People have long argued about which is the sexiest heron.
Okay, no one has ever argued about which is the sexiest heron. But that little blue heron I saw on Monday was damned sexy! Little blue herons are not nearly as common as the other herons we see regularly in the Park. iNaturalist has only six records of little blue herons inside the loop. Five in the Arboretum and one along the bayou at Wayside. There are no reports of little blue herons being seen in Buffalo Bayou Park (not until now, that is).
iNaturalist is a valuable app that lets people report plant and animal sightings and identify what they’ve seen. iNaturalist postings don’t come close to capturing the entire population of an area, but the almost complete lack of postings anywhere except the arboretum speaks to the relative scarcity of little blues in the city.
For comparison, there were over 25 postings for snowy egrets in the same area, six of which are in our Park. We are a hot spot for snowy egrets.
A snowy egret is exactly what I thought this bird was when I first saw it. Although adult little blue herons are slate blue with reddish heads, the juveniles are snow white. Between now and adulthood (in about a year), this bird will grow blue feathers and molt the white. The result will be about six months of looking like a bad tie-dye project.
If you spot our youngster in the Park, the way to tell that you have a juvenile little blue rather than a snowy egret is to look at the legs and bill. Snowy egrets have black legs with yellow feet and their bills are black. But at a distance and without field glasses, it’s a tough call.
Little blue herons start breeding in March and April. The chicks don’t leave the nest to forage on their own until they are at least a month and a half old and the eggs take 23 days to hatch. So based on my never-reliable math skills, this bird can’t be more than three months old. But she can most definitely find her own food.
When I saw a tricolored heron in the Park, I jumped to say that I had now seen all the local heron species in the Park. I was wrong. I forgot about the little blue. You often do forget about them. The other herons are almost underfoot. You spot them from car windows. Little blues are more private. When you see one, you point it out. You remember. I don’t know why. They’re just sexy.