A New Great Blue

This Great Blue perched on a rock at the water’s edge on the east side of the park near the southernmost picnic area (which currently has no tables).  I first saw it at 8:45 a.m., then walked elsewhere in the park, and returned at 10 o’clock to find that the bird had not moved.  It ignored a small flock of American Coots who swam by under its beak.  Only a few minutes later, it flew off and relocated northward a bit to a new perch on the Open Circle viewpoint.  I was lucky to be present with the camera running when the big avian took wing.

I’ve compared my close-up images of this bird with similar shots of other Great Blues I’ve photographed in the park previously.  This definitely isn’t the Dark Blue that hung out at the Open Circle viewpoint earlier this year.  Its coloration is more generic, resembling the others who have visited here, including the legendary “George.”  But the shape, length, and color of its bill don’t match those previous visitors closely enough to conclude that it’s the same bird.  For a human eye to try to distinguish individual birds of the same species is chancy at best, but that being admitted, my guess is that it’s a new individual.

The Cornell bird lab website has these “Cool Facts” about Great Blue Herons:

  • Despite their impressive size, Great Blue Herons weigh only 5 to 6 pounds thanks in part to their hollow bones—a feature all birds share.
  • Great Blue Herons in the northeastern U.S. and southern Canada have benefited from the recovery of beaver populations, which have created a patchwork of swamps and meadows well-suited to foraging and nesting.
  • Along the Pacific coast, it’s not unusual to see a Great Blue Heron poised atop a floating bed of kelp waiting for a meal to swim by.
  • The white form of the Great Blue Heron, known as the “great white heron,” is found nearly exclusively in shallow marine waters along the coast of very southern Florida, the Yucatan Peninsula, and in the Caribbean. Where the dark and white forms overlap in Florida, intermediate birds known as “Wurdemann’s herons” can be found. They have the body of a Great Blue Heron, but the white head and neck of the great white heron.
  • Great Blue Herons have specialized feathers on their chest that continually grow and fray. The herons comb this “powder down” with a fringed claw on their middle toes, using the down like a washcloth to remove fish slime and other oils from their feathers as they preen. Applying the powder to their underparts protects their feathers against the slime and oils of swamps.
  • Great Blue Herons can hunt day and night thanks to a high percentage of rod-type photoreceptors in their eyes that improve their night vision.
  • Great Blue Herons congregate at fish hatcheries, creating potential problems for the fish farmers. A study found that herons ate mostly diseased fish that would have died shortly anyway. Sick fish spent more time near the surface of the water where they were more vulnerable to the herons.
  • The oldest recorded Great Blue Heron was found in Texas when it was at least 24 years, 6 months old.
  • Thanks to specially shaped neck vertebrae, Great Blue Herons can quickly strike prey at a distance.

 

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