Back in January, Tammy and I were in south Florida for some college football, but also took some time to explore a bit. As my recent posts have described, we took one day to explore some of Everglades National Park. Another day trip, however was a drive south further down into the keys. One stop that we made on that drive was at the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center (FKWBC), located in Tavernier. Their primary purpose is to provide emergency and recuperative care for injured birds.
While exploring the FKWBC grounds I snapped photos of several of the injured birds, as well as several wild birds that were just hanging about the place. It wasn't until later, however, when I got a chance to review the photos, that I realized one of the large, white wading birds was not the Great Egret that I assumed it was. After flipping through several field guides, and doing some research on the Internet, I came to the conclusion that I had gotten a picture of a white morph Great Blue Heron (also known as Great White Heron).
The first field mark that my research pointed out was the color of the legs. Great Egret has black legs and Great White Heron has pale legs. Depending on the light, however, black legs might appear to be not quite black, but they are still much darker than the Great White Heron's pale legs. Next was the bill. The Great White Heron has a heavier bill than the Great Egret. To me, the Great White Heron looked like it had a regular Great Blue Heron's bill stuck on a white bird. Finally, the Great Egret may also have plumes trailing from its back and breast, while the Great White Heron would only have plumes trailing from its head. I suspect that there are other clues to help tell these two apart which I have not listed here.
Here are my photos. The first is the Great White Heron. The second is the Great Egret.