Louisiana Heron

Louisiana Heron

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48" x 51" unframed

© SHELLEY HESSE 2015

watercolor, gouache, pencil, ink, and pastel on paper

The Louisiana Heron, initially named for the location it was first found below New Orleans, was renamed in 1905 as the Tricolored Heron (Egretta tricolor). It is a small species of heron native to coastal parts of North and South America. I have painted one in mating plumage, a much brighter blue than the soft grey-blue and purple it wears when not attracting a mate.  They breed in swamps and coastal habitats, nesting in colonies with other herons. Three to five eggs are typically laid in each clutch and once paired, the arriving male greets the female with feathers raised, pointing its bill skyward and then down at the nest while passing a twig to the female who arranges them into a nest.

A solitary hunter, the Louisiana Heron stalks its prey- fish, crustaceans, reptiles, and insects in shallow and deeper waters. They use coastal estuaries, salt marshes, mangroves, and lagoons during the breeding season.

The status of Louisiana Herons varies by state and region. In the central Everglades in Florida, the number of breeding pairs decreased by 75% from 1996 to 2002, prompting the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to list it as state threatened. But in several mid-Atlantic states, populations increased from 1940 to 1970, after the construction of intracoastal waterways provided more nesting habitat.
So heavy
is the long-necked, long-bodied heron,
always it is a surprise
when her smoke-colored wings
open
and she turns
from the thick water,
from the black sticks
of the summer pond,
and slowly
rises into the air
and is gone...
into a new life: see how the sudden
gray-blue sheets of her wings
strive toward the wind; see how the clasp of nothing
takes her in.
-Mary Oliver