Sunday, March 10, 2013

Florida Wading Birds: Tri-colored Heron

A "stand" of Tri-colored Herons (and a Snowy Egret far left), 2nd from left and far right are two jueniles while the Heron in the foreground is an adult; Oasis Visitor Center, Big Cypress, FL; 12/26/2012.
Before this trip, the only time I've seen a Tri-colored Heron was when  visited Mexico a few years ago.  During my 2012 Winter Florida trip, I think I saw Tri-colored Herons in almost every stop we made: Big Cypress National Preserve, Lovers Key State Park, Everglades National Park, and Ding Draling National Wildlife Reserve. While on our way south towards the Keys we stopped at what we thought was just a routine wayside/reststop. It turned out to be the Oasis Visitor's Center for the Big Cypress National Preserve, a large swath of area that covers much of Southern Florida from Alligator Alley to the Everglades.  Just a few steps from our rental car in the parking lot was a canal that ran along side of Hwy 41. In that canal there were a variety wading birds, including  at least a half dozen Tri-colored Herons (Above).  As shown, juveniles have a more reddish overall coloring with more white on their necks. Adults turn a bluish gray with a white belly and thin white and yellow stripe running up its throat to its lower mandible. All phases possess yellow legs. Juveniles and non-breeders have yellow bills, but during breeding season will turn a pale blue.
A Tri-colored Heron turning from a juvenile into an adult,  Big Cypress NP, FL; 12/26/2012.
(Above) is a good look at a juvenile that is starting to lose its reddish feathers in favor of the adult bluish feathers. Its bill is already losing most of yellow as it is turning into the blue bill of an adult breeder. By February it will have completed its transition into a breeding adult. (Below) is a good example of an adult.
An adult Tri-colored Heron, Everglades Nat. Park, FL; 12/29/2012.
(Below) is a a panned out photograph of the (above) Heron.
The same Tri-colored Heron as the photo above it; 12/29/2012.
I am wondering if the Heron in the (Above) photo is aware of what's in the grass just in front of it. See below if you can't pick it out.
The black arrow is pointing to a rather large alligator which is laying-in-wait hoping that the heron gets a bit closer; 12/29/2012. 
My guess is the heron was fully aware of the alligator laying in the grass just a few feet in front of it. One slight move of the alligator in the direction of the heron, the heron would have flapped off to safer ground.
Another Tri-colored Heron, Everglades Nat. Park, FL; 12/29/2012.
A different Tri-colored Heron, seen the day before, Everglades Nat. Park, FL; 12/28/2012.
The (above) photo displays a good look at the throat stripe of a Tri-colored.

One of my favorite photos of the trip, a preening Tri-colored Heron, Everglades Nat. Park, FL; 12/28/2102.

Another Tri-colored Heron, Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel Island, FL; 12/30/2012.
Tri-colored Herons are fairly common in the Southeast corner of the country and can be found year round along the Gulf Coast States and Northward up the Atlantic Coast to Virginia.  In the summer months it spreads even further north to the southern tip of Maine. It can also be found in ponds, marshes, bogs, swamps, and lagoons scattered inland from Kansas to Pennsylvania, but with a high concentration in Lousiana and Eastern Texas. In fact, this heron has also been called the Louisiana Heron.

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