Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

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Maximum longevity: 13.9 years (wild)
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The Little Blue Heron is sometimes referred to as the blue crane, levee walker, or little blue crane.

They have a commensal relationship with White Ibises (Eudocimus albus). The ibises stir up food as they walk, increasing the number of prey available to the Little Blue Herons. The herons benefit, while the ibises are unaffected. (Riegner 1998, Terres 1980)

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Thome, K. 2001. "Egretta caerulea" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Egretta_caerulea.html
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Kate Thome, Milford High School
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George Campbell, Milford High School
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Behavior

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Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

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Thome, K. 2001. "Egretta caerulea" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Egretta_caerulea.html
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Kate Thome, Milford High School
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George Campbell, Milford High School
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Conservation Status

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The major problem facing these birds is the loss of their wetland habitats. Little Blue Herons need clean, undisturbed wetlands for feeding and breeding. Colonies are being lost because of clear cutting of forests, and draining of ponds, lakes, and wetlands. The use of pesticides has also caused eggshell thinning. The population has been decreasing and the Little Blue Heron is considered threatened and of special concern in some coastal areas. (Katusic 1998, Riegner 1998)

US Migratory Bird Act: protected

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Thome, K. 2001. "Egretta caerulea" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Egretta_caerulea.html
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Kate Thome, Milford High School
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Benefits

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The Little Blue Heron has no negative affect on humans.

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Thome, K. 2001. "Egretta caerulea" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Egretta_caerulea.html
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Kate Thome, Milford High School
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George Campbell, Milford High School
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Benefits

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The Little Blue Heron is enjoyable to watch and helps control insect populations. (Riegner 1998)

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Thome, K. 2001. "Egretta caerulea" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Egretta_caerulea.html
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Kate Thome, Milford High School
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George Campbell, Milford High School
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Trophic Strategy

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Egretta caerulea feed mainly during the daylight hours. They are carnivorous, with their diet consisting of fish, frogs, lizards, snakes, turtles, and crustaceans such as fiddler crabs, crayfish and shrimp. They also eat aquatic insects and spiders. When swamps and marshes become dry, they live on grasshhoppers, crickets, beetles and other grassland insects.

The Little Blue Heron's long legs enable it to wade into the water, where it walks slowly along an area in order to locate prey, often retracing its steps or standing motionless. They sometimes rake the ground with their foot to disturb prey into movement and stretch their long necks to peer into the water. Their long beak is used to jab and eat the prey. Extensive studies found the heron's prey capture success rate to be about 60 percent. (Terres 1980, Riegner 1998)

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Thome, K. 2001. "Egretta caerulea" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Egretta_caerulea.html
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Kate Thome, Milford High School
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George Campbell, Milford High School
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Distribution

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The Little Blue Heron is found along the Atlantic coast from Massachusetts to Florida, but is most abundant along the Gulf of Mexico. It also nests in the West Indies, and along both Mexican coasts through Central America and into South America. Its range can also extend into the Amazon Basin, the Caribbean, and the more northern regions of North America. (Riegner 1998)

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); neotropical (Native )

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Thome, K. 2001. "Egretta caerulea" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Egretta_caerulea.html
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Kate Thome, Milford High School
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George Campbell, Milford High School
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Habitat

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Although Egretta caerulea often lives near saltwater, it is mainly an inland bird. They prefer freshwater areas such as ponds, lakes, marshes, swamps, and lagoons, but also sometimes occupy flooded and dry grasslands, or marine coastlines. (Riegner 1998, Terres 1980, Tarski 2001)

Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; rainforest ; scrub forest

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Thome, K. 2001. "Egretta caerulea" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Egretta_caerulea.html
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Kate Thome, Milford High School
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George Campbell, Milford High School
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Life Expectancy

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Average lifespan
Status: wild:
167 months.

