The Status and Occurrence of Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea) in British Columbia
By Rick Toochin and Don Cecile
Read the full article, with photos, here.
Introduction and Distribution
The Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea) is a small elegant species of heron that is found breeding along the Atlantic Coast of North America from southern Maine south to Florida, as far west as central Oklahoma, south east Kansas, Arkansas, north western Tennessee, western Kentucky, and southern Illinois. In North America, there is extensive post-breeding dispersal towards north and west of the breeding range (Rodgers and Smith 2012). This is especially true of juvenile birds, with birds reaching southeastern Saskatchewan across southern Canada to the southern Maritimes (Godfrey 1986, Rodgers and Smith 2012). There are a few records for Newfoundland, occasionally Greenland, and three records for the Azores (Dunn and Alderfer 2011, Rodebrand 2012, Rodgers and Smith 2012). The population of United States is migratory, with birds from the eastern areas of their range moving south through Florida towards Cuba (Rodgers and Smith 2012). The Little Blue Herons found in the more western part of their range head towards Gulf of Mexico and Yucatan Peninsula in southeastern Mexico (Rodgers and Smith 2012). Wintering Little Blue Herons can occur from the southern United States to northern parts of South America (Rodgers and Smith 2012). In Caribbean, many birds are sedentary (Rodgers and Smith 2012). The Little Blue Heron is a rare migrant to Paraguay, and is accidental south into Argentina (Rodgers and Smith 2012). This species inhabits mangroves, coastal mudflats, wetlands, rivers and lakes. It is somewhat more common in coastal environments (Rodgers and Smith 2012). The Little Blue Heron is a resident in southern California with a small, localized breeding population and, as a result, is not a review species in that state by the California Bird Records Committee (Hamilton et al. 2007). There are accepted records for Oregon by the Oregon Bird Records Committee (OFO 2012). In Washington, there are three accepted records by the Washington Bird Records Committee (Wahl et al. 2005, WBRC 2012). There are no records for the State of Alaska (West 2008). In British Columbia, the Little Blue Heron is an accidental species and is very rarely ever reported (Toochin et al. 2013, see Table 1).
Occurrence and Documentation
The Little Blue Heron is an accidental species in British Columbia with only three Provincial records (Toochin et al. 2013, see Table 1). The most recent record was found by Scott Thomson at Powers Creek in Westbank outside of Kelowna in the Okanagan Valley (Toochin et al. 2013, Please see Table 1). The bird stayed for a week before cold weather caused the bird to disappear. It is unclear if the bird travelled south to evade the cold or perished because of the frigid temperatures. All the Provincial records have been immatures birds that have turned up in the fall (Toochin et al. 2013, see Table 1). This fits perfectly with the species pattern of post-breeding dispersal after the breeding season that pushes Little Blue Herons well north and west of their core range (Rodgers and Smith 2012). It is impossible to know where this bird originated from, but, given the scarcity of records for Oregon and Washington, it was likely a long distance away. All Egret sightings in British Columbia are worth scrutiny because they are all considered rare in the Province (Toochin et al. 2013). This species is a wandering species and it will likely be found again the future in British Columbia. It can occur anywhere and should be photographed and properly documented if encountered.
Table 1: British Columbia Records of Little Blue Heron:
1.(1) immature October 15, 1974-January 5, 1975: Bud Anderson, mobs (RBCM Photo 373) Judson Lake, Abbotsford (Weber and Hunn 1978)
2.(1) immature September 19, 1993: Margaret Clayton, Isobel McLeish, mobs (photo) Air Park Lagoon, Courtenay (Innes 1993)
3.(1) immature November 11-18, 2010: Scott Thomson, mobs (photo) Powers Creek, Westbank (Charlesworth 2011, Toochin et al. 2013.