BIRDS AND ALL NATURE
ILLUSTRATED BY COLOR PHOTOGRAPHY.


VOL. VII. FEBRUARY, 1900. NO. 2


A BABY HERON.
REST H. METCALF.


How many of the boys and girls who read BIRDS AND ALL NATURE ever saw a baby heron? I am sure you would like to see ours. He measures from tip to tip of his wings, that is, with his wings spread just as far as we could stretch them, five feet and ten inches, and from the tip of his bill to the tip of his toe very nearly five feet. Now, isn't that a little baby? He is nearly full-grown but has not on the dress of the old birds; that is why we call him baby. He is called a crane by some people, but his right name is great blue heron, and his scientific name is Ardea herodias. Shall I tell you about his dress? His head is all dusky now, but when he puts on his new dress his forehead and central part of the crown will be white enclosed by a circle of black — a fine black crest with two elongated black plumes that make him appear to be very much dressed up. His back and wings are blue-gray, but like his head will be decorated with elongated scapulae feathers, when he gets on his dress suit, and his long neck, which now has a rather dingy look, will have a beautiful collar of cinnamon brown tinged with purple and a white line in front from throat to breast. The tail is short and very inconspicuous. He really is a beautiful bird in spite of his long neck and long legs.

He is the largest of our New England herons and is not very abundant. You may find him about large bodies of water, and during the daytime he prefers the solitude of the forests and sits quietly in tall trees for hours, but in the early mornings and late afternoons he may be seen standing motionless at the edge of the water until a fish or a frog appears, when, with unerring stroke of his long beak, as quickly as lightning, he seizes it and beats it until dead, then swallows it; this act is often repeated.

     

He varies his diet with meadow mice, snakes, and insects, so he certainly does not lead a very monotonous life. Our baby ate for his last breakfast four good-sized perch.

Wasn't that a fine breakfast? I know you would like to hear about his early home. It was in a terribly dismal swamp, where it was almost impossible to reach, through mud to your knees and through briers and tangled bushes high as your head. There, several feet above your head was a nest, nearly flat, made of different sizes of twigs put together in a loose and lazy manner. Usually there are three or four light bluish-green eggs. Only one brood is reared in a season.

There are some people who say that the blue heron is good for food, but those who have once tried it do not care for another plate. They are the most suspicious of our birds and the hardest to be approached for they are constantly on the lookout for danger and with their long necks, keen eyes, and delicate organs of hearing, they can detect the approach of a hunter long before he can get within gunshot. They have a very unmusical voice, their call being a hoarse guttural "honk".

Once they were found in larger numbers, but now are seldom seen but in pairs or singly, and what a pity that foolish fashion of trimming ladies' hats has nearly exterminated so many varieties of beautiful birds! God gave us many beautiful things to enjoy in this world, and are they not more beautiful when we can see them alive in nature just where God placed them, than they are when dead and taken by pieces to adorn our heads?

Back to February 1900 Contents

Home | Site Introduction | Survival Needs | Bird Identifications
Gallery & Profiles | Habitats of Birds | Bird Migration | Odds & Ends | Resources
Birds and Nature Magazine | Search