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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Little Blue Heron -- Egretta caerulea


RANGE: Breeds from southeastern New Mexico to central Kansas, southern Arkansas, southeastern Missouri, southwestern Kentucky, northwestern Tennessee, central Alabama, southern Georgia, and along the Atlantic Coast from Maine, south to the West Indies and South America; sporadically in central Minnesota. After breeding, disperses north in interior to North and South Dakota, Michigan, southern Ontario and southern Quebec, and to Nova Scotia on Atlantic Coast. Winters from southern Baja California, the Gulf Coast, and coastal Virginia south throughout most of breeding range.

STATUS: Common; range is expanding.

HABITAT: Prefers freshwater ponds, lakes, marshes, meadows, and marshy shores of streams, but also inhabits brackish and saltwater coastal habitats. Roosts in trees and shrubs at night.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Open water or wetland habitats.

NEST: Nests in colonies of up to 100 in a variety of trees, usually hardwoods, almost invariably over or by freshwater. Tends to nest on the fringe of mixed colonies, often in company with the tricolored heron. Builds a flimsy platform nest, sometimes as high as 40 feet in trees and shrubs. Nests in willows, buttonbush, red maples, myrtles, and swamp privet.

FOOD: Forages in a slow, methodical manner ashore, in mud, or in very shallow water; not given to wading as deeply as some herons. Seldom feeds in saltwater. When water disappears from marshes and swamps, will live solely on insects caught in grasslands. Diet includes fishes, frogs, lizards, snakes, turtles, shrimp, fiddler crabs, crayfish, aquatic insects, spiders, grasshoppers, crickets, and beetles.

REFERENCES: Low and Mansell 1983, Palmer 1962, Sykes in Farrand 1983a, Terres 1980.


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