Wednesday, April 6, 2011


On the second day, as I started photographing, all the action was in the first or lower nest. No chicks could be seen in the second (higher) nest and the great blue was not in the nest but higher up on the treetop, seemingly sunning itself in the warm Florida light.

As I was concentrating on the lower nest, something caught my eye. There was movement in the higher nest. I quickly scanned with my lens to see a chick sticking its head up and screeching for its parent, looking up and down in search of the parent that would feed it.

As it looked up, it spotted its parent and started really screeching and another chick could then be seen.

It was exciting trying to keep my lens focused on the chicks while keeping one eye on the parent, trying to see what the parent would do. I saw it look down at the chick and I quickly refocused up to the parent. Then catching it as it flew down to its nest and children, I refocused now on the nest to see the interaction. As soon as it landed, the babies started reaching up to be fed.

To those of you who read yesterday's post, the parents feed the children by sticking their bills down the chicks' throats and regurgitating partially digested frogs, fish ect. You can see the chick grabbing at the parent's bill looking for food. Throughout the time I observed them, (about one and a half hours), the adults seemed more interested in grooming than feeding. I only saw one instance of the parent actually feeding the chick the entire time I was there (see image below). Now they may have fed the chicks before I arrived and then left the nest while the young rested. But as I saw and heard, the young wanted more food.

                This shows the only time I saw what appeared to be the parent feeding one of the chicks.

                                   A parent's grooming time and the chicks could not compete.

As you can see in these images, one chick was much more aggressive then the other at trying to get food. This makes me wonder about the future of the second chick. The strongest chicks will get more food and  will survive, the weaker will not. If there is not enough food, the stronger chick will push the weaker out of the nest to its death. Not a lot of family values in the heron community, I guess, just survival. Although when I was a child, I was the oldest of six boys and you should have seen our dinner table. Lots of survival mode exhibited there, especially when there was one last meatball to be eaten!

Interesting Facts about the Great Blue Heron:

  • Hollow bones: Yes, these birds have hollow bones, which is how such a big bird is light enough to fly
  • Backwards knees: They are kind of funny to watch walk -- Doctor E says, check out this video Link or video here
  • Beaks like BBQ tongs: If you thought they speared their food, you'd be wrong. If you think about it, how would they get the food in their mouth if their beak was stuck in the food? No, they open their mouth wide and clamp down fast on the fish or small animal.
  • Eyebrows?: Well, not really, but they have a pair of black plumes running from just above the eye to the back of their head that really looks like eyebrows.
  • Powder Down: Great Blue Herons have very special feathers, called powder down that grows like hair with fine ends that break off easily. The birds use a comb-like claw on the middle toe of each foot to rub the down and turn the ends powdery. The powder is used to either clean the other feathers or to keep swap slime and oils from sticking to the underside of their bodies.
  • "S" is for SPRING: The Great Blue Heron unusual "S" shaped neck allows it to spring quickly like a coil in order to catch prey. The unique way it moves also allows the heron to fold its neck back into its shoulders during flight to move more easily through the air. Remember how the male Great Blue Heron attracts a lady by sticking his neck in and rapidly? Maybe the lady bird is looking for the guy with the fastest and best moving neck.
  • "Big Cranky": The Great Blue Heron has many common names, including Big Cranky, The Grandfather, Blue Crane, Gray Crane, Long John, and Poor Joe.
It was an interesting couple of days spent with the great blues and their families and I will continue to check on their progress. Keep an eye out for more images!


FAYErydust said...

Nice one! How about flowers? I want to see flowers because that's my forte for my job and I have to learn more. :)

Tameka said...

Jim, what beautiful photos! The story was lovely too. I felt like I was watching a photo documentary if there is even such a thing. You have a beautiful eye! Thanks for sharing your photo journeys with us!

Aaron said...

I really enjoyed this two part post. Especially seeing some of your images you didn't like from yesterdays post. Makes you human :)

The pics from today are fantastic. That extra reach really made for some incredible captures.

Ann said...

Truly amazing photos! Glad you decided to spend the time and go back a few days to capture these photos!

David said...

Very beautiful photos, they really captured my attention and the text was great as well. Look forward to more of the great pics!!

Anonymous said...

Absolutely stunning photos. Great info as well. I think when it comes to food, kids whether animal, birds or humans want to eat when they see mom.

Jim said...

Really great photo essay Jim.
Loved it. Birds are wonderful photo subjects.

Jewell said...

How fun!! =) I have to say the 2nd pic of the youngin' (or the 3rd pic down) looks like a serious case of nest head =)

vaisakhi said...

amazin do u get such shots...n intrstin story too...:)...loved it...i seemed like a slide documentary....:)