White Egrets in January

These images were taken on Saturday the 28th of January this year. The day was windy, overcast but not raining, just generally dim with low contrast lighting. The breeding season for the big herons and egrets was evident with many Great Blue Herons egg sitting and the clamor of nestlings emanating quite loudly from one nest in a distant tree island.  Only concentrated scrutiny revealed the movement of fuzzy little heads through the leaves. There were Woodstorks, Louisiana Herons, Anhingas, Cormorants, White Ibis, White egrets and others gathering in the familiarity of the home rookery. Not all on nests yet but getting there. So it is a busy time and will be for a few beautiful months to come.

The White Egret pictured here is most likely a male as he was engaged in an ever changing dance and display of his aigrettes in order to attract a mate. Males and females are very similar and both feature the lovely ornamental plumes during breeding season. But it seems the role of the male to attract his mate. Once paired up they share all the duties pretty equally. I thought this bird was the most striking and beautiful thing to observe on Saturday with its luxuriant aigrettes on display and caught by the wind. The bright green lore and colorations of the bill also indicate bird hormones in high gear.

Despite the serenity I feel observing such beauty, my mind often returns to the days of the plume hunters and how the egret population was decimated to procure those delicate feathers merely to decorate ladies’ hats. Killing breeding parents means the chicks have no protection and so it is easy to see how quickly the next generation would be destroyed as well. It is hard to separate the admiration of this wild beauty and sorrow for its near loss for the sake of owning beauty.

I ran across this interesting Carl Sagan quote from Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors. It does address our human arrogance and the finite nature of things. I like to think we have learned.

“Darwin had been lured to South America by the prospect of discovering new birds and new beetles, but he couldn’t help noticing the carnage the Europeans were inflicting. Colonial arrogance, the institution of slavery, the extirpation of countless species for the enrichment and entertainment of the invaders, the first depredations of the tropical rain forest—in short, many of the crimes and stupidities that haunt us today—troubled Darwin at a time when Europe was confident that colonialism was an unalloyed benefit for the uncivilized, that the forests were inexhaustible, and that there would always be enough egret feathers for every millinery shop until the Day of Judgment.”


In appreciation or our natural heritage and may the birds always come home.





~ by Judy on February 1, 2023.

9 Responses to “White Egrets in January”

  1. Such beautiful birds, and you capture them so well. I am truly impressed!

    • In truth all credits go to the bird!! 🙂 I will admit to some focus issues as it moved around a lot and in very windy conditions. Was happy to get the lovely detail. Glad you enjoyed the view, hope to go back when there are chicks to show.

      • Hey, all I manage with our egrets are flutter of white as they take flight. But then I’m not near their breeding site

      • While things can move rapidly in a rookery, they can also be quite static as the nest is a bit captive for parents and young alike. In a wilder type area I have learned to focus fast if near a bird as it might take off any second. Then if it stays I can creep up and keep at it. I do rely on my lens auto focus a manual I am very slow. My main lens seems to be doing more hunting lately and so I;m having to take more time and more manual settings with it. Lens might need professional help!!

      • My super-dupe lens died (or the camera did) current camera, which was the back-up, hasn’t the range. Maybe I’ll replace. It’s that mirrorless camera your son recommended.

  2. Superb images, Judy. In March we will see the white egrets here in New Jersey. Only some of them have aigrettes and they stand out from the crowd. Could they be late bloomers from Florida who wait until they get here to give full swing to their hormones?

    • I do know that Florida is earlier in the calendar when breeding begins, just due to a warmer climate earlier. Spring starts south and goes north really. So I would imagine March for you guys for what we see here in January. It is lovely to have the opportunity to see the birds at home in their nests and home rookery. It is different than only seeing them out working and catching fish outside home. A treat.

  3. Your ability to capture these birds is remarkable, Judy. The aigrettes always appeal, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen such brilliant green lores. If I were a girl-bird, I certainly would pay attention. Is your breeding season early this year, or are you always so far ahead of us? I’ve noticed a few Snowy Egrets with plumes, and perhaps a few on the Great Egrets, but I’ve yet to see a truly impressively-decorated bird, or any displays. I still haven’t stopped by the marina where there was a little rookery last year; I need to put that on today’s to-do list!

    • No not really earlier than usual. In the past I’d see Great Blue Heron nests by January and chicks by February for sure. Seemed per usual. I will saw that the White Egrets I’d see a little bit later than the Great Blue Herons, but it is only a matter of weeks from season to season. Yes White Egrets can develop very green lores during breeding..very pretty. Snowy’s get bright red lores and red feet instead of yellow in both cases. Louisiana Herons yellow lores turn fluorescent purple blue. While you can see dramatic color changes in some examples, some birds it is there just not quite at brilliant.

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