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Little Blue Heron, Light and Dark

What's going on here?

Two herons, one dark, the other white, feed at the edge of a wooded pond in the South. Both birds are Little Blue Herons. What's going on here? Well, the white bird is a juvenile. These young herons forage with flocks of Snowy Egrets, which stir up prey. The white immatures mix readily with the white egrets and, by this mimicry, gain a better chance of getting a meal. By arraying the immature Little Blue Heron in white, nature helps the young bird survive the vulnerable early years of its life. The Little Blue Heron is one of Audubon's Top 20 Common Birds in Decline.

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BirdNote®

Little Blue Heron, Light and Dark

Written by Dennis Paulson

This is BirdNote.
[Little Blue Heron calls (croaks)]
Two herons, one dark, the other white, feed at the edge of a wooded pond in the South.  The dark bird has a blue-gray body and red-violet neck. The other is pure white. Yet both birds are Little Blue Herons.  What’s going on here? Why the color change?
[Series of calls of Little Blue Heron]
 Well, the white bird is a juvenile. These young herons benefit from foraging with flocks of Snowy Egrets, which stir up prey [sounds of Snowy Egrets feeding in water.] The white immatures mix readily with the white egrets and, by this mimicry, gain a better chance of getting a meal. [Continued feeding sounds of Snowy Egrets.]
The dark birds are adult herons, toward which Snowy Egrets are aggressive. Dark herons, in general, tend to be solitary and quite aggressive even to each other.
By arraying the immature Little Blue Heron in white, nature helps the young bird survive the vulnerable early years of its life.
 [More calls of Little Blue Herons]
You can find photographs of Little Blue Herons in both light and dark plumage on our website, birdnote.org
Get BirdNote whenever you want when you sign up for our podcast at BirdNote.org. I'm Michael Stein..
                                                                               ###
Sounds of birds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Calls of Little Blue Heron 134186 recorded by M.J. Fischer; feeding (water) sounds from track on Snowy Egrets 59443 recorded by W.W. H. Gunn; ambient from Snowy Egrets track.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2014 Tune In to Nature.org          March 2017    Narrator: Michael Stein

ID#           SotB-LBHE-01-2012-03-29              SotB-LBHE-01

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