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The Show

The Great egrets of South Florida’s wetlands have been putting on the most wondrous displays in the rookeries. Appropriate timing for Valentine’s Day…. It’s hard not to think that I should be trying a wee bit more, after observing such grand shows of attracting mates.

Breeding Great Egret, Florida Wetlands

Breeding Great Egret, Florida Wetlands: Check me out.

The feathers of the Great egret are stunning, almost unreal; sadly, these beautiful birds were hunted mercilessly — nearly to the point of extinction, their numbers decimated by 95 percent — towards the end of the 19th century. Their breeding plumage was especially prized, and their treasured feathers were used in hats across the globe.

Breeding Great Egret, Florida Wetlands

Taking a breather in the rookery

With conservation measures enacted, their numbers grew throughout the 20th century. While wetland habitat loss is once again threatening their existence, these birds have a high adaptability to human habitation. Of course, the loss of wetland ecosystems remains another issue altogether.

Breeding Great Egret, Florida Wetlands

The setting sun has nothing on me….

During the breeding season, the Great egret displays long, elegant plumes on its back, which are used in courtship displays. Like a peacock, these feathery plumes spread out like a fan. (Outside the breeding season, these long feathers disappear.) During this time, the lore (the area between the bill and the eyes) may turn vibrant green. Nature’s colors are brilliant….

Breeding Great Egret, Florida Wetlands

Breeding plumage

The male Great egrets will choose a specific display area, which will later become the nesting site. Nests are usually over water, far off the ground — high in the rookeries, as in our area. He (HE!) builds the nest with long sticks and twigs before pairing up with a female, at which point they both work to complete the nest — although it’s usually the male who finishes it.

Breeding Great Egret, Florida Wetlands

Focus. Focus. Focus.

Breeding Great Egret, Florida Wetlands

Green lore appears during breeding season

Breeding Great Egret, Florida Wetlands

Shake it. Shake it like a Polaroid picture.

Breeding Great Egret, Florida Wetlands

Breeding Great Egret, Florida Wetlands

Glow

Breeding Great Egret, Florida Wetlands

The Fan

Breeding Great Egret, Florida Wetlands

And the final stage of the display, the reach….

68 Comments Post a comment
  1. Beautiful captures.

    February 13, 2013
    • Thanks so much! I had some lovely models…. 🙂

      February 13, 2013
  2. Stunning!

    By “trying a wee bit more,” do you mean adding color to your person?! <:-D That will surely be Part 2 of this The Show! –L.

    February 13, 2013
    • Thanks so much!

      Hee…. Well, I haven’t put the blue back in my hair yet — perhaps it’s time!!! You’re so very right — green lore, blue hair — what’s the difference?

      February 13, 2013
      • you may have longer legs…. and fewer feathers… but yeah, what’s the difference? (actually, your legs may be shorter, huh?!)

        I hope you do it, FG. A gift to yourself of fun!

        February 13, 2013
      • Hahaha!!

        You’re right…. We all need a gift to ourselves. THANK you for that reminder!! Desperately needed. 🙂

        February 13, 2013
      • Enjoy the thinking and planning, Girl, and then whatever comes next.

        February 13, 2013
      • You’re so GOOD! 🙂

        February 13, 2013
      • long, eventful life, so plenty time to learn! <:-D

        February 13, 2013
  3. So beautiful! I love this time of the year when the birds put on a show.

    February 13, 2013
    • I feel so boring in comparison! They’re incredibly lovely on a normal day, but now…. Wow.

      February 13, 2013
  4. You really capture not only the elegance, but also the “personality” of these incredible creatures…(I think we need a new word for that…something not quite so human-centric). Anyway, they are marvelous photos! Thanks so much for sharing!

    February 13, 2013
    • Thanks so much! It was mesmerizing… As many times as I’ve witnessed it, I couldn’t tear myself away. (This was actually a few different rookeries.) It’s incredibly beautiful and stunning, something to witness for sure. 🙂

      February 13, 2013
  5. I don’t know how you do it but your photography is always astounding. Once again thank you for showing us the beauty that surrounds you

    February 13, 2013
    • Thanks so much for your kind words! It’s hard to do this beauty justice… It’s just phenomenal. Especially now, of course, during their primping times!

