Sunday, September 30, 2007

Black-crowned Night Heron--Nycticorax nycticorax

At the Los Angeles Arboretum in Arcadia.

The nocturnal Black-crowned Heron (BGNH) is cute, but dastardly. Like many things that skulk around in the dark, it is sometimes up to no good. Frequently called an "opportunistic" feeder, it eats a wide variety of foods, including eggs and young birds. According to Sibley ( The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior by David Allen Sibley, page 171), BCNH are "notorious for taking the chicks and eggs of terns, ibises, and other herons." It is then pretty handy that BCNHs roost together with herons of their own and other heron and egret species. The BCNH is a very sociable bird, but obviously not one to be trusted. (I took the above picture of an adult BCNH at the LA Arboretum.) BCNH are found near fresh or salt water.

At the Los Angeles Arboretum in Arcadia.

You can see the thin, white plume in the above picture. The plume extends from the back of its head down to the shoulders. This BCNH is stretching its neck out normally as it looks for fish and other prey in the water. I also took this picture at the Los Angeles Arboretum. The bird didn't seem to care much that people were coming and going all around it. BCNHs can be pretty bold in areas where people often are. I noticed the same at Lake Balboa in the San Fernando Valley. This totally focused bird (pictured above) watched for fish constantly, but did not catch one in the fifteen minutes I was there. Notice the red eyes. It is one of the smaller herons. It has a chunky build and often hunkers down so much that its neck totally disappears. Birds who have completed the transformation to adult plumage are at least three years old. According to Cornell's All About Birds, this is the most widely distributed heron, appearing on 5 continents.

Up a tree during the day. Resting. No neck visible. Huntington Central Park East.

Immature Black-Crowned Night Heron at Huntington Central Park near the library.

This is an immature BCNH--we see remnants of the juvenile plumage, but a darkening of the wings and cap like the adult. I took the above picture at Huntington Central Park  East on the far side of Talbert Lake opposite the fenced in garden. It is an area where herons of all kinds like to roost when the lake is full. This picture was taken in the late morning when the BCNH had all retired to the trees to sleep.
Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron -- courtesy of US Dept of Fish and Wildlife
(Added for comparison.)

I used to work in a building overlooking the Golden Shore Marine Biological Reserve Park in Long Beach. As I went on my daily walk, I would skirt the section with the white sidewalk underneath the trees that edged the parking lot. I would look up as I walked around the white stains, and there would be a BCNH always around the same place. (Seal Beach had a serious problem with BCNHs roosting in their trees. See article in OC Register.) BCNH were frequently active on the nearby piers at Golden Shore early in the morning usually until 7AM or 8AM or on rare occasions 9AM.

At the LA Arboretum--in the late afternoon about 4:00PM in the middle of summer.
But BCNH do come out to search for food in daylight when they need it. In most cases though, the early bird not only gets the worm, but the early birder also gets a look at the BCNH.

Black-crowned Night Heron at Bolsa Chica about 4pm.

You usually have to be an early birder to get good look at the Black-crowned Night Heron. So get ready to go birding early in the OC, and look for the Black-crowned Night Heron. You just might find the little black-and-white heron going for one last fish.

Immature Black-crowned Night Heron at El Dorado Nature Center in Long Beach, California

Charlie the Black-crowned Night Heron Hangs out at the Toronto Harbourfront
Unusual video of BCNH named "Charlie" by the locals who feed him chicken and other foods. He eats from their hands and just hangs out with the people there.

Black-crowned Night Heron taking advantage of the fish at the San Diego Wild Animal Park in the late afternoon.

OC Birder Girl Links

Green Heron--Butorides virescens

Great Blue Heron--Ardea herodias

Great Egret--Ardea alba

Reddish Egret--A Rare Bird

Snowy Egret--Egretta thula

Black-crowned Night Heron hunkered down in the pickleweed early in the morning at Bolsa Chica.

External Links and Resources

USGS Page on Black-Crowned Night Herons
Pictures of mature and immatures. Short discussion on differentiating bitterns and immature Black-Crowned Night Herons.

All About Birds--Black-Crowned Night Heron
Detailed article on BCNH. Lots of information.

