May 2010 Bird Photo of the Month

“What’s Up There?” © by Mark Mittleman
Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens)

The Reddish Egret is a dancer…and looks so graceful even when it is performing a typical grooming behavior like it is doing here.  The beautifully curving wing and reflection add to the magic of this photograph taken by Mark Mittleman with a Nikon D300 Camera, Nikon 80-400 Lens at 400 MM (f/11.0 1/250 second ISO 200) at J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. By dancing to stir up the shallow waters, fish are startled and more easily seen in the shadow of the out-stretched wing reducing the sun’s glare on the surface of the water.  And when flushedand chased, the fish may dart for the shade, seeking what is usually protection.  Like other wading birds, its long s-shaped neck and long bill allows rapid extension of its coiled neck to catch small fish (e.g. sheepshead minnows, mullet) with speed and precision.  Such fun to watch as it pirouettes, seemingly on its toes, wings gracefully fluttering, turns, then stops and cocks its head to peer into the waters, then chases stabbing for fish right and left.

All birds must bathe and preen their feathers to maintain their peak physical condition for successful flying and foraging. To preen, they take oil from the uropygial gland located at the base of the tail to condition each feather and ensure they are aligned and interlocked properly for efficient aerodynamics, insulation, waterproofing, and courtship display. Contrasting with its all gray body and gray legs, the reddish egret’s head and neck are beautifully highlighted by the sun’s rays drawing our eye directly to its bill.  However, another certain identifying feature of a reddish egret—a pink bill with black tip color—is not observable here in the shadow of the wing.

A reddish egret can often be seen now, a bird fishing and dancing off by itself in the tide pool at Sebastian Inlet State Park North (as seen by PIAS field trippers, Oct 2).

Juanita Baker,
Coordinator for the PIAS Photo of the Month

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