Dressed for Love – Mating Colors of the Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron Face -mating colors_3012-s

While a very ubiquitous species Ardea herodias or the Great Blue Heron is always fascinating to me.  My admiration of its beauty and its alert, protective nature never seems to go the way of favourite songs you play and play until you sicken of them. Consequently, this magnificent species ends up framed by my viewfinder all too often and with the advent of each breeding season. In the south breeding is a little earlier than in the north…as early as November to March or April instead of just starting in March. So nest building is way under way and I imagine with my visit to the heronry later today will find some pairs sitting on eggs already.

The picture I am showing above is a close up view of some of the mating colorations present now on this bird diligently examing its nest.  During breeding the plumes achieve full development with the crest having several long black head plumes for courtship and are not present at all outside the breeding period. When the male is trying to attract the female, it will point its head straight into the air and display the crest of black plumes to show how wonderful he is! Throat and neck plumes are also very elongated and make an elegant display.  The bill becomes much more orange color and will take on a darker even reddish color after courtship.  The image above also shows the legs, normally a dark greenish hue, also take on an orange red color.  The Louisiana Heron legs get quite bright red during breeding, but the Great Blue can exhibit this to a degree as well. The lore or skin around the eye normally a dark dull green becomes a distinctive brighter blue which looks brilliant next to its intense golden eye.

This is a pretty leggy picture actually as you can see the long limbs of its mate standing close behind. Those do not seem to have the reddish hue but do show evidence of recent wading or fishing amongst the duck weed.

Visit natural areas whereever you are as it is always refreshing to be away from our work-a-day cubicles to see there is a whole cycle of life going on all around us.




~ by Judy on December 30, 2012.

8 Responses to “Dressed for Love – Mating Colors of the Great Blue Heron”

  1. Terrific photo of my favorite bird. Love seeing the bright blue lores at breeding time.

    • I agree completely. Until I first visited a nesting colony I did not realize that the Great Blues do have such enhanced colors. I’d seen the red lores of the Snowy egrets and the impossibly green of the White egrets but did not realize how beautiful the Great Blue colors become as well. I was very confused when I first started taking bird pictures of bird identifications because I did not initially know of the drastic color changes during the mating season…including eye color with some species which I love.

  2. What a wonderful shot! I agree… Love the lores of all the guys during this time. Such a lovely composition. Sweetheart!

  3. Truly, my favorite part of this photo is the pair of duckweed covered legs! You’re right, of course, that the colors are wonderful, as is the attentiveness of the bird to his nest. But the duckweed adds just the right degree of humor, not to mention a strong sense of these birds just “getting on with life” in the new year.

  4. absolutely gorgeous! z

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