I love wading birds, they seem to have a majestic quality about them, holding their heads high as they wade in the shallow waters. The quietude and patience they display while stalking their prey are qualities to be envious of. I can sit on a shore bank for hours watching them slowly hunt for food or if spooked, suddenly take flight and then I wonder where their next hunting ground will be.
The other day we saw about six long-billed curlews (Numenius phaeopus) wading around in the irrigated fields. Curlews are fun to see, they have a distinctive bill which is amazingly long and curves downward. They eat a variety of invertebrates and vertebrates, but their bill evolved to capture shrimp and crabs living deep in tidal mudflats. An interesting fact, both the male and female long-billed curlews incubate the eggs and defend the nest and young. Also, not always, but often mating pairs will meet up and breed again in following years.
Picture from: http://www.free-picture-graphic.org.uk/longbilled-curlew-bird.htm
Yesterday we saw the king of the wading birds, the great blue heron (Ardea herodias). I love seeing great blue herons, they're not a rarity here in northern Nevada, but they're fun to see anyway. They are huge, they stand at a height of about four feet tall and have a wingspan of about six feet. They are impressive birds to say the least. They have a spear-like bill which they use to catch fish, crayfish, amphibians and at times, even small mammals and other birds. When in flight blue herons pull their long necks back into an S shape, which is a flight characteristic of the Heron Family (Ardeidae).
I'm hoping that we will get quite a few different wading birds at the edges of the pond and along the creeks. I'm looking forward to seeing who comes next. I hope the great blue heron sticks around for a while, I would love to get some pictures of it.
Scott, S.L. 198s. Field Guide to the Birds of North America 2nd Ed. National Geographic Society, Washington, D.C.
Long-Billed Curlew, (n.d.). Retrieved March 30, 2009 from All About Birds: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/BirdGuide/Long-billed_Curlew.html
Great Blue Heron, (n.d.). Retrieved March 30, 2009 from All About Birds: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/BirdGuide/Great_Blue_Heron.html