      February 14, 2013
  6. Spectacular photographs of a spectacular bird! Thank you so much for sharing. 🙂

    February 13, 2013
    • Thanks so very much!! They’re amazing creatures — and I can’t stop admiring them, no matter how many times I witness these displays…. 🙂

      February 14, 2013
  7. I’ve seen many egrets, but never one in breeding plumage. Thanks for sharing those!

    February 13, 2013
    • Ah, really? It’s a sight to behold. I hope I did them justice…. It’s just phenomenal. As many times as I’ve witnessed it, I’m still entranced by their beauty and displays….

      February 14, 2013
      • I would love to witness it in person, but I’m not sure that they breed here in Michigan. According to the “All about birds” website, they don’t, but I see them often, so I don’t know.
        I thought your photos were about the best that I have seen of them in breeding plumage.

        February 14, 2013
      • I wonder if they migrate south for breeding… Many species do. Ours of course live here year-round. 🙂

        Thanks so very much — it’s easy to capture their beauty!!

        February 14, 2013
  8. Pam #

    Beautiful lighting! I was admiring these beauties today!

    February 13, 2013
    • Ah, thanks…! The setting sun can be tough, but sometimes works. 🙂 They’re just amazing….

      February 14, 2013
  9. What a beautiful show those feathers and your pis were!!!!!

    February 13, 2013
    • Thanks so very much! I never tire of these guys… And when this season arrives, I’m totally entranced by their beauty!!

      February 14, 2013
  10. Simply stunning series!
    Thank you so much for sharing these with us.
    Easy to see why this species became the symbol of the Audubon Society.

    February 13, 2013
    • Thanks so much!

      It really is… As many times as I’ve witnessed the displays, I’m still entranced. They’re simply magnificent. Even without the breeding plumage, they’re lovely creatures — and done-up, phew! 🙂

      February 14, 2013
  11. Outstanding photos of those marvelous birds! I just cannot comprehend harming one for its feathers!

    February 13, 2013
    • Thanks so much! Honestly…. Can you imagine? And to the numbers that they were killed, nearly totally wiped out… just until recently (in the historical perspective, anyways). It’s unfathomable.

      February 14, 2013
  12. Wow – these shots blow me away. What gorgeous feathers they have!

    February 14, 2013
    • Thanks so much! Aren’t these guys amazing? They’re gorgeous on a normal day… But during this season, WOW. As many times as I’ve witnessed it, I’m still entranced.

      February 14, 2013
  13. What a great show! Amazing! love all the photos!

    February 14, 2013
    • It really is a great show!! Thanks so much. 🙂

      February 14, 2013
  14. A beautiful bird, but FANTASTIC photos!

    February 14, 2013
    • Thanks so very much!! It’s pretty hard not to take amazing shots of these guys, during this season…. They’re simply out-of-this-world!!

      February 15, 2013
      • Can’t fool me, they are remarkably beautiful birds but there’s some skill and a good eye behind that camera.

        February 15, 2013
      • Aw, you’re very kind — THANK you! Perhaps they were showing off for me… 🙂

        February 15, 2013
  15. These graceful creatures are always a delight to watch during the mating season!! I love the presence of the aigrettes and that bright green lore the have during this time. Terrific photographs of this lovely bird!

    February 14, 2013
    • Ah, thanks so very much! I was thrilled to be visiting the wetlands — and then the ‘glades watershed — while these guys were putting on their most amazing and beautiful displays. As many times as I’ve seen it, I’m still entranced. Just heavenly.

      February 15, 2013
  16. These plumage displays are brilliant, I’ve yet to see one fan its feathers like you’ve done here, it’s a spectacle!

    February 15, 2013
    • Thanks so much!

      As many times as I’ve witnessed it, I’m still in awe…. Just utter beauty. On these two separate occasions, I was VERY lucky — all of them were putting on such a display! GREAT timing. 🙂

      February 15, 2013
  17. It is really fantastic to see this show, Fey Girl.

    February 16, 2013
    • Thanks so very much… I’m glad you enjoyed it as much as I did. 🙂

      February 20, 2013
  18. marialla #

    WOW – I HAVE NEVER SEEN SUCH AN INTERESTING BIRD. IT LOOKS LIKE SHE IS WEARING A WEDDING DRESS. THANK YOU VERY MUCH!!

    February 16, 2013
    • Ah, what a perfect analogy!! They’re just heavenly, aren’t they? Every time I see them, I’m entranced.

