South Dakota
Birds and Birding
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Little Blue Heron

Egretta caerulea

Length: 26 inches Wingspan: 40 inches Seasonality: Summer
ID Keys: Dark bluish-gray overall, gray bill with black tip.  Immatures have all-white plumage.
 

Little Blue Heron - Egretta caeruleaA smaller heron that is normally found in the southeastern United States.  Little Blue Herons can sometimes be quite wary and difficult to approach as they wade in shallow marshes and sloughs, but in parts of their range where they are habituated to a human presence, such as along popular trails in the Everglades, they can be very approachable.  Immature birds have an all-white plumage and can be very similar in appearance to Snowy Egrets (see photos at bottom of page for examples of juvenile plumage for the Little Blue Heron).  Mature birds are dark bluish gray overall, as in the photo to the right.  Little Blue Herons have been expanding their range to the north in recent decades, and are becoming more commonly seen in the upper Great Plains.

Habitat: Marshes and sloughs, margins of shallow ponds and lakes with emergent vegetation. 

Diet: Mostly fish and crustaceans, also frogs, tadpoles, insects, snakes, lizards, and small rodents.

Behavior: Stands still or walks slowly through the shallows, searching for prey, and grabbing it with a thrust of the neck and head when prey is spotted.  They will also feed on shore, and occasionally in grassy meadows or other upland habitat.

Nesting: Rare breeder in South Dakota.  Little Blue Herons are colonial nesters.  The nest is a platform of sticks, placed in a tree or large shrub, sometimes quite high off the ground.  The female usually lays between 3 and 5 eggs, and both parents help to incubate them.  When the eggs hatch, both parents help feed the young.  The young begin to fledge after 4 weeks, and leave the care of the parents 2 or 3 weeks after fledging.

Song: Aah-oo-ah-ah-ah by male during courtship.

Migration: Summers in the Southeastern U.S., and in scattered locations elsewhere in the U.S.  Winters along Gulf Coast, Florida, Mexico, Central America, and South America.

Similar Species: Tricolored Heron.  Immatures similar to Snowy Egret, Great Egret, and Cattle Egret.  See Identification Tips page for differentiating between the white Egrets and the immature Little Blue Heron.

Conservation Status: Has been increasing in number and increasing range northward in recent decades.

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Little Blue Heron

2) eNature.com: Little Blue Heron

3) Whatbird.com: Little Blue Heron

Photo Information: December 10th, 2012 - Everglades National Park in Florida - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Little Blue Heron photos.

 

Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Little Blue Heron - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Rare summer resident in the northeastern part of the state, casual migrant and summer resident elsewhere in the east.