Smithsonian National Zoo page on Black-Crowned Night Herons
Very detailed page.

Honolulu Zoo's page on Black-crowned Night Herons
Lots of good information.'s page on Black-crowned Night Herons
The English Page of a French Birding site. Lots of good pictures.

Audubon Society Waterbirds: Black-crowned Night Heron
Distribution details.

More technical site but interesting. Information from the USGS.

Nature Works--Black-crowned Night Heron
Interesting facts and pictures.

Hunting from the pickleweed early in the morning near the footbridge at Bolsa Chica. Notice his reflection in the water.


The Internet Bird Collection: Black-Crowned Night Heron Videos
Good videos of BCNH both immatures and adults. For a great video of an juvenile, see this video by Pere Sugranyes from Barcelona, Spain on the IBC.

Black-crowned Night Heron foraging at Bolsa Chica Ecological Preserve near the foot bridge.

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Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Rose-breasted Grosbeak--A Rare Bird

Male Rose-breasted Grosbeak-- Courtesy of the US Dept of Fish and Wildlife Digital Depository

In the early 1980s I bought a can full of seeds that were supposed to grow into flowers and plants that would attract wild birds to my backyard. And grow they did! They grew into huge, tall flowers that then went to seed. The seed heads looked strange, and alien and like something that you might hack off and feed to your your parakeet--or perhaps a flock of parakeets. It was actually kind of disturbing. I was about to mow down this twilight-zone garden when I looked out the window one morning before 7AM and saw a male Rose-Breasted Grosbeak (RBGB) on the ground eating the seeds. I was stunned. Not only did that can of seeds attract birds, it attracted a bird I had never seen before! I checked my guide book several times. (Hey, this was before the Internet, so that is all I had.) After checking, I had no doubt. It was a RBGB. But would anyone believe me? From everything I had read, it was not a bird that lived around here.

A You-Tube video of the Rose-Breasted Grosbeak

However, it turns out that RBGBs are seen in Orange County. Seen rarely, it's true, but they are seen. In fact, several have been seen over the years at Huntington Central Park. RBGBs have also been seen at Mason Regional Park, Laguna Regional Park, Santiago Regional Park, and neighborhood backyards. It is a rare bird, but hardly an impossible bird.

A RBGB is in the family Cardinalidae. The same family as the Cardinal. Like the Cardinal, it eats seeds and fruit, and flowers. In fact, it often shares bird feeders with Cardinals. The Grosbeak part of its name refers to the fact that it has a large beak. This helps it crack seeds.

The RBGB is often compared to a robin, but considered the better singer. The female as well as the male sings. They sing a lot and don't stop when nesting.

The female is drab like most female birds and hard to distinguish from the female Black-headed Grosbeak. There is a link below that discusses the difference between them.

Male Rose-breasted Grosbeak feeding nestlings. Courtesy of the US Department of Fish and Wildlife.

This is a bird that is often hard to see because it is often feeding high in the trees. It does come to feeders though, and that is often the best chance to see it. The term grosbeak refers to its large beak which makes it easy to eat seeds. If you want to know how to pronounce "grosbeak" click Merriam Webster pronunciation here.

Take a look at some of these RBGB links:

All About Birds from Cornell University -- Rose-breasted Grosbeak
The usual thorough article from All About Birds. This one is about the RBGB of course. Lists distribution, range maps, habits, link to hear bird's song, and photographs.

Bedford Audubon Society--Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Information about the Rose-breasted Grosbeak in New York.

Bird Watcher's Digest Species Identification: Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Nice, short article.

Bird Houses 101--Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Good article on the Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Lots of details.

Birder's World Photo of the Week
Nice shot of a Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

Chipperwoods Observatory in Indiana--Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Photos of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks including their wing linings.

Identification of Female Rose-breasted and Black-headed Grosbeaks
Article by Joseph Morlan. It originally appeared in Birding in 1991 and compares the two female grosbeaks and discusses how to tell them apart. Clear.

Internet Bird Collection--Rose-breasted Grosbeak Videos
Videos of Rose-breasted Grosebeaks.

