Baby faces of Louisiana Heron Nestlings (Egretta tri-color)


Tri-color Nestling at about 2-3 weeks old

While I was away, the three baby blue eggs in my favourite Louisiana Heron (Egretta tricolor) nest successfully hatched.(Click HERE for Mom tending the eggs)  I’d estimate the ages of these nestlings at 2 weeks + old. So far the siblings wobble about the nest exploring the edges of their tiny domain and seem to get along ok. I have read recently that the longest lived Tri-color reached the age of 22 years, with 17 being the general life span. However, the mortality rate of herons in general is pretty high as sibling rivalry will reduce their numbers even before fledging and failure to adequately learn to feed themselves post leaving the nest will reduce their numbers in the difficult first year of life. But, for the moment they learn what it means when Mom or Dad flys in with a gullet full of dinner.

I stopped to visit the rookery and check progress of the nests a bit earlier in the day than is my custom. I love the softer, more balanced, late day light. So, such very, bright light streaming into the shadowed nests proved challenging for me… mainly in avoiding hot spots while getting detail in the shadows. These are the youngest Tri-color nestlings I’ve had the opportunity to photograph and so I wanted to share what they look like despite the imperfections. The tip of the beak of the top image does show the egg tooth still on this young fellow. The egg tooth is worn off or falls off rather quickly, but can be seen for a while after hatching. Generally it looks like a small white bump the tip of the beak and is used to puncture the egg membrane and then the shell itself.

In the top image and the one below, besides the unruly hairdo, you can see the many pin feathers with tufts of  feathers extending beyond the sheaths. The sheaths bind the growing feathers on the head, face, neck, wings…basically everywhere at this stage. They lay in straight rows ( looking rather uncomfortable to me) until the sheaths break and fall off and the feathers inside uncurl covering the body of the bird in softer looking layers. Feather growth is amazing to observe. They are by no means fully feathered with plenty of skin showing on the body and wings. Hard to believe that these awkward nestlings will become the lovely species which Audubon called “The Lady of the Waters” for its dainty ways and beautiful, refined colors.

Tri-color Nestling face- in dappled light of its nest

Tri-color heron chick steps out of the shadows of its secluded fern nest

This little fellow looks a bit more feathered, slightly older, than the above two chicks. It occupies a different nest with one sibling. A previous post… HERE …shows one of its parents fluffing out its aigrettes due to a disturbance. I  could see these little ones back in the shadows, but one curious sibling peeked out and stepped into the light for a portrait!!


As Ever,


~ by Judy on May 8, 2014.

17 Responses to “Baby faces of Louisiana Heron Nestlings (Egretta tri-color)”

  1. Judy, thank you for sharing these. It’s not too often that we can see photos of the young tri-color herons. Since their range cover New Jersey, I will have to look and see if the adults can be found in the marshes here this summer.

    • It is a treat to get to see the nesting birds. At first it was fun for me to figure out whose baby belonged to who with all the color and shape differences. I hope you will see some of these delightful birds in your neck of the woods this summer. You can treat us to some New Jersey Tri-color Herons!!

  2. Would you think me soppy if I say, Ah, they look so cute. Have you a maternal sense towards them, having watched them from before they were even eggs?

    • Not soppy at all….or well justifiably soppy!! 🙂 Yeah, you do get a bit invested in their welfare when you watch the parents nest build, mate, lay and incubate the eggs. Those pretty blue oblong globes hold all the potential in the world for renewal of this lovely species!!

  3. Awww.

  4. The babies are adorable.

    • Thanks for taking a peek at these youngsters!! Awkward as they are, they are adorable and fun to watch wobble about the nest and look so expectantly up at their parents for a meal.

  5. I saw the first picture and said to myself, “That is one ugly dinosaur . . . but cute!”

    • Dinosaur or bird at this stage they are not quite pretty yet…more interesting and fun to watch!! I continue to enjoy watching how those feathers grow. Funny how often I think of the Garuda in Perdido when I realize how imbedded into the skin the quills are. While ultimately the feathers are no longer supplies with blood and are not technically alive, even then, it must hurt to pull them out..wouldn’t you think?

      • I would. Much the same can be said for hair, and as anyone who has removed an adhesive bandage knows, that can definitely hurt!

      • I suppose being ‘plucked’ is a painful concept for many a species. Except perhaps the flower which brightens our table.

  6. I’m sorry. These chicks certainly are “cute”, but it’s a very special kind of cute: awkward, ugly, just slightly pathetic. They’re hilarious! They remind me of me, in fifth grade – except you have these photos of the chicks, and I’ve torn up every fifth grade photo I could find.

    I can’t choose a favorite. Every one of them is perfect – and look at the expressions on those faces!

    • LOL! If you think they look awkward in still images…you ought to seem them trying to move around the nest, balance on twigs and branches, and outrace their siblings when Mom or Dad lands. It is terribly cute to see them amble around.

      I have a fifth grade picture I absolutely hated when it was as a grown up looking back through time at it…I look at it much more favorably. Maybe grown ups think awkward is cuter than kids too. But, truly your comparison is apt since the maturation of the birds does remind me of human toddlers and teenages so often. Their timeline is far more compressed though.

  7. Ah, such angels! I agree…. They’re utter perfection in their awkwardness. Such gorgeous close-ups!!

    • All youngsters h ave growing pains and that proverbial awkward stage. Somehow they still manage to be cute!!

  8. Very cute Judy !

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