Little Blue Heron on the North Carolina Coast

Pamelia and I are on a road trip along the Atlantic coast, where we just had a thrilling first-time sighting: a little blue heron—a smaller cousin of the widely seen great blue heron.

Photo by Craig Neff

photo by Craig Neff

Note the lovely blue on its bill. We watched the heron wade and hunt near the Cape Lookout National Seashore visitor center in North Carolina. As luck would have it, Janneke Koning Case shared with us this week a shot she took in Florida of a juvenile little blue heron, which is white. That juvenile coloration is a trait the species may have evolved so that the youngsters would be tolerated and allowed to fish by snowy egrets, which whom they sometimes hang out. Little blue herons don't change from white to blue until about their second year.

photo by Janneke Koning Case

Little blue herons survived the fashion industry's mindless and devastating feather-hunting mania at the turn of the 20th century because they don't have sort of tufted plumes found on birds such as egrets and great blue herons that were so sought after to decorate hats. We thought this little blue was spectacular enough without those extra showy plumes. Thanks, Janneke, for your timely and insightful photo. We'll be sharing more shots and sightings from the road in the days ahead. —Craig Neff and Pamelia Markwood