Orange County Rare Bird Alert Sightings for this Species
Central Park in Huntington beach seems to be a where it is seen most often. Is it because there are more birders there to see it? Or are there more RBGBs attracted to Huntington CP than other places?

Rose-breasted Grosbeak Photos from the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center
Photos from the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. Click on a picture to enlarge.

YouTube Videos of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks
YouTube videos of RBGBs. Some good, some not so good. This one of a male feeding a young bird is a good one.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

The Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve Sign with information about the Reserve and its Wildlife

The Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve aka the Bolsa Chica Wetlands is one of the top birding sites in the country, and it is right here in Orange County. The Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve is a type of ecosystem that wasn't valued until recently. People used to drain the water off of wetlands and use it for farming, and housing, and other uses. It was viewed as wasted land. The real value and functions of wetlands were not appreciated. However, wetlands have vital functions that affect all our lives. Read more about wetlands in the links below.

The foot bridge over the water off the PCH parking lot.

Bolsa Chica was recently upgraded you might say. They paths were raised and graded and covered with gravel, and an new inlet from the ocean was opened. This has only made a great place even better. It is handicapped accessible, and fairly level walking. I like starting from the Pacific Coast Highway parking lot the best. There is also a parking lot and interpretive center at 3842 Warner Avenue on the south east corner of PCH and Warner. You have to turn onto Warner and turn right at the first light to enter the parking lot. Please remember that these parking lots are for the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve only. No beach parking is allowed. For more details on the rules at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, see my post Rules at Bolsa Chica. To report violations of the rules you may call the Department of Fish and Game at (858) 467-4201.

Snowy Egrets hunting for fish.

Finding Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve is not as hard as you might expect. To get to the Pacific Coast Highway parking lot, you go south on Golden West, turn right and head north on PCH. Immediately after passing the light for Bolsa Chica State Beach, you will see two things on the right. A wooden bridge across the water and a small tool shed. Turn into the driveway immediately after the tool shed and park.

A Great Blue Heron photo taken from the wooden bridge.

Birdwatching starts in the parking lot. Standing in the parking lot, look out into the water and reeds to the right as you face the wooden bridge and you may see Snowy Egrets, Great Egret, Great Blue Herons, or even a Black-necked Stilt. Look overhead and you may see a Brown Pelican, Forster's, Elegant, or Least Tern, a Turkey Vulture or an Osprey.

American Avocets in breeding plumage.

As you walk across the wooden bridge you will hear pigeons underneath on the wooden supports of the bridge, and perhaps hear terns splashing into the water to catch a fish. If the tide is low, there may be Great Egrets or a Great Blue Heron fishing in the shallows. A Green Heron fishing on the rocks. There may be Willets, Marbled Godwits, or Black-necked Stilts in the marsh grasses, a Northern Harrier flying low over the wetlands, and Pied-billed Grebes swimming in the water.

Great Egret walking to a new fishing place.

As you leave the bridge and walk along the chain-link fence that protects the nesting area, you might catch a glimpse of a flock of Black Skimmers sitting on the shore. They have very large orange-and-black beaks. You might even see one skim the water for fish.

Black Skimmers sitting on the shore.

As you pass the fenced area, you will see an observation platform on the right with benches to sit and watch the wildlife. There are often Double-crested Cormorants with their wings held open to dry, Brown Pelicans, gulls and terns of many kinds sitting on the strips of frequently flooded land the extends out in to the water.

A mature Brown Pelican with two immatures Brown Pelicans on either side.

The restored Bolsa Chica is even more amazing that the original. Photographers with cameras that dwarf my little Easy Share Kodak with its 10x zoom line up on the bridge on any given morning. They snap away recording the wildlife close up and personal. Someday maybe I too will have to work out to carry my camera equipment. Until then, I will continue to carry my little camera and take pictures.

A view of the wetlands

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve is one of the best birding spots in Orange County. Don't miss it. Next time you are out birding, consider visiting this wonderful birding hot spot.

OC Birder Girl posts about Bolsa Chica

A Walk at Bolsa Chica

A Walk at Bolsa Chica Before the Winds

The Birds of Bolsa Chica Versus Brightwater's Wall of Glass

Rules at Bolsa Chica

OC Birder Girl Links

General Wetlands Links

America's Wetlands from the EPA

Even has a section on books for children about wetlands.

