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A photo of a Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea)
Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron

Egretta caerulea

The Little Blue Heron, Egretta caerulea, is a small heron with a slender, two-toned bill and a modest stature. Adult plumage is a rich combination of purple-maroon on the head and a deep blue for the body. During the breeding season, the head deepens to a dark red. Juveniles present a stark contrast, being almost entirely white, save for the slightly darker upper primaries. Both sexes are similar in size, ranging from 56 to 74 centimeters in length, with a wingspan of approximately 100 to 105 centimeters, and an average weight of 397 grams.

Identification Tips

In breeding adults, look for the transformation of the lores from a dull green to a vibrant turquoise, the emergence of elongated plumes on the crest and back, and the darkening of legs and feet to black. The two-toned bill, light blue at the base with a black tip, is a distinctive feature across all ages. The yellow eyes and greenish legs are also notable identifiers.

Habitat

The Little Blue Heron is adaptable, inhabiting a range of wetland environments from mangrove forests to swamps, salt marshes, tidal flats, estuaries, and streams. They are typically found at low elevations but have been observed up to 3,700 meters in the Andes. In North America, they show a preference for freshwater habitats, while in the Caribbean, they are more inclined towards saltwater ecosystems.

Distribution

This species has a broad distribution across the Americas, from the United States down to northern South America. They are migratory in some regions, with climate change expected to expand their range northward. Notably present from Missouri to Virginia and throughout Florida, they have been known to venture as far north as Canada.

Behaviour

The Little Blue Heron exhibits patience in its hunting strategy, often standing still or walking slowly to capture prey. It is less gregarious than some heron species, but will join other herons in opportune feeding situations. Their slower movement can be a distinguishing characteristic from other heron species.

Song & Calls

The vocalizations of the Little Blue Heron are less documented, but they do produce a range of calls, particularly during the breeding season.

Breeding

Courtship involves bill-nibbling and neck-stretching displays. They are colonial nesters, often sharing space with other bird species. Males participate in nest building by delivering twigs to the females. Incubation begins after the laying of the first two eggs, leading to asynchronous hatching.

Similar Species

Juvenile Little Blue Herons can be confused with Snowy Egrets due to their white plumage. However, the two-toned bill and lack of 'golden slippers' on the feet can help differentiate them.

Diet and Feeding

Their diet is primarily fish along the eastern coast of North America, but varies regionally, including a significant proportion of crabs in some South American mangrove forests. They are visual hunters, contrasting with the tactile foraging methods of species like the Scarlet Ibis.

Conservation status

The Little Blue Heron is currently listed as Least Concern by the IUCN, though its population is in decline. Threats may include habitat disturbance, predation, and exposure to heavy metals, which have been shown to negatively impact the growth and survival rates of juveniles.

Little Blue Heron Sounds

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Recorded by: © 
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Little Blue Heron Fun Facts

Did you know?
Juvenile Little Blue Herons are not blue but white for their first year.

Little Blue Herons on Birda

Sightings

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Agami Heron

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