      February 20, 2013
  19. I was mentioning to Judy how marvelous it is to see her photos of the nesting Great Blues – I’ve never seen that. And now, to see this! My goodness. There’s nothing to be said the others haven’t, except to repeat how much I appreciate your going to the effort to share this world with us. Even though you enjoy it, it IS work – and we all know that!

    Now, here’s a question. Where do these wonderful feathers go to, post-breeding season? I’m a found-feather person, and it’s really quite interesting. I’ve only found one cardinal feather in my life. Black-crowned night heron feathers are relatively common. Do these birds lose their feathers, or does their nature change and they just become boring old standard-issue feathers?

    Sometimes what we don’t see in nature’s as interesting as what we do see!

    February 17, 2013
    • Ah, you’re so very kind….! And you’re right — as much as I love doing this, sharing this amazing, unique world — sometimes it does take a bit, eh?

      OH YES!!! I’m totally a found-feather person, as well!! (Just yesterday…ooooh I’m so excited…I found a feather under my office [home] window. Won’t say what b/c it may be a “special” feather.) I find ALL kinds of feathers on my hikes… At my desk, I have blue jay, “special” large feathers (wink, nod), wading bird feathers, and yes — feathers from these guys, from their breeding plumage! ALL FOUND, guys. Since their time is mainly spent in the rookeries above water, it’s safe to say many of these feathers fall into the wetlands. But yes, they do lose this beautiful breeding plumage.

      If you ever want some Everglades feathers, just holler! I have PLENTY of found treasures. 🙂

      February 20, 2013
  20. Spectacular photos! I hadn’t realized they have such ethereal wings–the egrets out here in California, at least the ones I’ve seen do not have that.

    February 18, 2013
    • Thanks so much!

      This is their breeding display… Perhaps they migrate a bit more south for their breeding, so you’re not seeing such plumage? It really is quite a sight. As many times as I’ve seen it, it’s breathtaking.

      February 20, 2013
  21. Spectacular birds!

    February 18, 2013
    • They really are… As many times as I’ve seen them, I’m still entranced! 🙂

      February 20, 2013
  22. Stunningly beautiful. We get to see egrets here during migration, but since they breed elsewhere I’ve never seen the green lore and the beautiful breeding feathers. They’re just fantastic.

    February 22, 2013
    • They’re just amazing…. As many times as I’ve seen the display, and brilliant coloring, I’m still in awe. It’s truly awesome — a real spectacle!

      February 22, 2013
  23. J. #

    OMG, this bird — and your camera eye — is breathtaking. Beautiful.

    February 22, 2013
    • Aw, thanks so very much!

      As many times as I’ve seen the display…. I’m entranced. It’s pure magic.

      February 24, 2013
  24. Beautiful photos Christie! Love how the feathers get so delicate. Thanks for liking the Ansel Adams post. If you go to our facebook page (which I hope you like) you’ll see a fantastic photo of a young AA. So handsome! You’ll also find a surprise visitors to the poolside of our Thekkady property Cardamom County. See you there!

    February 23, 2013
    • Thanks so very much! They’re AMAZING feathers — I actually found one last year (they’re hard to find, b/c their nests are over water). So beautiful, angel-like.

      Just visited your FB page, love the image! So wonderful. 🙂

      February 24, 2013
      • Yes! I found a few when we were working in Baja California Sur so I have them in the “feather bouquet” that I keep. I’d really appreciate it if you’d “like” the facebook page when you get a chance. We’re trying to expand our reach. Thanks!

        February 24, 2013
      • No worries, I already liked it….. 🙂

        February 24, 2013
      • thanks!

        February 24, 2013
  25. These are absolutely stunning captures. I bet when you were watching these beauties in all their glory that you were just mesmerized.

    February 24, 2013
    • TOTALLY…. As many times as I’ve witnessed this display, I’m in AWE. Just yesterday, in fact — same thing! It’s completely mesmerizing. SO incredibly beautiful. Otherworldly.

      February 24, 2013
  26. I think some creatures just know they’re beautiful.

    February 26, 2013
    • SO very true…. Every time I see this display, I think just that.

      February 27, 2013
  27. it’s so amazing and fantastic!! Well done!!
    🙂

    March 4, 2013
    • Thanks so very much! I’m always in awe of their displays, as many times as I’ve witnessed them… Pure magic!

      March 5, 2013

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Buzzard and great egret | Dear Kitty. Some blog
  2. Great Egret | A New Day

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