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Thome, K. 2001. "Egretta caerulea" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Egretta_caerulea.html
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Kate Thome, Milford High School
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George Campbell, Milford High School
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Morphology

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The Little Blue Heron is a small, dark bird that ranges from 63-74 centimeters in length. It can have a wingspread of up to 1.04 meters. The sexes look similar, but the young look very different from the adults. An adult can be recognized by its purple-maroon head and neck. The rest of the plumage is slate gray. The long neck is usually held in an "S" shaped curve while the bird is at rest or in flight. The heron's long, slender bill curves slightly downward, and is also dark gray but has a black tip. The eyes are yellow and the legs and feet are dark. The young are unlike any other heron because they have all white body plumage. They have a blue bill with a black tip and dull green legs. They stay white through their first summer, fall, and into winter, but start molting in February into the dark color of an adult. (Terres 1980; Tarski 2001)

Average mass: 396 g.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Average mass: 215.6 g.

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Thome, K. 2001. "Egretta caerulea" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Egretta_caerulea.html
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Kate Thome, Milford High School
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Reproduction

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The pale, blue-green eggs of the Little Blue Heron are laid in April. They can lay from 3-5 eggs, but on average lay 4-5. This process takes 5-8 days, with one egg being laid every other day. Both sexes incubate the eggs until they hatch in 22-24 days, and then quickly remove the eggshells from the nest. It may take about 5 days for all of the chicks to emerge. Although the young can raise their heads, they spend most of their time lying on the nest floor. Both parents feed them by dropping food into the nest and later placing it directly into the chicks' mouths. In about 3 weeks, the young are ready to leave the nest for short trips along surrounding branches. When they are 30 days old, they are able to fly and periodically leave the nest area. Soon after, at 42-49 days, the young are on their own. Little Blue Herons can breed when they are one year old. They have been recorded as living more than 7 years in the wild. (Riegner 1998, Terres 1980, Katusic 1998)

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; oviparous

Average time to hatching: 23 days.

Average eggs per season: 4.

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Thome, K. 2001. "Egretta caerulea" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Egretta_caerulea.html
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Kate Thome, Milford High School
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Egretta caerulea

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A medium-sized (24 inches) wader, the Little Blue Heron is most easily identified by its size, blue body, purplish neck, and gray bill tipped with black. Other field marks include dull yellow-green legs, dark eyes, and (unlike most herons) a lack of ornamental breeding plumes during the breeding season. Immature birds are all white, but may be separated from other white herons and egrets by their yellow legs and gray bill. Male and female Little Blue Herons are similar to one another in all seasons. The Little Blue Heron breeds in the southeastern United States and along the Atlantic Coast of the U.S. north to Maine. Birds breeding in the interior spend the winter from southern California south to Panama. Coastal populations south of New Jersey, as well as those in the West Indies, are non-migratory. Little Blue Herons breed in colonies along shallow bodies of water, including marshes, lakes, and estuaries. Nests are usually built in the branches of trees above the water. Wintering birds generally utilize similar habitats as in summer. Little Blue Herons primarily eat small fish. Little Blue Herons may be best observed wading in shallow water, where they may be seen plunging their bills into the water to catch fish. It is also possible to see Little Blue Herons at their rookeries, especially when they return to roost at sunset, or while flying with their feet extended and their necks pulled in. Little Blue Herons are primarily active during the day.

Threat Status: Least Concern

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Egretta caerulea

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A medium-sized (24 inches) wader, the Little Blue Heron is most easily identified by its size, blue body, purplish neck, and gray bill tipped with black. Other field marks include dull yellow-green legs, dark eyes, and (unlike most herons) a lack of ornamental breeding plumes during the breeding season. Immature birds are all white, but may be separated from other white herons and egrets by their yellow legs and gray bill. Male and female Little Blue Herons are similar to one another in all seasons. The Little Blue Heron breeds in the southeastern United States and along the Atlantic Coast of the U.S. north to Maine. Birds breeding in the interior spend the winter from southern California south to Panama. Coastal populations south of New Jersey, as well as those in the West Indies, are non-migratory. Little Blue Herons breed in colonies along shallow bodies of water, including marshes, lakes, and estuaries. Nests are usually built in the branches of trees above the water. Wintering birds generally utilize similar habitats as in summer. Little Blue Herons primarily eat small fish. Little Blue Herons may be best observed wading in shallow water, where they may be seen plunging their bills into the water to catch fish. It is also possible to see Little Blue Herons at their rookeries, especially when they return to roost at sunset, or while flying with their feet extended and their necks pulled in. Little Blue Herons are primarily active during the day.

