Along the eastern seaboard and gulf coast of the U. S., as well as the southern California coast, the tricolored heron is a familiar sight. That includes the mangroves, bays, and estuaries of Siesta Key.
Nearby woodland cover is very important to this heron as it perches in trees when it’s not wading and foraging. During breeding season, tricolored herons are easy to spot thanks to the eye-catching plumage of this adult specimen.
When you look this fabulous, you need an equally flamboyant hunting ritual! Stalking prey in the muddy shallows, the heron extends its wings to maintain its balance while walking quickly in water as high as its chest. Using its leading foot to startle small fish into movement, the heron darts nimbly in any direction while tracking its next meal.
Outstretched wings also cast shade upon the water’s surface, helping the heron to see and snatch its prey in a lightning-quick splash-and-grab with its pointy bill.
Jan Baumgartner’s handmade notecards are available at BLVD Beachwear, 5239 Ocean Blvd., and Shelly’s Gift and Christmas Boutique, 4420 S. Tamiami Tr.