Great Blue Heron In An Unusual Location
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This morning I photographed this Great Blue Heron on Arizona’s agricultural flatlands.
Now, at first impression, the presence of this bird in the flatlands is more than a bit of a head scratcher. Great Blue Herons are normally associated with water. Indeed, one usually sees these birds wading in shallow creeks, at the margins of ponds and lakes, in swamps, or even at ocean’s edge. So, what is this bird doing in a place that is miles from the nearest body of water?
It just goes to show how adaptable some species are. Great Blue Herons are at home in agricultural country. These birds turn up all over Arizona’s agricultural lands. Indeed, this bird had a companion (not shown) that was foraging only a few yards away when I took this picture. From this bird’s appearance and that of its companion, I believe that the two may be juveniles. The dark crown on this bird’s head and the absence of a black trailing plume at the back of the head are typical of a juvenile bird. And, that suggests that not only do the herons forage in the agricultural lands but that they breed there as well.
But, what has motivated Great Blue Herons to adapt to what is essentially a burning desert? The answer literally lies at this bird’s feet. Look closely at my photograph and you’ll see that the bird is standing at the edge of an irrigation canal. The agricultural lands are criss-crossed with these canals that carry water to the crops (in the background you’ll see the margin of a cotton field). The canals offer a habitat to a variety of aquatic life. Fish, certain species of insect, and amphibians all dwell in the canals. That gives the herons a steady supply of food. And, so, an aquatic bird has transformed itself into a desert dweller! (well, sort of).
Image made with a Canon 5Diii, 100-400 f4-5.6 zoom ISII+1.4X Telextender. M setting, ISO 500, f10 @ 1/1600.