They are common, tolerant of photographers, and found everywhere, even in busy urban areas. I was amazed at how easy it is to creep right up to foraging herons or their rookeries and take not one but multiple photos of them. Every island we visited in this last week presented at least one good photo op of these interesting birds. For example, I usually see Green Herons as they fly away from me, but I found one foraging for some large bodied winged insect on the lawn at the botanic garden on Grenada. I took photos as he stalked and then stabbed his long sharp bill into the lawn and extracted the “bug”.
Bird guides say this is a short-necked heron, but it sure looked like this one could stretch it out when necessary.
I watched this heron perform this feat successfully three times, but couldn’t figure out a) what it was eating or b) where it found them in the lawn. I certainly didn’t see any such large insects crawling around in the grass, but every so often, the heron would run across the lawn, probe into the grass and bring up a bug to engulf.
By far the most entertaining group of herons were the cattle egrets we saw on St. Croix Island. The trees were overflowing with heron nests in all stages of nestling development from incubating parents to those feeding young chicks as large as the adults themselves.
The bright yellow, rosy bill of the egret on the far right is typical of an active breeder. The adult hunched down in the nest has an all-yellow bill in contrast (already mated, and doing boring incubation duty).
One poor parent was feeding two chicks who alternated between being fed and bashing the parent with their wings as they flapped around the tree top for better position. Then, when the parent left, they bashed each other around instead.
I was so busy taking photos of the two youngsters beating up on each other that I didn’t even notice there was probably another heron species nesting in these same trees. What is that darker-colored bird in the lower left of the photo above? Its dark color and blue-tinged bill looks like the Little Blue Heron I saw on a couple of the islands.
On a St. Croix beach, I spied a Little Blue Heron foraging along the shore. I took lots of photos from quite a distance away thinking it would fly away at any moment.
The bill looked like it was the same color as the water. The bird eventually let me walk up to within about 20 feet, but was eyeing me quite closely at that point.
These herons are larger than the cattle egret, but much smaller than the American Egret or Great Blue Heron. They eat fish, frogs, rodents, crustaceans, and insects, so they seem adept at feeding on or near shore. There were a great abundance of these crabs on the shore, so perhaps that was on the menu for today.
Back in town, I walked along a small creek and found another heron foraging in the weeds. The blue bill is not so obvious on this bird and the color of their plumage seems almost purple instead of blue in the shadier light conditions.