References

  • Egretta caerulea. Xeno-canto. Xeno-canto Foundation, n.d. Web. 20 July 2012.
  • Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea). The Internet Bird Collection. Lynx Edicions, n.d. Web. 20 July 2012.
  • Rodgers, Jr., James A. and Henry T. Smith. 1995. Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/145
  • eBird Range Map - Little Blue Heron. eBird. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, N.d. Web. 20 July 2012.

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Rumelt, Reid B. Egretta caerulea. June-July 2012. Brief natural history summary of Egretta caerulea. Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C.
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Little blue heron

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The little blue heron (Egretta caerulea) is a small heron belonging to the family Ardeidae.

Distribution

These herons breed in the Gulf states of the United States, through Central America and the Caribbean south to Peru and Uruguay.[2][3][4] It is a resident breeder in most of its range, but some northern breeders migrate to the southeastern US or beyond in winter. There is post-breeding dispersal to well north of the nesting range, as far as the Canada–US border.

Description

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Juvenile, Tobago
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South Padre Island - Texas

This species is about 64–76 cm (25–30 in) long,[4] with a 102 cm (40 in) wingspan,[5] and weighs 325 g (11.5 oz).[6]

It is a medium-large, long-legged heron with a long pointed pale blue or greyish bill with a darker or black tip.[5] The body is more elongated than in Snowy Egret.[2]

Breeding adult birds have blue-grey plumage except for the head and neck, which are purplish and have long blue filamentous plumes. The legs and feet are dark blue/green or greenish.[4] The sexes are similar.[5] Non-breeding adults have dark blue head and neck plumage and paler legs. Young birds are all white in their first year, except for dark wing tips[5] and have dull greenish legs. In their first spring or first summer they gradually acquire the adults' dark plumage.[2][5]

This species is rather similar to the much larger and bigger-billed Reddish Egret. Immature Little Blues are similar to immature Snowy Egrets.[7]

Ecology

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Little Blue Heron adult at Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida along the Marsh Trail.
Sounds of Egretta caerulea
Egretta caerulea. Video clip

These herons prefer freshwater swamps and lagoons in the South, while on islands in the North they inhabit coastal thickets.[4] They breed in sub-tropical and tropical swamps with mangrove vegetation, wetlands (bogs, fens, peatlands, etc.) and marine intertidal salt marshes.[8]

The little blue heron nests in colonies,[4] often with other herons, usually on platforms of sticks in trees or shrubs.[4] Three to seven light blue eggs are laid.[4] The little blue heron stalks its prey methodically in shallow water, often running as it does so. It eats fish, frogs, crustaceans, small rodents and insects. It eats more insects than the larger herons. Adults usually forage alone, while immatures usually feed in groups.[4]

White little blue herons often mingle with snowy egrets. The snowy egret tolerates their presence more than little blue herons in adult plumage. These young birds actually catch more fish when in the presence of the snowy egret and also gain a measure of protection from predators when they mix into flocks of white herons. It is plausible that because of these advantages, they remain white for their first year.[2]

Bibliography

References

  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Egretta caerulea". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2012. Retrieved 26 November 2013.old-form url
  2. ^ a b c d Little Blue Heron in ebird
  3. ^ Geographic Range in IUCN
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Little Blue Heron Egretta caerulea - eNature.com
  5. ^ a b c d e Little Blue Heron – Cornell Lab of Ornithology
  6. ^ Robbins, C.S., Bruun, B., Zim, H.S., (1966). Birds of North America. New York: Western Publishing Company, Inc.
  7. ^ Little blue heron - Egretta caerulea - USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter
  8. ^ Habitat in IUCN

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Little blue heron: Brief Summary

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The little blue heron (Egretta caerulea) is a small heron belonging to the family Ardeidae.

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