National Wetlands Inventory

Orange County Coast Keeper

The Orange County Wetlands Recovery Task Force

They have meeting which are open to the public. You can sign up on this site to be informed of when they meet. They are part of The Coastal Conservancy which is a state of California Agency.

Wetlands Curriculum from the EPA

Wetland Development Grants

Wetlands Recovery Project

Learning about Wetlands--Athena/NASA

Links About Bolsa Chica


Amigos de Bolsa Chica

According to their website, The Amigos de Bolsa Chica is an environmental preservation organization that seeks to have all the wetlands area and the open space around the Bolsa Chica in public hands. The first Saturday of the month they conduct a free tour of Bolsa Chica. They also have other tours the public can request for a donation. Includes information about the history, the geography, and more of the Bolsa Chica Wetlands.

Bolsa Chica Conservancy

In their own words, "The Bolsa Chica Conservancy is a non-profit, non-political organization established to ensure the preservation, restoration, and enhancement of the Bolsa Chica Wetlands in Huntington Beach, CA."

A Wheelchair Rider's Guide to the LA and OC Coast: Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

A guide to seeing Bolsa Chica from a wheelchair. Many areas of Bolsa Chica are wheelchair accessible and easy for the disabled and the elderly.

Bolsa Chica Wildlife

Bolsa Chica Conservancy Birder's Guide

Extensive bird guide listing birds of Bolsa Chica.

Birds and Science from Amigos de Bolsa Chica

On this page,. you can download a checklist of birds or a checklist of mammals that live at or visit Bolsa Chica.

The Huntington Beach Wetlands Conservancy

Has a printable checklist of birds.

Government Sites about Bolsa Chica

Bolsa Chica Tidal Wetlands Restoration from the US Dept of Fish and Wildlife

Shows what has been and will be done to restore the wetlands.

The Bolsa Chica Land Trust

The Trust supports preservation of the wetlands and mesa areas and its members have put in many hours of work creating trails and planting native plants. The lead free tours the third Sunday of every month.

Bolsa Chica Wetlands Steering Committee

This is the National Marine Fisheries Service section of NOAA site about the Bolsa Chica Restoration. They manage "living marine resources." In addition to the documents on this site, is a page of pictures of birds and people at Bolsa Chica. This agency is one of 8 state and local entities involved in the the steering committee.

The California Wetlands Information System

CWIS has a page of information links including a large list of plant, insect, and animals found in California Wetlands.

The Environmental Protection Agency Page on the Restoration at Bolsa Chica.

Short text and links about the restoration. One of the 8 steering committee members.

The California Coastal Commission

Lots of links and publications and video archives of their meetings. Lots of links to legal information such as acts and legislation.

The California Environmental Information Catalog --Bolsa Chica Bibliography

Documents about Bolsa Chica held by the Bolsa Chica Foundation in their library.

To read about or buy this book on Amazon, click the picture below.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Cooper's Hawk--Accipiter cooperii

Immature Cooper's Hawk at Huntington Central Park in Huntington Beach

A Cooper's Hawk is an accipiter.  Accipiters are mid-sized, highly maneuverable hawks that fly quickly among the trees and shrubs looking for prey.  Usually small birds and mammals.  Other accipiters are the Sharp-shinned Hawk which is smaller, and the Goshawk which is larger.  Both the Sharp-shinned Hawk and the Goshawk are uncommon in Orange County, but Sharp-shinned Hawks are seen in the OC more often during the fall and early winter.   Above is an immature after an unsuccessful charge into some trees in the garden behind the Huntington Beach Central Park Library.   Note the flat head and rounded tail.   The eyes of the immature pictured above are yellow, but will turn reddish as it matures.   The tree it flew into was full of birds which scattered when the immature hawk came barrelling in.

Video from Nat Bel.

The adult Cooper's has almost horizontal orange-brown streaking. The juvenile has vertical brown streaks. The juveniles can be loud when they are recently fledged, and vociferously beg to be fed. 

