Reader Darrell Ernst sent these photos back in June but they’ve just reached the head of the queue.
My family went to Sebastian Inlet [Florida] this past Saturday morning and my daughter, Brianna, of course took her camera. Unfortunately I was stuck at home working on painting the house. My loss too because they had a rather rare surprise encounter, a Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens)! The same species Tara Tanaka so beautifully captured in her wonderful Big Red video. This bird is relatively rare, period, and Sebastian inlet is at a far edge of its typical range, at best. There are pics of a few other birds as well.
Here is a link to the pics Sebastian Inlet 06-18-16. All pics are by Brianna Ernst.
The 1st pic is of an American White Ibis (Eudocimus albus). This picture is an example of the dangers living with humans presents to wildlife. The foot of this poor bird is tightly wrapped in fishing line or perhaps netting. On the brighter side this picture clearly shows the striking blue eye of this bird (enlarge).
The next 2 pics are of the rock star Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens). We spent a lot of time verifying the species because there is another bird that can look surprisingly similar and Sebastian Inlet is a bit far for Reddish Egrets. But a few features seem to clinch it. The blue legs, more evident in some pics than others, and the eyes. We speculate that this bird is young and hasn’t quite achieved its full adult colors. In particular the first half of the beak is a light pink in fully mature birds and the face is a blue similar to the blue on the legs. On this bird you can see hints of these colors but those features are still rather dark and there are still some feathers around the face that it will lose as it matures. My daughter was very excited about seeing this bird! She has been keeping an eye out since I showed her Tara Tanaka’s outstanding Big Redvideo.
The next picture is of a Snowy Egret (Egretta thula). The beautiful tassel-like plumage on these birds made them, in the past, regular targets. The plumage was used to decorate hats and other such things. Instead of capturing, plucking and releasing they were typically simply killed.
The last photo is proof that zombies actually do exist. No, there is nothing wrong with this bird. It is a perfectly healthy example of a teenage Wood Stork (Mycteria americana). It is in the process of losing its “baby feathers” around its head and neck and those areas will soon be bald, like vultures
And look at this bird. It’s not an egret, but the white morph of the Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias), sent by reader Craig Carpenter:
The “normal” appearance of the bird is below, but the white morph is common in some places. As Wikipedia notes:
The subspecies differ only slightly in size and plumage tone, with the exception of subspecies A. h. occidentalis, which also has a distinct white morph, known as the great white heron (not to be confused with the great egret, for which “great white heron” was once a common name). It is found only in south Florida and some parts of the Caribbean. The great white heron differs from other great blues in bill morphology, head plume length, and in having a total lack of pigment in its plumage. It averages somewhat larger than the sympatric race A. h. wardiand may be the largest race in the species. In a survey of A. h. occidentalis in Florida, males were found to average 3.02 kg (6.7 lb) and females average 2.57 kg (5.7 lb), with a range for both sexes of 2 to 3.39 kg (4.4 to 7.5 lb). This is mainly found near salt water, and was long thought to be a separate species. Birds intermediate between the normal morph and the white morph are known as Würdemann’s heron; these birds resemble a “normal” great blue with a white head.
The theory that great white herons may be a separate species (A. occidentalis) from great blue heron has again been given some support by David Sibley.
Photo below from the Audubon Field Guide: