It’s futile to try to distinguish one White-Crowned Sparrow from another, but as the birds get bigger, it may be possible to identify individuals. Our human powers of discrimination are no doubt laughably crude by comparison to the birds’ own perceptions. Females of many species are said to be able to select mates, for example, on the basis of millimeter-scale beak dimensions, or infinitesimally small color patch differences, or other features that our eyes can’t even begin to see.
Still, sometimes individuality is obvious. This Great Blue Heron who was perched on the rocks just below the Open Circle seating area looked so different from any other feathered park visitor that even my aged eyes were struck by its distinctiveness.
This bird, to begin with, looked bigger than any Great Blue I’d ever seen in the park before. Here’s a link to my images of the others. With its neck stretched tall, it must have hit four feet in height, easily. Its wingspread, only shown partially in the short video below, could have exceeded its height.
This bird also looked very old. If beak color is any indication, the amount of white and gray spots on its upper mandible marked it as a veteran of many seasons. The thinning hair on its head sent the same message.
This bird stood out also for its darkness. Other Great Blues wear a formal wing coat of light gray. This one, with its almost black cloak, might have been among birds the angel of death.
It tolerated my presence on the bluff above it, and even did me the favor of hopping from one rock to another — every videographer wants to see action! — before it tired of the spot and flew off.
The Open Circle open air classroom is a prime spot for viewing birds, and it’s to be hoped that this feature remains open year-round, even during the winter months when Burrowing Owls are invited to visit on the patch of land directly north of it.