Friday, December 21, 2007

The White Race of the Blue Heron


The American Great Egret
Species are defined as populations, the members of which are able to interbreed and produce fertile offspring.
The American Great Egret is what Peterson described as, "the white race of blue heron", or in other words a subspecies of the Great Blue Heron. Local guides just say ‘White Heron’ and that seems like a good name. I wanted to see the bird's feet to know more about its positive ID, there are actually 11 tall white birds that can be mistaken for the Great American Egret in Belize. That could have been what Bubba was wondering also when he jumped from the boat. The startled heron flew a few flaps, about five, and then glided down to the sea grass beds again to resume fishing. Black feet to match the legs! That, combined with the yellow bill is a positive ID for this bird.
During my short look, I saw a three foot tall heron; it was solid white except for where its orange, pointed bill connected with its head and the color seem to extend towards the eye. The eye was yellow in its iris and the bird stood on black legs and feet. Its neck had the heron's "S" shape and was more than twice the length of its body.
David Sibley’s Bird Behavior Guide says, ’It nests atop the mangrove just like its cousin, the Great Blue Heron, where two or three blue-green eggs are laid.’ November is the nesting season for them as well; it uses the same fishing ground and techniques.
Birds tend to sleep at those times of the day when they cannot feed, thus not only do day feeding birds sleep at night and nocturnal birds during the day, but birds such as waders sleep when the tide is high. High and low tide changes about an hour each day so at certain times of the month, the hot middle of the day is good bird watching, if it's low tide. Normally early morning and late afternoon are the best.