Ugly Ducklings of the Heronry

Curious Great Blue Heron Chicks Peer Over the edge of the nest

Curious Great Blue Heron Chicks Explore their boundaries in a late afternoon stroll to the edge of the nest.

Below I have included an excerpt from John James Audubon on the Great Blue Heron chicks which describes well the appearance of the nestlings. The selection of images here are of chicks just a few weeks old. They are not yet fully feathered and are indeed a bit ‘uncouth’ in their state of development and awkwardness in moving about the nest. Truly cute little ugly ducklings rapidly growing into those oversized knobby knees!  Like all toddlers they amble curiously about the nest, testing their boundaries and exercising their growing limbs. Quite helpless at this stage they seem almost adoring when they look up at their parental figure steadfastly standing by. Of course, they are learning rapidly that this is where the fish come from. I love the sights and sounds of a rookery from the chatterings of hungry chicks to the whoosh of wings as their parents arrive with a fresh meal.

  “This species takes three years in attaining maturity, and even after that period it still increases in size and weight. When just hatched they have a very uncouth appearance, the legs and neck being very long, as well as the bill. By the end of a week the head and neck are sparingly covered with long tufts of silky down, of a dark grey colour, and the body exhibits young feathers, the quills large, with soft blue sheaths. The tibio-tarsal joints appear monstrous, and at this period the bones of the leg are so soft, that one may bend them to a considerable extent without breaking them. At the end of four weeks, the body and wings are well covered with feathers of a dark slate-colour, broadly margined with ferruginous, the latter colour shewing plainly on the thighs and the flexure of the wing; the bill has grown wonderfully, the legs would not now easily break, and the birds are able to stand erect on the nest or on the objects near it. They are now seldom fed oftener than once a day, as if their parents were intent on teaching them that abstinence without which it would often be difficult for them to subsist in their after life. At the age of six or seven weeks they fly off, and at once go in search of food, each by itself.”

Great Blue Heron Nestling-Exercising Young Wings

Baby Great Blue Heron exercising its nice new wings.

Great Blue Heron-Indelicate Rump View & Exercising Young Wings

Great Blue Heron Chicks looking expectantly at its parent - meal time

Great Blue Heron Chick -Gazing towards the sun from its nest

Two Very Young Great Blue Heron Chicks-weeks old

These two guys are from a different nest and just a couple weeks old.

I look forward to watching these ungainly, ugly ducklings, grow into the beauty of their species!!


~ by Judy on March 15, 2014.

7 Responses to “Ugly Ducklings of the Heronry”

  1. Judy, Nice photos, and interesting story. Jack

  2. Thanks Jack!! I don’t think I will be able to help myself but to follow these nests ’til chicks fledge!! All the while practicing with the new lens!! 🙂

  3. Amazing captures, Judy. How do you find those nests?

    • I am fortunate to live about 45 minutes from a man-made wetland called Wakodahatchee in Delray, Florida. The wetland is a project of the Palm Beach County Water Utilities Department started in the 1990’s. Go to this previous post where I rambled a bit about my first time there, its history and my enthusiasm for the place. It has been successful beyond anyone’s wildest dreams in that its various habitats have become a rookery for wild birds. It is unique in providing a good view of nests without disrupting the activity of the birds.

      Florida has other rookeries which photographers’ frequent such as the Venice Rookery, although I have not visited there as yet. I have seen some very nice images taken by others at the Venice Rookery.

  4. Oh wow! They are so cute! Great shots!

    • They are truly cute. It’s kind of hard to call them ugly ducklings except for that plucked chicken look they have before getting fully feathered. It’ll be fun to see them get big and beautiful and go fishing on their own.

  5. That next to last photo is just so funny. The babe looks for all the world like a kindergartner ready for his first school pageant. So serious! And there’s mom or dad, watching over, to make sure everything goes well.

    This is such a great series of photos. It’s such a treat to have these glimpses into the private lives of these birds, thanks to your skill with your camera.

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