Goose Pond 16, July 16, 2009
On Jul 16, 2009, at 5:01 PM, Marty Jones wrote:
Today I walked into GP 16 and would like for you to look at 3 photo's - link is: http://indianajones.smugmug.com/gallery/1126422_Qyw5B#593024633_rjxaw
Question: I know 2 of the 3 birds are Little Blue Herons, but not quite sure about the 3rd. I think it is also a Little Blue Heron, but would like to see what you think. They stayed close together the entire hour or so that I watched and photographed them. At one point they flew to the south, but returned. Eventually, at 11 am they flew to GP 7.
Marty L. Jones
I saw that same bird briefly in GP8 in the later afternoon of July 13 when I walked down the hill to get a species ID on the Plegadis ibis that has been hanging around.
The bird rather threw me when I first saw it. When I saw it, the base of the bill looked pink or flesh colored--even more so than it does in your photo. The possibility of white morph Reddish Egret flashed briefly through my mind for just a second. But all morphs of Reddish Egret have gray legs. This bird when I saw it had yellow feet and yellow legs, the legs were more yellow than just a wash of yellow running up the back of the legs as on juvenile Snowy Egret. Snow Egret should have a black bill in all post fledged plumages. So Snowy Egret is out. Even if the lores do look pale.
However the account of early pre fledging Snowy Egret in Birds of North America Online is intriguing:
At hatching, body skin generally grayish, with pinkish and greenish tints and dark blue area around eyes. Bill pale pinkish gray, becoming darker distally, with black tip, and either yellowish base or dark gray “saddle” at base of upper mandible. By 1 wk, bill black, legs gray but more pinkish or greenish above and toes gray but more greenish to reddish pink above. Mouth lining pale pink, iris pale gray to buffy gray, eye-ring gray; legs always darker than toes; bill gradually darkens to black in some, while becoming yellowish with darker tip in others (which also have yellowish eye-ring and lores). By 34 d, toes yellow-green and iris off-white (McVaugh 1975). For additional details on development of bare part colors from hatchings through the first month, see McVaugh 1975 .
By fledging, bill black, legs dark, becoming paler greenish yellow posteriorly, and feet dull yellowish.
A fledged Snowy Egret is supposed to have a black bill. This bird doesn't. It has a pinkish base to the bill with a dusky tip.
Juvenile Little Blue Herons can sometimes have a flesh colored rather than a bluish base to the bill. See notations by Sibley to his paintings even though he does not actually paint that variation. The pale eye can be right for juvenile Little Blue and in your photo the color of the legs actually seems more like that of the accompanying Little Blue Herons than it did when I saw it the bird in bright sunlight on July 13.
The double head plume is right for juvenile Little Blue I guess.
The two flying birds do seem to have the dusky tipping on the primaries expected on juv Little Blue Heron, if the mystery bird happens to be one of those two.
I didn't really see the wing tips one way or the other on the standing bird when I saw it. One often doesn't see that dark wing tip feature until the bird flies, and then you see it only if the light is right and you look for it.
I also thought about Little Egret but that doesn't work either. Unless it is something really exotic I haven't found yet I have to fall back on a somewhat strange or unusual looking Little Blue Heron.
The bird felt odd to me in the field and it still feels odd, especially in the first of your three photos.
But I can't do anything else with it right now but say a Little Blue Heron that feels funny.