Video from Florida Hummingbirds

Like many hawks, the Cooper's female is larger than the male.  The Cooper's is very similar to the smaller Sharp-shinned Hawk which shows up mostly during migration.   The main differences are the size, the heftier feet of the Cooper's Hawk, a dark cap of the Cooper's versus a hood, and the sometimes seen crest-like feather on the back of the Cooper's flat head.   For a good guide to the  differences between the two accipiters, see the Cornell University's Project Feeder Watch for a detailed guide to the differences.

From the National History Museum of Los Angeles County, CA.   Notice the "crest" at the back of the head.

Cooper's Hawks are well-known for protecting their nests.  El Dorado Nature Center had to close its two-mile trail this spring (2007) due to a highly protective  pair of Cooper's Hawks who swooped down on people walking by and to scare them away from the nest. To protect the hawks and the people, El Dorado Nature Center closed off that section. Below is a shot of a juvenile Cooper's Hawk this August who was calling loudly for its parents at El Dorado Nature Center in Long Beach.  Notice the flat top on the head.

Immature Cooper's Hawk at El Dorado Park in Long Beach
On the other hand, there was also a Cooper's Hawk nest just outside the fence of Shipley Nature Center in Huntington Beach this summer whose builders endured numerous gawkers who snapped hundreds of pictures. The birds almost seemed to pose for their admirers.
Here's the nest:

The mother

And the smaller father who has an unusual mark on his belly.

A fledgling with tufts of down still sticking out from between its feathers.

Another fledgling watching the gawkers.

There are lots of Cooper's Hawks in Orange County, California, so whenever you are at a park, garden, backyard, or any area with a trees, shrubs and birds, watch for them sitting among the branches, or flying quickly through the trees.  

Cooper's Hawk eating a Bullock's Oriole in Morongo

Any backyard feeder will attract Cooper's Hawks whose main diet consists of birds.   If that happens, take your feeders in for about two weeks.  The Cooper's will have moved on by then.   So when you are out birding watch for the Cooper's Hawk.  It is often noisy.  Unlike the equally noisy Red-Shouldered Hawk, it has solid wings and a dark cap.   Have fun birding in Orange County.

Nice video of a Cooper's Hawk.  Notice the dark cap rather than a hood that goes down the back like the Sharp-shinned.

You Tube Video of a Cooper's Hawk

OC Birder Girl Links

Great video of the examination of an immature Cooper's Hawk who hit the window of an office building.   
Note that this post was updated on 12/09/2013.

Links to Sites about Cooper's Hawks

California Links

A short, but good articles that describes Cooper's Hawks behavior.

Other Cooper's Hawks Links

Project Feeder Watch--Comparison of Cooper's and Sharp-shinned Hawks


Most of these are accurately identified, but be cautious because not all are correctly identified.


IBC is a great site full of videos of all kinds of birds. You can search by family name, the species common name, or its scientific name. Here's a Hawk waiting for a meal near a bird feeder. And another from the same site, same photographer--Cooper's Hawk

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A Walk in Huntington Central Park East

The blue flowers often attract hummingbirds and squirrels.
My mother and I went for a walk at Huntington Central Park after the rain this weekend. We only had time for a short walk. We parked to the right of the library and took the path behind the library on the path by a bank of pretty, blue flowers. We saw several Black Phoebes, and heard finches and fall warblers flitting about in the trees. I thought I heard a hawk in the eucalyptus trees, but couldn't locate it. Here's a Black Phoebe we saw below:

Black Phoebe on a post holding up a young tree.
There is a small garden surrounded by a chain-link fence behind the library. We headed toward it.

The shady path on the way to the garden.
The inside of the garden is very pretty--even if it is small. There is a flag-stone path and fountain grass (I think).

Path into the garden behind the library.
And there are trees and flowers that hummingbirds and butterflies love. There are lots of skippers (those little triangular-winged butterflies), orange Gulf Fritillary butterflies fluttering fast among the flowers and bushes, and a few Tiger Swallowtails, yellow and black fluttering lazily through the trees like they have all the time in the world. The trees, flowers, and shrubs create a lovely tangle that the rabbits, squirrels, and birds enjoy.

