Monday, August 11, 2014

Keep Watching for White Wading Birds

 I visited a nice wetland off Arrowood Road over the weekend and found a couple of different white herons / egrets. Identification of these white waders can be challenging at times. Here is a brief primer on what to look for if you encounter one. Pay attention to the leg /bill color combinations on these birds. It can help you clinch identifications.

Great egret by Taylor Piephoff
This is the most likely species that you might find, the great egret. Note the combination of yellow bill and black legs. This is also a very large wader, approaching the great blue heron in size. Currently there are up to three of this species hanging out at the beaver pond at McAlpine Park in southeast Charlotte, off Monroe Road.

Little blue heron by Phil Fowler
The next most likely species found in our area in summer is the little blue heron. Immatures are white, quite unlike the adults. Immature birds are most commonly seen here. Notice the combination of greenish yellow legs and a slight downward curve to the bill. The bill is usually darker at the tip than at the base. At least one of these birds was present at Arrowood Road

The most uncommon small white wader you might encounter is the snowy egret. Notice here the combination of black legs, yellow feet, and straight black bill. This is an adult bird. the immatures will sometimes show greenish backs of the legs but the front of the legs is black. Little blue heron never shows that leg color. At least one of these birds was present at Arrowood Road.