All Photos posted on this blog unless otherwise noted were taken by me with my Canon Rebel XTI using a 300 mm zoom lens

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

August 2012 Bird of the Month Great Egret

The great egret is a little over three feet tall with a wingspan of almost five feet. Its feathers are entirely white. It has a long, sharp yellow bill and long gray to black legs, with non-webbed feet with very long toes. Males and females look alike, but the males are a little larger.

The great egret feeds alone in shallow water. It stalks prey like frogs, crayfish, snakes, snails and fish. When it spots its prey, it pulls its head and long neck back and then quickly stabs at the prey. On land it sometimes stalks small mammals like moles and mice. I have never seen them feed on land but I have posted pictures of Great Blue Herons hunting voles when all the water at Farmington Bay was frozen over a few years ago.

Great Blue Heron hunting Voles
The Great Blue Heron is much more common in Northern Utah than the Great Egret. Seeing a Great Egret in Northern Utah is uncommon and a welcome event. 

The male great egret chooses the nesting site and builds a nest platform of sticks and twigs in a tree or bush before he selects a mate. Occasionally, the great egret will build its nest on dry ground near a marsh. The female great egret lays three to five pale green-blue eggs. The eggs take about three to four weeks to incubate. Both parents incubate the eggs and feed the chicks. The chicks fledge in about six weeks. If the nest is on the ground, the chicks will walk around the nest before they fledge. Both the male and female aggressively defend the nesting territory. Great egrets nest in colonies, often with herons and ibis.

Most range maps do not include Northern Utah, one of the great things about the Great Salt Lake is the vast variety of unlikely birds that show up at our wetlands. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

July 2012 Bird of the Month, Snowy Egret

The most elegant of all North American Shore and wading birds the Snowy Egret is my selection for Bird of the Month for July.

The Snowy Egret is a medium sized white heron with a slender black bill, black legs and yellow feet. The area of the upper bill is yellow and turns red during breeding season. Elegant plumes of white feathers are present during breeding season.

This rookery in Greeley Colorado hosted nesting Snowy Egrets, Cattle Egrets and Black-crowned Night Herons
Highly colonial Snowy Egrets nest in mixed colonies with other herons. Both fresh and saltwater habitats are used for nesting. My visit to Greeley Colorado was the first time I saw Snowy Egrets nesting in trees. In eastern US areas Snowy Egrets nest mostly in trees or shrubs but in the west ground nests are more common.

Snow Egret with an American Avocet in the foreground sitting on a nest

Snowy Egrets forage in many types of aquatic habitats, both freshwater and marine for small fish, crustaceans and invertebrates. Feeding areas include salt marsh pools, tidal channels, shallow bays, and mangroves. 

Snowy Egret with Black Terns late summer at Farmington Bay
Snowy Egrets nest at the Great Salt Lake wetlands but migrate south to southern states and Mexico during winter.

The Great Egret looks similar to the Snowy Egret but is much larger, The Great Egret has a yellow bill black legs and and black feet.
Cattle Egret is about the same size as the Snowy Egret but lacks the elegant plumes, has a shorter yellow bill and legs and during breeding has rusty colored markings on the breast and head.