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What is a Little Blue Heron?

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  • Written By: Bobbie Fredericks
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
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  • Last Modified Date: 31 October 2016
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Herons are wading birds, and are in the ardeidae family. There are four subfamilies of heron: the day-herons, the night-herons, the tiger-herons, and the bitterns. The little blue heron, or egretta caerulea, is a member of the day-heron subfamily. Herons primarily feed on fish and frogs, and can be found throughout the world.

The little blue heron can be found in the south-eastern United States, as well as Central and South America. They are migratory birds, spending winter months mostly in Central America. During the summer, they can be found as far north as Illinois, in the United States. They are quite different from the great blue heron, having more intense blue coloration, and less curve to their necks. Unlike some herons, the little blue heron has no plumage, which spares them from hunters.

As the name suggests, little blue herons are small. Both males and females of the species look the same, with blue bodies, maroon heads and necks, and black-tipped gray bills that are very long and slightly curved. Their long legs allow them to stand in water, hunting for prey. They range from 56 to 74 centimeters (22 to 29 inches) tall, and weigh about 296 to 412 grams (10.5 to 14.5 pounds). They have a wingspan of about 100 centimeters (40 inches).

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In addition to fish and frogs, the little blue heron enjoys insects, shellfish, and reptiles. It stalks through water and uses its long, sharp bill to grab prey as it swims or flies by. Little blue herons can typically be found in swamps, lakes, ponds, and rivers.

During mating season, the male little blue heron chooses a spot for the nest before selecting a female. He courts by swaying his neck and vocalizing, and may snap his beak. A female approaches, and they groom one another and entwine their necks.

The little blue heron nests in colonies with others, primarily in trees or bushes. Eggs are laid three to five at a time, and are blue-green in color. Both parents incubate the eggs, which hatch in about three weeks. When born, the babies are white and start turning blue around their first spring. Babies leave the nest after 30 to 40 days. The average lifespan is seven years.

Baby little blue herons will sometimes group with snowy egrets to hunt. The egrets will tolerate babies better than the adults. Little blue herons who hunt with egrets are more successful, which may be why they are white as babies. Mature adults tend to hunt alone.

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