Click the picture for a larger view.
Answer by Tony Leukering
As all respondents noted, this week's quiz bird is obviously a white heron of some sort, facing directly toward the camera. However, note that I did not write 'into the camera,' as you'll notice that the bird's eyes are actually facing downward -- an interesting aspect of heron head morphology!
Our bird's strong yellow lores should rule out many possibilities, including the white form of Great Blue Heron (known as Great White Heron and possibly a good species), Little Blue Heron, and Reddish Egret. The fact that our bird seems to not sport either a black bill (it's just got a black tip) nor a yellow bill (it seems like a dirty pinkish to me) and with the suggestion of pink at the base of the bill on the bird's left side, I'd suggest that our bird is a juvenile that hasn't
achieved adult bill color, thus making any assessment of species using bill color at least a bit suspect. However, this angle should frighten anyone away from being at all certain of the actual bill color.
So, where should we look to pick one of the five species still on the possibilities list (Great, Snowy, Little, Intermediate, and Cattle egrets)? The apparently long and thin neck might go some way toward eliminating Cattle Egret, but I'm actually going to cut to the chase and go straight for the jugular... er... gape. Note that there is an extension of yellow from the lores well below the eye that seems to extend quite some way and, possibly, to nearly the back of the eye. Though gape length is something that many of us use to separate Ferruginous Hawk from other buteos, how many knew that one could ID this bird on that one feature?
I took this picture of a juvenile Great Egret on Bunker Pond, Cape May Point S.P., Cape May Co., NJ, on 26 October 2008. I provide below a picture that includes more of the individual.
Tallies of incorrect answers for quiz species:
Snowy Egret - 6
Cattle Egret - 1
Little Blue Heron - 2
Reddish Egret - 1
Congratulations to the 14 of 24 respondents answering correctly:
Answer: Great Egret