We saw an unusual sight yesterday afternoon: an air race between a Great Blue Heron and a Great Egret. The two birds came around the bend on the northeast corner of the North Basin and flew south, hot on each other’s tailfeathers, straight south until they reached the riprap at the Virginia Street Extension, the southern border of the basin.
When we first saw them, we thought the grey bird, flying just a foot or two behind the other, was a hawk on the hunt. But as they passed by, we saw that the grey bird was a Great Blue, known for hunting gophers and fish, but not other birds, especially not birds just about its own size.
Did the Blue have some amorous intention toward the egret? Heron/egret hybrids are rare but not unknown.
The test would be what happened at the end of the birds’ race. Well, nothing. As they approached the shore, the egret peeled off toward the west and landed on the riprap, while the Blue swung east and came to rest standing in the mud near the Schoolhouse creek outfall. End of story.
Maybe these two birds had some birdy bragging talk about who was the fastest flyer and decided to have a race. As far as we could tell, the egret won the race by a beak.
It’s not uncommon to see a Great Blue Heron and a Great Egret both working the waters at low tide, sometimes within a few yards of each other. However, I’ve never seen them take any notice of one another or have any kind of interaction. This air race, with the heron tight on the egret’s tail, obviously following and chasing, was something quite unique.