Probably one group of birds that excites and entertains us from time to time is the group referred to as the long-legged waders. These are among some of the largest birds we see in our county. Primarily found in a water habitat as far as their feeding is concerned, they are also very common in other areas when it comes to nesting and courtship.
Without a doubt, the Great Blue Heron is one member of this group that is very familiar to most residents. The Great Blue is one of nine species of such birds that we enjoy on our waterways. Also, according to records I have maintained, from the former Birding hotline, the Great Blue Heron is normally considered an all year bird in our county, and can be observed in waterways, fields and other open areas from January to December. It is also considered a colonial nester meaning it will nest in what is known as a rookery with anywhere from a dozen to over a thousand nests per rookery.
The largest known such area in New York State occurred several years ago along the St. Lawrence River. We have had some Great Blue Heron nesting sites over the years in our county where in 1963 I, and my article predecessor at the time, Riley Hesslebart, observed several hundred nests at the former Arkwright Heron Rookery. The former publisher of the OBSERVER during that period, H.K. Williams, went with us to photograph Riley and me, along with the nests in the trees above. That picture still hangs in my home office. The Great Blue Heron needs very little introduction, and, I doubt if there are any residents of our area who have not seen one. I would like to provide a brief life history of this bird as written by the late, great Frank Chapman, one of my greatest ornithologists from the past. Chapman wrote in the late 1800's: "It is due to the influence of the artists of the Orient that these long-legged, long-necked birds are so frequently miscalled "Cranes"? These birds feed both by day and night on fish, frogs, reptiles and even small mice. Other members of this family of birds that I intend to include in today's article, in addition to the Great Blue Heron, are the Green Heron, Great Egret, and the Cattle Egret.
Great Blue Heron
Continuing with the Green Heron, this bird is a smaller member of this family, it is a small, chunky, and somewhat secretive bird about the size of a large crow or Raven. Unlike other members of the heron family, it not only fishes on its own, but when breeding, the pair nest in a tree by themselves. Formerly called the Little Green Heron, they tend to fish in fresh water having woodland cover, they often like to perch on an overhanging branch while they crouch over the water, and sometimes they lose their balance and fall into the water. The Great Egret is a large majestic bird about the size of a Great Blue Heron. Formerly known as the American Egret, this bird was mercilessly slaughtered by hunters and milliners for the use of their feathers in the manufacture of ladies hats at the turn of the 18th century. The Great Egret is the largest member of the Egret family in North America. Still found as a breeder on Long Island, it can be found on the waterways of our county from late March to early October.
The last member of this group to be discussed is the Cattle Egret. This small wader is another member of this group that is about the size of our American Crow. It was first discovered in our state around 1954 in Suffolk County. This small Egret can be occasionally observed in our county from about the fourth week of April to the third week of May.
Photographs, sightings and article suggestions can be sent to me by U.S. Mail at 38 Elm St. Fredonia N.Y. 14063, or by e-mail at email@example.com Thank you.