Green Heron Preening

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Before turning to today’s post, a brief note:  The blog will be on hiatus beginning tomorrow until next Wednesday.  It should be worth it if things go as planned. I’m off on a photographic adventure and hope to have many images to post on my return.

I was at Sweetwater Wetlands very early one morning about a week ago, standing on an overlook of one of the wetlands’ several ponds.  I saw a Green Heron fly in and land about 75 feet from where I was standing.  That was an unusual event: these little herons are wary of humans.  Evidently, the heron hadn’t noticed me because it was extremely relaxed.

For my money, Green Herons are the most beautiful of the aquatic birds that we see in southern Arizona.  These chicken-size herons have extraordinarily beautiful plumage, ranging from slate blue to green on their backs, necks and wings, to a deep rich russet and white on their necks.

The heron perched on a floating tree branch, occasionally seizing a tiny fish from the water.  After a few minutes, it began to preen, carefully cleaning its feathers.

Preening is an important daily chore for all birds but especially for wading birds.  These herons don’t swim but they are exposed to water and waterlogged feathers would weigh them down and make flight impossible.  Consequently, they spend considerable time assuring that their feathers are dust and dirt free and transferring oil to their feathers from glands on their backs, in order to make the feathers as water-resistant as possible.

I watched this heron groom itself systematically. It paid considerable attention to detail, seemingly obsessed with certain areas and specific feathers.

I was surprised that the heron never noticed my presence.  I was standing in plain view of the bird and my camera’s shutter is pretty noisy.  But, the heron was so focused on the job at hand that it remained oblivious to me.

The heron was still preening after about 15 minutes when I left it to its task.

Images made with a Canon 5Div, 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 ISII zoom lens, aperture priority setting, ISO 640,  f6.3 @ 1/2500.

3 responses to “Green Heron Preening”

  1. Tom Munson says :

    Terrific series, Steve.

    Are you ready to head north?

  2. Paule Hjertaas says :

    Does he have fishing line caught in his bill? or is is a reed? I’s a bait small to tell

  3. tkiiatmindspringcom says :

    The preening process seems quite graceful!

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