Arkansas Bird of the Month: Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea)
September 16, 2023
I recently had the opportunity to photograph a little blue heron (Egretta caerulea), and the encounter was purely by chance. I had decided to spend an afternoon on the Little Red River in north Arkansas, knowing that great egrets (Ardea alba), ospreys (Pandion haleaetus), and belted kingfishers (Megceryle alcyon) frequented a particular section of the river. As I was photographing white egrets, I glanced down river and noticed a white "egret-looking" bird. However, this bird was much smaller than the white egrets. It didn't take long, once I got my lens on the bird, to realize that it was a juvenile little blue heron, and for me, a lifer!
From my perspective, the little blue heron was only slightly larger than a mallard, provided you ignore the long legs. Their length ranges from about 22 to 29 inches, and their wingspan is approximately 40 inches. Juveniles are all white, will next transition to a blue and white patchwork feather pattern, and then attain the slate blue feathers when they reach adulthood.
I slowly made my way down the riverbank, getting close enough to the little blue heron for great camera shots, but not so close as to disturb the bird. As I observed and photographed the little blue heron, I was struck by two things. First, the legs and feet are a light, mossy green. Second, the bird had a very slow and smooth, methodical approach to stalking it's prey. In fact, this little blue heron was so intent on finding prey that it waded toward me, oblivious to my presence and the sounds of my camera's shutter.
Overall, it was a great afternoon. I was the only person at that location on the river, there was a diversity of birds, the weather was cool, and of course, there was a lifer - the juvenile little blue heron!