Little Blue Heron

Egretta caerulea
Little Blue Heron specimens on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

A medium-sized (24 inches) wader, the Little Blue Heron is most easily identified by its size, blue body, purplish neck, and gray bill tipped with black. Other field marks include dull yellow-green legs, dark eyes, and (unlike most herons) a lack of ornamental breeding plumes during the breeding season. Immature birds are all white, but may be separated from other white herons and egrets by their yellow legs and gray bill. Male and female Little Blue Herons are similar to one another in all seasons. The Little Blue Heron breeds in the southeastern United States and along the Atlantic Coast of the U.S. north to Maine. Birds breeding in the interior spend the winter from southern California south to Panama. Coastal populations south of New Jersey, as well as those in the West Indies, are non-migratory. Little Blue Herons breed in colonies along shallow bodies of water, including marshes, lakes, and estuaries. Nests are usually built in the branches of trees above the water. Wintering birds generally utilize similar habitats as in summer. Little Blue Herons primarily eat small fish. Little Blue Herons may be best observed wading in shallow water, where they may be seen plunging their bills into the water to catch fish. It is also possible to see Little Blue Herons at their rookeries, especially when they return to roost at sunset, or while flying with their feet extended and their necks pulled in. Little Blue Herons are primarily active during the day.

DC Information

Fairly common breeding species along the barrier beach area of the southern Eastern Shore, from mid-April to mid-July. Common during the post-breeding period, early July to mid-October. Usually in and around tidal marshes. The immature bird is white. Sexes are similar.

Specimen Information

The bird on the left is an adult female.
Date:  4/22/1911
Collected By:  Edward J Brown
Locality:  l'on swamp, Christ Church Parish, South Carolina Coast
Sex:  Female
Catalog ID:  221845
The bird on the right is a juvenile.
Date:  8/26/1908
Collected By:  JW Goodwin
Locality:  Crave, VA
Sex:  Male
Catalog ID:  208963

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Egretta caerulea

Sound from xeno-canto. XC85129 Egretta caerulea (Little Blue Heron)