickamauga just upstream from Chattanooga on Sept 21, 2020. It was with a normal colored Blue Heron and although we have lived on this lake for over 10 years we have never seen another white.

    1. I just saw a Great Blue Heron in our cove as we have for the past three summers but this time he had a beautiful white heron with him. Gorgeous!

  13. My name is Brian Stockwell I live in Orange Ma and a few years back around 2018ish I had seen a all white one I went home cuz I had no clue what I was seeing I thought it was a herring so I looked it up and I saw that they were only in Florida and more south then the following year I kept seeing the same one I thought in the same pond off of the highway. Then up N. Main St. in Orange mass there’s a pond and I saw two more together with other regular blue herring. And I talked with several other people that had spotted the same birds and got plenty of pictures I had plenty of photos too but after a couple of years it kind of went by the wayside no one was talking about them anymore because we had seen them so many years in a row so I deleted all my photos because they came common around here

  14. I saw a white version of the great blue heron at Hopedale Pond walking the Parklands trail. He was fishing below a beaver dam and didn’t seem bothered by my passing. My wife insists it was an Ibis or perhaps a Great Egret.

  15. Justin T. Campbell

    I recently got a few photos of an adult white Heron on the McKenzie River in Springfield Oregon September of 2023.

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