Last weekend we managed to get out to Brazos Bend State Park during a sunbreak. Along the southern margin of Pilant Lake, between Elm Lake and the bridge, we noticed a pair of Green Herons fishing. Both were adult birds, but were in different stages of development of breeding colors. One (shown above and immediately below) was in full breeding color. The other was just shy of full development.
These birds buzzed each other a few times and generally acted as though they were squabbling. This may have been an aspect of courtship behavior or a territorial dispute. Based on the benign nature of the interactions, it seemed more likely to be the former. The bird in full breeding had brilliant violet-blue lores without a trace of yellow, and the feet were a bright orange. The beak was, more or less, a glossy jet-black. This bird is likely involved in courtship.
The second bird (above) had blueish lores that still showed an upper outline of yellowish green. The feet and legs were still the predominately blotchy yellow-black of nonbreeding, but patches of orange had formed. The lower bill retained a stripe of yellowish green along the lower margin. I think that this bird had just started courtship behavior.
The image below shows an adult Green Heron in nonbreeding colors during late summer. Note the stripe of greenish yellow above the lore and along the lower margin of the mandible. This is how I typically see Green Herons, which is why it’s so exciting to see them in their flamboyant, transitory breeding colors.
Essentially what photography is is life lit up.—Sam Abell
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