Review Day. Yay!

Ugh. Cloudy, hazy, 75°, 92% humidity, and I’m running low on bug spray. Plus, I’ve heard through the grapevine that some readers haven’t quite got the knack yet of telling all the herons apart. So, we’re going to take a break from new content today and just review a bit ’cause I’m in charge, and I can do what I want. Ha!

Here’s a mature great blue heron with the stringy feathers they grow for decoration. They are bluish in color with a bright yellow bill, and they can stretch that neck out to stand 45–54 inches tall. This particular one was standing in the river, but we’ve also seen them often on the pond.

When resting, they squinch their neck up so it looks like their head is right on their shoulders, but you can still see the neck. Here’s another adult resting up in a tree beside the river.

Here’s a green heron, which hardly looks green at all, but that’s what they’re called. The fine contributors to the Pedia of Wik describe them as having “a glossy, greenish-black cap, a greenish back and wings that are grey-black grading into green or blue, a chestnut neck with a white line down the front, grey underparts and short yellow legs.” They are only 16.1-18.1 inches long, so much smaller.

There feathers do a much better job of hiding their neck when they squinch it up, so it appears that they have no neck at all.

But they can stretch it out pretty far when they want to, and they can make the feathers on their head lay flat or stand straight up.

Those are the main two, which we see almost every day over the summer, and sometimes more than one individual, both on the pond and at the river. In contrast, here are the rarities of which I believe we’ve only even seen one individual each.

The juvenile yellow-crowned night-heron (with an all-black bill) that we’ve seen on the pond for the past couple of weeks. It is not much bigger than the green heron, has a relatively stubby bill and a reddish tint in its eyes. Folks are surprised to see it here because we are about 300 miles north of its usual range.

Here’s the juvenile black-crowned night-heron (with yellow in its bill) that we saw for a few days on the pond last August. It is also small like the green heron. I hear that a breeding colony has been seen from time to time on the lagoon in Veterans Park downtown.

Plus, it’s bill looks less stubby than that of the yellow-crowned.

Finally, here’s the great egret that we saw on the pond for just one special day only back in May 2020.

They are big and look just like “great white” herons, which are “currently considered a form of great blue heron” but are “restricted to peninsular Florida and is rare north of there.” Oh, and “egrets” are simply  “herons that have white or buff plumage, developing fine plumes (usually milky white) during the breeding season. Egrets are not a biologically distinct group from herons and have the same build.

Finally, just for completeness, here’s a pair of sand-hill cranes, which are tall, sandy-colored birds with long necks and long bills, but are not herons at all, and which we’ve only seen flying over Estabrook or when I visit Kohler-Andrae State Park.

And that’s all five herons plus one crane that we’ve seen so far. Now get a good night’s sleep and come to the exam tomorrow with a clear head, a number 2 pencil, and a positive attitude!

Published by Andrew Dressel

Theoretical and Applied Bicycle Mechanic, and now, apparently, Amateur Naturalist. In any case, my day job is teaching mechanics at UWM.

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