The Tiger Heron

I was cruising the back lagoon in my little boat. The bird of the week was waiting for me somewhere! I slowed the boat down and went up one of those unexplored lagoon fingers that seem to just get you lost looking for a way to access a new lagoon.

It was low tide and fishing was good for wading birds. This ciconiiforme stood fishing in a few inches of water near the edge of a mangrove as I rounded the corner into a small lagoon. I got comfortable in the boat and steadied my binoculars for a long, close look. Bubba was asleep in the boat.

It was a long-legged wading bird, shorter than a Great Heron, and its neck didnāt have the characteristic "S" shape. I remember seeing it in my book as a Tiger Heron, but the colors were all wrong. It was the correct shape with its stout neck, and its bill was black on the end with a chisel point, but its throat was yellow and it had a gleaming chestnut nape and hind neck. The upper wings were blue, cyan gloss.

I remember reading about how bird colors change due to factors like environment, diet, sex and maturation.

Little Blue Herons are snow white for their first year of life and a mangrove cuckoo is pale brown when it is just a year old but rich yellow, cinnamon and has jet black markings when it has its first mating desires.

So why not a cyan blue Tiger Heron? I suspect this is a young bare-throated Tiger Heron, most likely a close cousin to the Bittern. One book refers to it as a "Tiger Bittern" definitely still in the Ardeidae family.

As I drifted closer in the boat, it got a little nervous and took a frozen posture of a Bittern camouflage by holding its neck up pretending to be a stump.

Bubba heard me whispering to myself about the Heron and woke up to the realization we were bird watching and had not yet seen it fly! "Quok, quok, quok," it said as it flapped off showing white and patterned under wings and sporting dark olive green feet and legs. Thanks Bubba.

Birds of Ambergris Caye

This page, and all contents, are Copyright © Elbert Greer