Have you ever seen the Little Blue “Calico” Heron? I had not, until this summer. I thought at first we have yet another species to add to the wonderful world of wildlife found on Cape Ann. The calico heron is not at all a different species but is the in-between stage of the Little Blue Heron as it loses its first hatch-year white plumage and gains its adult blue plumage.
In the bird’s first summer after hatching the Little Blue Heron is pure white, with just a wee bit of grey at the wing tips. In its second hatch-year, you’ll find the Little Blue Heron in a range of white and blue-gray combinations. By the third summer, the Little Blue Heron’s body feathers are a tableau of rich blue-grey-green with lovely violet maroon neck and head feathers.
During the breeding months, Little Blue Herons are occasionally seen at Cape Ann marshes, freshwater ponds, and along the shoreline. By late summer and autumn they can be found in mixed flocks of Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Green Herons, and Great Blue Herons, feasting on fish and frogs to build a reserve of fat for the southward migration.
The above photo and top photo shows the contrast between the Little Blue Heron first hatch-year, which is flying by a calico second hatch-year Little Blue.
First hatch-year Little Blue Heron
Calico (second hatch-year) Little Blue practicing nest building skills
Left to right, Snowy Egret, calico Little Blue Heron, Great Egret, and adult Little Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron range map – Cape Ann is at the northern edge of their breeding range
Great photos and very informative writing.
Thank you Sandy. The Little Blues are still around but I haven’t seen the calico for several days now.