The little blue heron, belonging to family Ardeidae, is a small heron species. It is found in North and South America. The range of this species has extended in many of its native ranges during the twentieth century.
Species: E. caerulea
The scientific name for Little blue heron is Egretta caerulea.
Adults stand at around 60 centimetres in length, and they weigh around 325 grams. They have a wingspan of 100 to 104 centimetres. Breeding individuals possess bluish-grey plumage apart from the neck and head, which carry purple shade. They have long, a pointed, bluish or greyish bill with black tip. They also have long legs that are greyish white, bluish white, or grey in color. Immature individuals are all white apart from pale greenish legs and dark wing tips. The plumage gets darker as they get mature.
They prefer freshwater areas, such as ponds, lakes, rice fields, swamps, marshes and shores. In North America, they are mostly found in freshwater islands, marshy lakes as well as around river swamps. They can often be seen feeding in wet meadows and also in dry fields.
In the Caribbean islands, they inhabit salt waters, but in its other native ranges, they are hardly seen feeding in salt waters. During breeding season, they nest in low dense thickets near water-bodies.
In the United States, they are mostly found in the Atlantic coast – from Florida to Massachusetts as well as northern regions of North America. They inhabit the Gulf of Mexico in great numbers. During breeding season, they nest along the coasts of Mexico, Caribbean islands, Central America and South America to all the way to the Amazon Basin.
The Little blue heron has a strong and graceful flight. Their wing beats are a lot faster compared to the larger herons. Their head stays down and legs get extended to the rear as they fly. They mostly walk slow when they feed or loiter around water-bodies in search of food. They use their neck to jab a potential prey and eat it. Recent studies have found that this species’ prey capture success rate stands at sixty per cent. They are mostly loners, but small colonies can be seen, mostly during the breeding season. Courtship displays include males stretching up its neck and then taking a crouched posture. It also includes vocalizing and bill snapping. At times, pair bonding can be very aggressive, but as time passes, things get steady with neck crossing and feather nibbling.
This species breeds in colonies. The nest is generally made in a shrub or tree. At times, a nest can be as high as 40 feet from the ground. Both male and female take part in nest making. Following copulation, a female lay pale bluish-green egg every other day. One clutch includes 3 to 5 eggs. Incubation goes on for 22 to 24 days. Both male and female incubate the eggs.
After hatching, the young ones spend most of their time laying on the nest. Both parents feed the young. They could fly when they are 30 days old. They leave the nest at 42 to 50 days. They reach sexual maturity at age of one.
They are carnivorous and they mostly feed during the day. Their diet includes frogs, lizards, snakes, turtles, fishes, shrimp, crayfish, crabs and crustaceans. At times, they also feed on aquatic spiders and insects. When swamps and marshes turn dry, they feed on beetles, grassland insects, crickets, grasshoppers etc.
In the wild, they live for around 7 years.
Egretta caerulea mostly stay silent, but at times they emit croaking or clucking sounds. They produce a parrot-like sound when they engage in the fight.
Eggs and juveniles are vulnerable to coyotes, racoons, foxes and raptors among others.
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species has kept Egretta caerulea in the ‘Least concern’ category.
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