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Thread: Heron ID Please?

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    Landscapes Moderator Andrew McLachlan's Avatar
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    Default Heron ID Please?

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    I shot this little fella on the island of Cayo Santa Maria in Cuba and after looking through all my field guides and doing some internet searches I can't identify this heron. Obviously it is very similar to Green-backed Heron. If anyone knows the identity please let me know.

    Nikon D200
    80-400 @ 220mm (330 effective)
    ISO 200
    f5.6 @ 1/200 sec.
    handheld - leaned on a post for stability

    Look forward to comments.

    Attachment 89216

  2. #2
    Brendan Dozier
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    That is awesome, Andrew! Beautiful looking heron (can't help with ID though) Great job getting excellent exposure & details. Like the pose and BG, and the room you give on the rt for it to look into. Might try cropping on lft side a bit to move bird a bit more out of center.
    Well done!

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    IOTY Winner 2010 Chris Kotze's Avatar
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    Super pose, well captured and exposed. To me it looks like a Black Egret however, that said I wonder where the green colours come from ?
    Chris Kotze

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    Life Time Member Doug Brown's Avatar
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    Copied to the Avian ID forum.
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    This would be way out of range for a Black Egret.

    This looks like a Green Heron, which does occur in Cuba. However, certain parts of this bird are darker than normal so I wonder if it's a melanistic form?

    Just checked the Handbook of the Birds of the World and it shows a dark subspecies of the Green (or Green-backed) Heron, "sundevalli, but it comes from the Galapagos and has yellow legs. This bird has dark legs, again suggesting it might be a melanistic form.
    Last edited by John Chardine; 02-25-2011 at 02:41 PM. Reason: added detail

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    Wow, what a cool looking bird, and a great job photographing it.

    There is a rare color phase of Green Heron found in Cuba but it is more reddish-brown than normal birds, the opposite of this bird. Don't know for sure but I'm going to suggest the opposite of John (taking a risk here). I think the color of Green Herons comes from pigment (the reds are a form of melanin) and structural (the green). This bird lacks the reddish parts so as odd as it may seem I'd go it being leucistic in that it lacks melanin but rather than being white it still has the structural components of color.

    A year or two back there was a great image of an Evening Grosbeak in this forum that had a similar "problem" in that it lacked the melanin components of color but still had the carotenoids (yellow).

    I'm not wed to this explanation, but my first guess.

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    Andrew, would you mind if I circulate a link to this post on the ID Frontiers list server for further comment? Great shot of a really unique bird.

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    Landscapes Moderator Andrew McLachlan's Avatar
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    Thanks for the comments folks. Paul please fell free to circulate this link on ID Frontiers. Heron is same size as Green Heron, even has the small crest on head as Green Herons do. I am wondering if by chance there is a melanistic form of this bird out there, however, there were two birds at this pond of identical coloration.

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    Declan's idea is interesting. I'll have to think about it some. Two birds like this and the plot thickens.

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    BPN Viewer Jeff Cashdollar's Avatar
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    Yes - the solid green color is most interesting. I am researching and this is a tad challenging.

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    I find it odd that the color is also on the bill and legs. Could it possibly be from algae or something else in the water that's staining the bird?

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    Landscapes Moderator Andrew McLachlan's Avatar
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    Hi Folks,

    I never would have thought this would be so puzzling, just thought I was having trouble identifying it.

    I am wondering if Delcan and Jim may be on the right track with their thinking. To add more info that may help as mentioned there were two birds of identical coloration and they are same size as green herons, however, the pond they are feeding in is a man-made pond at the resort I was staying at and it did have a bad algae problem and looked like it was stocked with some type of cichlid-type fish, possibly tilapia (average fish size was about 4 inches).

    I am now wondering if a constant diet of the same fish in this water has caused a drastic color change in the feathers of these two birds.

    Look forward to more thoughts on this.

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    Yeah, the color on the bill is a bit problematic lending credence to the idea that the birds were picking up some stain from the water. Nonetheless, the feathers appear rather normal without obvious evidence of some external deposits. Andrew, did all the other aquatic birds appear normal?

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    Landscapes Moderator Andrew McLachlan's Avatar
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    Hey Delcan, all the other birds did appear normal. Here is another view, note the one white feather. There is full sun on the bird this time and you can see some very faint browns around the neck area. I can't say for sure if this is the same bird as there were two of them. The first one seems a little more saturated with the cloud cover. Both images have had minimal processing, mostly some contrast adjustments and a little highlight recovery.

    Look forward to more thoughts.

    Name:  Heron_3086.jpg
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    I'm in the stain some type camp. The second bird's plumage looks rather contaminated and in this angle it appears there is some of the normal rufous color underneath (so this pigment is not absent). In both images some soft parts (yellow on the face) and white markings (face and neck) are dark, again not expected from the loss of some melanin. So, don't have a full explanation but it ain't my first guess and I suspect these birds just got into something they shouldn't have.

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