The Colors of Bird Love

Great White Egrets

male Egret in mating plumage

When its court­ing time in Bird­land the male gets all dressed up to cap­ture his lady love. Some of the most strik­ing dis­plays are the Great White Egrets.

Great Egrets grow long white plumes and their lores, which are nor­mal­ly a dusky yel­low, turn bright green as the hor­mones begin rac­ing through their bod­ies.  (Lores are the skin of region between the eye and the beak.) Great Egrets pose in var­i­ous stretch­es and pos­tures and look quit the dandy, as my moth­er used to say. No, she didn’t say that about birds, just about men who dressed up in fan­cy duds to impress the ladies in her day.

male egret posing for the femaleBut that’s not all. They stretch and dis­play their wares in a vari­ety of del­i­cate pos­tures, like this. They fan their plumes until they remind you of Pea­cocks.

proud egret

No doubt the female Great Egrets enjoy the show though it does seem a bit pre­ten­tious to us humans. (I sup­pose we seem just as strange to them.) These slow, lan­guorous pos­tur­ings go on for many days, pre­sum­ably until all are mat­ed.

Great Egrets, near­ly dri­ven out of exis­tence by  hunters who har­vest­ed the beau­ti­ful plumes for milliners who fash­ioned them into ladies head­gear, are no longer endan­gered and are now com­mon through most of the Unit­ed States. Great Egrets nest in mixed colonies along with Snowy Egrets, Cat­tle Egrets and Black-crowned Night Herons. The colonies are quite col­or­ful when it’s mat­ing sea­son .

Snowy Egrets

snowy egret leaving the groundSnowy Egrets, always col­or­ful with their yel­low feet and black legs, frizz up their feath­ers and their lores turn fire-engine red when it’s court­ing time.  Here is a non-breed­ing Snowy, look­ing like he is about to do a bel­ly flop. Actu­al­ly the cam­era caught him tak­ing off, half-way through the first flap. Notice his fan­cy yel­low boots.

Snowy Egret in mating colorsWhen the male Snowy gets all fired up, his red lores make him look like he is about to blow his top!

Notice his long, shag­gy plume-like feath­ers. Not as long as the Great Egret’s, but not bad for a small bird.egret with red lores

And grace­ful, too, as he flies to his mate. Snowies are rau­cous lit­tle birds and scrap­py, though not so much when nest­ing.

Cat­tle Egrets

Cat­tle Egrets are nor­mal­ly a bit drab, with pale lores, pale legs and pale eyes.  Only a bit of cin­na­mon on their heads and bel­lies.

cattle egret in flight

But the Cat­tle Egret’s legs turn pink, the beak turns bright red-orange and the lores are col­ored with a shade of vio­let.

cattle egret with bright tangerine lores

And here we have a hap­py pair of Cat­tle Egrets in all their fin­ery.

cattle egrets, mating pair

For most­ly white birds, Egrets real­ly col­or it up at mat­ing time!

Your com­ments & ques­tions much appre­ci­at­ed

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7 Responses to The Colors of Bird Love

  1. Corona says:

    Enjoyed look­ing at these to-night for the first time. Very beau­ti­ful relax­ing way to end
    an evening.

  2. Bert Katzung says:

    Great blog site, Richard! Keep up the good work!
    Bert

  3. rita forsyth says:

    We live in Bel Marin Keys and were for­tu­nate enough to see the Great Egrets in the Trees next to the Med­i­ta­tion Cen­ter yes­ter­day.

    We also were for­tu­nae enought to live on Sun Rise Lagoon in BMK 20 YEARS ago where there is a lit­tle island with trees where the egrets would flock to by the hun­dreds.

    We now live on Del Oro Lagoon and see very few egrets  — small or large.

    We have beu­ti­ful pho­tos of the birds here in BMK but since we moved from Sun Rise Lagoon, haven’t seen very many. Maybe because the water is 30 feet deep on this lagoon.

    Loved your pho­to of the Great Egret in the recent Whis­tle Stop…THANK YOU>

    CAN WE BUY A COPY?

    RITA AND BOB FORSYTH, FOOGIE5@COMCAST.NET

  4. Steve says:

    Love the blue sky against the great pho­tos of the birds. I didn’t know that they change col­ors. It’s great to see them up close. So beau­ti­ful. Yes, you & your bird world are full of mag­ic.

    Good to keep the text short, so it’s quick to read and more like­ly to be read. I like the blog. Nice to see who else is look­ing and what they think.

  5. Sally Burr says:

    Love the blue sky against the great pho­tos of the birds. I didn’t know that they change col­ors. It’s great to see them up close. So beau­ti­ful. Yes, you & your bird world are full of mag­ic.

    Good to keep the text short, so it’s quick to read and more like­ly to be read. I like the blog. Nice to see who else is look­ing and what they think.

  6. Clarissa Bush says:

    Gor­geous! Stun­ning expo­sures in full light, no fair using mag­ic!!

  7. Gary Pavek says:

    Very nice pho­tos — and I learned a few things, like what lores are. Delight­ed to see your first post in your new blog.

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