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Tri-Coloured Heron

Blue grey body with very white underparts. Long thin neck with a narrow white line bordered maroon down the center. A light blue bill tipped black in breeding birds. In non-breeding birds the bill is yellow tipped black. Yellow legs (orange in colour in breeding birds) with long toes. Both sexes are alike with sizes between 60-70 cm (24-28 in) and weight is 415 g (14.65 ounces). The immature are dark gray above and dull white below.

The Tricoloured Heron is similar to the Western Reef Heron which has black legs with yellow feet and a prominent white throat.

Resident in both Trinidad and Tobago. This bird usually hunts alone, feeding on fish and crabs. It feeds in shallow salt water such as mangrove swamps, lagoons, and coastal waters. The bird has many different types of prey-catching behaviors. Egretta tricolor's prey catching behavior is varied depending on the habitat in which they live, but almost all their food is found in shallow waters. Unlike other heron species which change their diet depending on changing environmental conditions, the Tricolored heron changes "...their foraging habitats and feeding strategies in order to continue to encounter preferred prey items" (Hill, 2001).

Hancock and Kushlan call their most frequent form of prey catching behavior a "walk-quickly-running-open wing tactile sequence" (Hancock & Kushlan, 1984). In this foraging method they rush quickly through the water with the wings spread similar to Snowy Egrets. Another frequently seen method is a low deep crouch at the edge of the water with the breast and neck low to the water and strike almost horizontally at fish or tadpoles near the surface. After a few strikes in one area, they will fly to a new location. Tricolored herons will also stand in shallow water to find and catch prey. In another technique they raise one wing and hold the head partially under the wing. To a casual observer this technique can sometimes appear as if the heron is inspecting or preening under the wing rather than foraging. It may be that this technique allows the heron to shade the water surface allowing it better vision. These herons also use a foot-stirring technique when foraging. They extend one foot and vibrate it to create a stirring motion to cause the fish to move.

The Tricoloured Heron has been recorded gleaning insects (dragonflies and grasshoppers) amid vegetation. It slowly stalks the insect with the head retracted and then with a quick dart of the head, strikes the insect.

This heron is normally silent but its call is a harsh croak. 

Family - Herons

Local Names - Trinidad Heron, Louisiana Heron, Red Necked Heron

Latin Name - Egretta tricolor

Range - Breeds in the Greater Antilles, the Bahamas, and some of the eastern Caribbean islands; and along the coast of North America from southern Maine to northeastern Mexico, and from the Gulf of California to El Salvador. In South America the Tricolored Heron breeds on both coasts of Colombia, south to the mouth of the Amazon, and on the Pacific coast south to Peru.

 

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Wild Fowl Trust, Pointe-A-Pierre, Trinidad

 

 

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Bon Accord, Tobago

 

References

The Birds of Wakodahatchee Wetlands at http://www.pbcwater.com/wakodahatchee/Tricolored_Heron.htm

Birds of Nova Scotia. Robie W. Tufts. 1986 - http://museum.gov.ns.ca/mnh/nature/nsbirds/bns0036.htm

LaLonde, N. 2003. "Egretta tricolor" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Egretta_tricolor.html.

National Audubon Society North Carolina Sanctuaries, 2000. "Tricolored Heron" (On-line). Colonial Waterbirds of North Carolina. at http://www.audubon.org/chapter/nc/nc/wb_17.html.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds, at http://www.birds.cornell.edu/programs/AllAboutBirds/BirdGuide/Tricolored_Heron.html

The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Birds of the World, David Alderton. 2004 Lorenz Books, London

Birds of Venezuela. Steven L. Hilty. 2003, Christopher Helm, London

A Guide to the Birds of Trinidad and Tobago. 2nd edition, Richard ffrench. 1992, Helm, London

E. Scott Clarke, 1979. Louisiana Herons Gleaning Dragonflies. The Auk Vol. 97, 400 - 401

David E. Willard, 1977. The Feeding Ecology and Behavior of Five Species of Herons in SouthEastern New Jersey. The Condor, Vol. 79, 462 - 470

Cristina Ramo & Benjamin Busto, 1993. Resource Use by Herons in a Yucatan Wetland during the Breeding Season. Wilson Bulletin, Vol. 105, 573 - 586.

Andrew J Meyerriecks, 1959. Foot-Stirring Feeding Behavior in Herons. Wilson Bulletin, Vol. 71, 153 - 158

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Last modified: February 16, 2008