Slide Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret © David Sparks

WADING BIRDS

Wading birds are among the most obvious along our shorelines. Herons and egrets are in the same family and share many of the same habits. Egret is the term used for most of the white herons. The Great Blue Heron is a specialist in ambush and thievery. Like other herons and egrets, it stands stark still waiting for its prey to swim or crawl by, then swiftly attacks with a dagger-like bill. Every fisherman along our shores has a tale to tell of a Great Blue snatching a meal from a bait bucket or brazenly claiming a fish from the day’s catch! These elegant birds stand 4’ tall and a nest full of young high atop pines is a busy and noisy place. You can find colonies of Great Blues along Ft. Pickens’ trails.

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Great Blue Heron © John Powanda

The diminutive Snowy Egret prefers oak trees for nesting. Morgan Park is one site where they can be found raising their broods. Delicate by comparison to the Great Blue Heron, the Snowy Egret sports bright yellow feet that it wiggles in the water to attract small fish. The small, chunky Green Heron also nests in Morgan Park. Its dark green upperparts blend to deep blue-gray with rufous on its neck. It is also an ambush feeder, waiting patiently for its prey to come near. However, it is known to bait the water by dropping a small twig or leaf creating ripples that attract curious fish within reach.

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Snowy Egret in Breeding Plumage © David Sparks

Dancing in the shallow tidal pools, you may spot a Reddish Egret with outspread wings. Its prancing stirs up prey trying to hide in its shadow. Typically on the Sound side of the island, its black-tipped pink bill identifies it whether the plumage is in the gray and rufous or the white morph. The Yellow-crowned Night-Heron is found plying the edges of the marsh or waters. It is often an ambush feeder as it patiently waits a fish or crab to venture within range.  Then it strikes with lightning speed to snare its meal. Small numbers of this handsome species nest on the mainland which is why we find the brown-speckled young birds along our shores in late summer through September.

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Green Heron © Harry Purcell

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