A lingering Great Blue Heron; to migrate or not to migrate

Photo by Chris Bosak A Great Blue Heron stands on a dock near the Norwalk River on Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Great Blue Heron stands on a dock near the Norwalk River on Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014.

Some try to stick out the New England winters and some fly south where it’s warmer. That can be said for several species of birds, but for this posting I’m talking about Great Blue Herons. The pictured bird was found earlier this week near Veterans Park in Norwalk, Conn.

It’s an interesting dilemma for the birds. What gives the better chance of survival? Sticking out a New England winter and subsisting on the small fish to be found, or risking the perils of migration and moving to a warmer climate? Both have their risks, of course. A particularly cold winter can spell doom for the herons that stay around. However, the risks of migration are many and some birds never make it back.

Now what makes a particular bird decide to stick around or fly south is a question better suited for a professional ornithologist. They’d probably be guessing anyway because how do you get a definitive answer to such a question? It’s not like you can interview the birds.

Several Great Blue Herons do remain in New England throughout the winter, especially in the southern part of the region. I participate in the Westport Christmas Bird Count every year and we see several Great Blue Herons each year. In some years the Norwalk Islands hold dozens of the tall, handsome birds. In the winter, Great Blue Herons sport a plumage that is more dull than their spring breeding garb.

It’s still a thrill to see the birds in the winter. They have always been one of my favorites. I do worry about the ones I see in the winter, though. I hope it doesn’t get too cold and they make it to spring.

The Westport CBC is set for this Sunday. With the relatively mild winter we’ve had so far, I would guess plenty of Great Blue Herons will be around for the count.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Great Blue Heron walks along a dock near the Norwalk River on Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Great Blue Heron walks along a dock near the Norwalk River on Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Great Blue Heron stands on a dock near the Norwalk River on Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Great Blue Heron stands on a dock near the Norwalk River on Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014.

 

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