Just A Kid

Reminder:  You can enlarge any of the photos in this blog by clicking on it.  Click again for a full-screen image.

About 10 days ago I was over at Sweetwater Wetlands looking for something to photograph.  It was very early in the morning and the sun had just cleared the horizon.  Suddenly, I saw a fairly large bird land in a tree, just above me.  When I saw it and as I photographed it I was convinced that the bird was a Green Heron, a fairly common species at the Wetlands.  I photographed it without much enthusiasm, especially because lighting conditions were atrocious.  The bird was in deep shade, made darker by the low angle of the sun, whereas the sky behind the bird was quite bright.  I had a Hobson’s Choice: expose the bird properly and overexpose the sky or get a proper exposure of the sky and a silhouette of the bird.  I chose the former.

When I got home I put the images on the computer and I was a bit astonished.  What was with those huge, burnt orange eyes?  Green Herons have smaller eyes and they’re yellow.  And, the plumage on the bird looked nothing at all like a Green Heron’s plumage.  For that matter, the bird wasn’t really shaped like a Green Heron.  It definitely was not a Green Heron.

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But, if it wasn’t a Green Heron, what was it?  That proved to be a bit of a puzzle because it looked like nothing that I could identify from a quick run-through of my field guides.


But, then, I remembered a basic rule of bird species identification.  If a bird doesn’t look like any adult in the field guides, it’s not necessarily exotic, but it quite likely is a juvenile.  In many species juvenile birds have plumage that doesn’t resemble their elders’ plumage at all.

And, so it was with this bird.  It is a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron.  This bird almost certainly fledged over the summer, and here it was, on its own, just a few months old.

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It is a striking looking bird.  I love those jade-green legs and the deep burnt-orange eyes.

When this bird attains adulthood, it will look like this, also very striking in appearance but looking not much like the youngster.  Notice how the adult bird’s eyes have turned ruby red, its beak has turned black, and its legs have become yellow in color:

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And, now, perhaps, you can understand my initial confusion.

Photos taken with a Canon 5D iii, 400 DO.  The first three photos were taken at ISO 400, “M” setting, f5.6 @ 1/400.  The fourth photo was taken at ISO 320, aperture preferred setting, f6.3 @ 1/2000.

One response to “Just A Kid”

  1. Liesl Kii says :

    Nice shots of these colorful juveniles, Steve. They really don’t look like the adult bird at all.

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