Snowy in Florida

Snowy Egret plumps its rich array of feathers and breeding aigrettes

While northern climes enjoy the pristine beauty of glittering snowy landscapes and the crystalline delicacy of snowflakes, sub-tropical South Florida has its own brand of Snowy! Here in our warmer region the coastal wetlands, mangrove communities and aquatic nesting colonies are also covered in white. The fall of snow is replaced by the rush of the snowy white feathers as small herons flutter and settle among the branches during a Florida winter.

The various  names of this small New World heron draw from the comparison with pure white snow. Audubon’s plate CCXLII (242) is labeled Ardea candidissima (Gmel) or The Snowy Heron. Candidissima comes from the Latin root candidus meaning bright, shining or whitest. The name shown on the Audubon plate, also reflects the shifting taxonomy as regards the herons and the plume bearing herons or egrets, using the genus name of Ardea rather than Egretta. The French binomial name is Aigrette neigeuse. Neigueuse means snowy in French and Aigrette refers to those lacy ornamental feathers which drape the backs of the egrets during the breeding season. The current scientific name for The Snowy Egret now is Egretta thula as given by the Chilean taxonomist, Molina, in 1782.

The Snowy Egret is most easily identified by its black bill, black legs, and the striking yellow feet for which some call it “The Bird with the Golden Slippers.” During the non breeding season this bird is all white with yellow skin (lore) around its eyes and short tail feathers. But, now as our winter cycle ends and spring still waits, the Snowy egrets already have the reddened lores and regal aigrette displays of the breeding season. Snowy egrets are very quick and intense birds in their manner but strike me as feisty rather than fierce like the cattle egrets. The spiky head plumes and even the re-curved or curly shape of the aigrettes seem to lend themselves towards that personality as they strut their stuff!! Re-curved means curved in the opposite or uncommon direction or bent back. Most egrets have aigrettes which cascade down their backs and curved with the shape of the body, unless of course raised in an erect fashion when excited. I do not know how many other egret species around the world have the aigrette displays curled away from the body similar to our Snowy Egret.  But, I suppose I can identify and can’t possibly be the only girl whose desire for sexy straight bangs was foiled by ‘re-curvature’ instead!! Yikes!

I hope you enjoy today’s avian portraits. These handsome snowy white birds display their curly network of lace with an intricacy of pattern truly rivaling that of any crystal flake of snow!!!

Snowy Egret with Recurved Aigrettes and Red Lore-Mating colors

Snowy Egret in its breeding  colors and plumage–recurved aigrettes, chest and crest plumes in display. Hormone changes during the mating season prompt the pigment changes you see in the birds as in the lore here and in some species like the cattle egret the bill changes from yellow to reddish. The golden slippers are a year round feature.

Snowy Egret with Mating Plumage and Aigrettes-black and white image

A black and white treatment of Snowy Egret among aquatic lettuce plants.

Snow Egret with Recurved Aigrettes-toned treatment

One of my first pictures of a Snowy Egret in a mangrove area along Florida Bay. I loved it all fluffed up with the curly ornamental feathers. 

Snowy Egret Struts beside derelict boat labeled Ultra Hot

Ultra Hot Snowy Egret struts its stuff in the Florida Keys!! Its carriage and funky crest do are just too dapper!!

(Ultra Hot for the strut and for the derelict boat behind it!)

Just think when it is Snowy in Florida we don’t have to turn on the heat!!

Keep warm–spring really is right around the corner!


~ by Judy on March 15, 2013.

8 Responses to “Snowy in Florida”

  1. …. Here in Florida, we LOVE our snow birds. Although they clog our highways and overfill our restaurants, they contribute significantly to our economic — oh, wait a minute. Those are the PEOPLE that flood down here in winter. Their “plumage” can be pretty outlandish, too as they strut in their bright yellow flip-flops or sandles (with black socks) into the deli for the early-bird specials. 😀
    …. Now the Snowy Egrets, on the other hand – they are just beautiful! And they make those golden slippers WORK! You’ve captured those amazing critters wonderfully. Great job, Judy!

    • Thanks so much for the smile..and too tru snow birds come in many forms!! The human ones I dare say would love to have the luxuriant crest feathers even though ,where present ,the color is the same!!

  2. Beautiful snowy in breeding plumage!

    • I guess it will be a couple of months before you see the red lores and breeding aigrettes in your neck of the woods!! I look forward to seeing the images you will make then!! Watching the spritely birds never really gets old does it?!

  3. Ah, LOVE these guys…. Some of my favorite, FAVORITE of the breeding season! Love your shots – we have such similar timing, lol!!

    • Yeah, me too!! Snowy’s have such personality,,but then I say that about all the birds!! 🙂 Except for the two Keys pictures, the day I took those was very windy and so they look a bit rumpled!! Maybe the timing isn’t really in our control, we just follow along with the season and enjoy the ride!

  4. That’s not rumpled. That’s just – well, classy casual. They’re such beautiful birds, and it’s such a treat to be able to see them in all their finery. My favorite is the one in the mangrove swamp. The lighting is just beautiful.

    I’ve been seeing them all over, but they seem not to be so fancy as yours. Maybe when I see them they’re just engaged in fishing, and have work on their minds rather than showing off for each other!

    • Oh good! My hair is classy casual!! 🙂

      I am glad you like the mangrove swamp Snowy picture as I’ve been a bit stuck on that one all along. It is literally one of my first Snowy egret pictures ever. The bird is standing in water and the colors all around it were tones of brown so it lent itself easily to a monotone and it really is about the light on that one.

      Are the Snowy egrets in Texas breeding now? They should have aigrettes if so. Maybe if you caught them preening and fluffing up?

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