Skipper drinks some nectar.
Here's a skipper I managed to photograph above. There were latana bushes, fuchsia, and other plants with yellow flowers and others with purple and white flowers (above) that I don't know the names of. As we rounded the path away from the flowers, a mob of agitated sparrows, finches, and unidentified twittering, frightened birds nearly mowed us down on their way out of the garden and I caught sight of large, fluttering wings. The large bird disappeared behind the garden shrubbery, then pulled up and landed on a tree outside the garden. Here he is:

Juvenile Cooper's Hawk who had a clumsy approach that scattered all the birds and left him with an empty belly.
There sat an unhappy, frustrated juvenile Cooper's Hawk. (It could have been an immature Sharpie--Sharp-Shinned--but my money's on the Cooper's.   A few months ago, there was a nest with three Cooper's Hawks across the street outside Shipley Nature Center on the West side of the park. They just fledged a few months ago.)  He perched on the branch and re-grouped. He looked kind of annoyed to me. His bold, frontal assault into the birds' garden party yielded him not a feather. All he did was clear the garden of any possible meal. After few minutes of stewing, he seemingly had another plan. He flew back into the garden and settled quietly deep inside the thick foliage of a tree to wait. This young hawk was learning.

One of several bodies of water at Huntington Central Park that fluctuates with the water table.
The garden exit lets you out overlooking the muddy puddle that used to be the lake in the spring. Gone were the Northern Shoveler , the Mallard Ducks, the Double-crested Cormorants , Pied-billed Grebes, Great Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, and Great Egrets that were there in May. Instead, dragon flies and Black Phoebes flew over the mud. You can see the longer, greener grass where the water used to be. We are in the middle of a drought. We headed back over the grass toward the library and the path that wound around the top of the muddy puddle. On our way back to the path, we passed by a lot of holes in the grass. Some really well hidden. They were made by California Ground Squirrels and the library side of the bank around the former lake is full of holes and squirrel--although we didn't see any actual squirrels that day. When they are there, they are very cute and way too used to friendly. They are used to people feeding them. Around the top of the loop, are more bushes of blue flowers, red berries, and eucalyptus. The smell of the eucalyptus is almost strong enough to clear out your sinuses. As we completed the path's U-turn, we came upon some tall trees of various kinds. A spider web glittered against the blue sky overhead.

A Spider web hammocked between the branches high above our heads.

There were sounds of finches and warblers in the high branches of the trees. I could see flashes of yellow as the birds flitted from branch to branch. I pointed my camera and tried to get some shots of the fast-moving birds. Here is one (below), right in the middle of a eucalyptus tree.  This one is a Townsend's Warbler reaching for an insect most likely. To tell you the truth I couldn't see what the bird was when I clicked the shutter because I left my binoculars in the car--I just saw a yellow bird. I figured I could see it more clearly from the photograph. And I did.

A Townsend's Warbler stretches for insects.

And then up on the branches like a sentry, a Western Kingbird.

Western Kingbird

For a short walk, it was very relaxing. We sat on one of the concrete benches, and then headed back to the parking lot refreshed and ready for our ride home.

OC Birder Girl Links
Central Park

Central Park in Huntington Beach

Central Park after the Rain

Shipley Nature Center

A Walk Among the Fall Leaves at Huntington Central Park

A Walk in Huntington Central Park East

Birds of Central Park

Allen's Hummingbird---Selasphorus sasin

Anna's Hummingbird--Calypte anna

American Avocet--Recurvirostra americana

American Coot--Fulica americana

American White Pelicans--Pelecanus erythrorhynchos

Audubon Yellow-Rumped Warbler

Black-crowned Night Heron--Nycticorax nycticorax

Black-necked Stilt--Himantopus mexicanus

Black Phoebe--Sayornis nigricans

Cedar Waxwing--Bombycilla cedrorum
Common Yellowthroat--Geothlypis trichas

Cooper's Hawk--Accipiter cooperii

Double-crested Cormorants

Great Blue Heron--Ardea herodias

Great Egret--Ardea alba

Green Heron--Butorides virescens
Great Horned Owl--Bubo virginianus

Mallards--Anas platyrhynchos
Mourning Dove--Zenaida macroura

Osprey--Pandion haliaetus

Northern Pintail--Anas acuta

Northern Shoveler--Anas clypeata

Odd Ducks
Red-Shouldered Hawk

Red-Tailed Hawk--Buteo jamaicensis

Snowy Egret--Egretta thula Turkey Vultures--Cathartes aura

White-crowned Sparrows--Zonotrichia leucophrys
The Wild Ducks of Orange County
Wood Duck or Mandarin Duck?

