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This Week’s Creature Feature: Little Blue Herons

As babies, you wouldn’t know them
Above: An adult little blue heron, with its blue and red feathers. Below: a juvenile little blue heron, born white with yellow legs and two-toned bill.
      Some say that the parents of juvenile little blue herons are lazy. Others think they are being smart to keep their young safe with other-species babysitters. You decide.
      Adult little blue herons have a maroon neck, a slaty-blue body, dark yellow-green legs and a two-tone bill tipped in black. In the southern U.S., they frequently hang around the same-sized but more nervous snowy egret. The little blues tend to stand around to ambush their prey, but the snowies will run around actively chasing minnows and shrimp. When they group together, the little blues stand around the edge of the chaotic snowy egrets.
      Little blue herons are born white with yellow legs and slightly two-toned bills. As they leave the nest and start feeding on their own, they frequently start associating with snowy egrets and seem accepted by the alert nervous birds. As the young little blue herons mature, they start getting blotches of blue and red until they are fully mature and stop mingling with the snowies.   
      Little blue herons typically feed on fish and shrimp but will also eat snakes, frogs, tadpoles, grasshoppers, dragonflies and other small animals. 
      They reside in swamps and shorelines of the southern U.S., Central and South America. Clusters of birds have migrated farther north in the U.S. for nesting. One such cluster of little blues is at North Point State Park in Baltimore County. They seem to enjoy the tadpoles and frogs in the swampy area.