Florida 2010 posts continued....
One of the most frustrating things for me in bird watching is trying to identify white wading birds. You really have to look closely, and have a bird book in hand, in order to learn the sometimes subtle differences.
Along a stretch of Black Point Drive I came across three such birds. The first I recognized as a Great egret thanks to its size. At 40 inches tall they are nearly double the size of the cattle and snowy egrets. Don't be complacent, though--there is a white-morph Great blue heron that is very similar. The best way to tell them apart? The Great blue heron has yellow legs, the Great egret has black legs.
Next was this Snowy egret, its breeding plumage tossed about in the wind. The snowy stands about 24 inches tall, and is distinguishable from the cattle egret by its black bill and legs (although the snowy does have shockingly yellow feet).
Last was this little fellow. Had I not seen one at the Maritime Hammock Sanctuary I would not have known it on sight. This is an immature Little blue heron. When he's all grown up he'll have a purple-ish head and neck and a blue body. But at this age he is distinguished by his pale bill and gray forehead.
Next we'll take a look at some Northern shovelers.