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Reddish Egret--A Rare Bird

Orange County birding gets exciting when a birder spots a rare bird. The Reddish Egret usually lives in Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mexico and points south, but in Orange County and the rest of California, it is considered a rare bird.   Recently, news regarding its presence has gone beyond the rare bird alert and the birding boards and made the local newspapers.

As a beginning birder in the 1980s, I first saw a Reddish Egret up in Santa Barbara near the zoo.   I had no idea what it was and had to look it up in my book.   However, I have seen them more recently right here in Orange County.  Although still rare, Reddish Egrets have been regularly seen in the last few years at several locations in Orange County including Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. Only one or two and only once in a while, but regularly. The pictures I have gotten so far are with my zoom. The days I saw the Reddish Egret, it was out to the left of the observation outlook in the shallows. Last year I saw it by the bridge, but that was before my digital camera, so I didn't get any shots. Maybe later this year I will get a closer shot.

Why does the Reddish Egret run around with its wings out? The most common guess is that its wings shade the water, taking away the glare, and allowing the bird to see its prey in the water. The running may flush the prey from hiding places.

Reddish Egret dashing about with its wings stretched out at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve .

Ready to make a mad dash across the water at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve .

If ever a bird might have ADHD, it is the Reddish Egret. It dashes around with its wings held out looking for fish in shallows, usually partly salt water. It surpasses the Snowy Egret for active feeding. It has an auburn head and slate-colored wings. Its shaggy head plumes give it a kind of "bedhead" look.

Strutting at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve .

This bird is now seen regularly all year at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. There are only 2 to 3 individual Reddish Egrets going by the reports of people who have seen them--but they are in the Bolsa Chica area all year. So if you want to see this rare bird, next time you go birding in Orange County, check out Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve--you might just get lucky.

Competing with a Red-breasted Merganser at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve .

Reddish Egret and a Snowy Egret

OC Birder Girl Links

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

Black-crowned Night Heron--Nycticorax nycticorax

Great Blue Heron--Ardea herodias

Great Egret--Ardea alba

Green Heron--Butorides virescens

Snowy Egret--Egretta thula

Index of Posts to My Birding Blog

External Links and Resources

Orange County Links

Orange County Register Story about Reddish Egrets

Check the Rare Bird Alert for Orange County for sightings.

Other External Links and Resources

All About Birds--Reddish Egret

Audubon Society's Web Article on the Reddish Egret

Audubon Magazine Article on Reddish Egrets

Links from within the Common Range of the Reddish Egret

And the Audubon Society's profile of the Reddish Egret in their waterbird section.

The State of Texas General Land Office page on their common resident, The Reddish Egret.

World Birding Center in Texas page on the Reddish Egret

University of Texas Information about their banding of Reddish Egrets and other information here.

Audubon Texas and its local chapters have information about birds and places to bird in Texas including information about the Reddish Egret.


Vireo Photos of the Reddish Egret

And three Photographs below--all courtesy of the US Department of Fish and Wildlife:

Thanks to the US Department of Fish and Wildlife for the three photographs included above.

My Video of a Reddish Egret feeding at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. Copyright Karen McQuade, the OC Birder Girl.


Internet Bird Collection Video of Reddish Egret's unusual feeding style.

This great example of the feeding style of the Reddish Egret was video taped by Sharyn Staggers. I haven't seen a better one on the Internet.

Bird Cinema: Reddish Egret

Good video.

OC Birder Girl Links

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

Black-crowned Night Heron--Nycticorax nycticorax
Cattle Egret--Bubulcus ibis--A Rare Bird

Great Blue Heron--Ardea herodias

Great Egret--Ardea alba

Green Heron--Butorides virescens

Snowy Egret

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