Reddish Egret Morphs

Dancing dark morph Reddish EgretDancing dark morph Reddish Egret – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/1000, ISO 200, Nikkor 70-300mm VR at 300mm, natural light

These two Reddish Egrets; a dark and a white morph, were photographed on the same day at Fort De Soto’s north beach in May of 2009 and both of them were showing signs of being in breeding plumage. This dark morph wasn’t quite in full breeding plumage because the bill would be pinker and the lores a deeper blue if it were but it was close. Dark morphs are far more common than white morphs and I felt lucky to photograph both morphs on the same day.

I photographed this Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens) in a tidal lagoon while sitting in the water as the bird danced around me on the hunt for prey. My Nikkor 80-400mm VR was off being repaired so that day I was using my Nikkor 70-300mm VR for all the bird images I took. This egret was so busy hunting that it paid me no mind at all as it rushed around the lagoon. There were a few times I thought the bird was going to run right into me.

I like the bird’s pose, eye contact and the action this image conveys as well as how it shows the water, shore, wrack line and the sand dune in the background.

Hunting white morph Reddish EgretHunting white morph Reddish Egret – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/1250, ISO 250, Nikkor 70-300mm VR at 250mm, natural light

This white morph Reddish Egret was busy hunting in the Gulf of Mexico when I photographed it. It’s lores are a deep purplish blue and the black-tipped bill is very pink. I was sitting on the sand of the shoreline as the egret raced around trying to catch prey where the waves broke and like the dark morph, this bird all but ignored my presence.

Reddish Egrets are sometimes called “Drunken Sailors” because of their movements while hunting, they often wobble, twirl, dance and seem to stumble. It is very amusing and entertaining to see and photograph and they never failed to delight me.


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About Mia McPherson

I am a nature lover, wildlife watcher and a bird photographer. I first become serious about bird photography when I moved to Florida in 2004 and it wasn’t long before I was hooked (addicted is more like it). My move to the Salt Lake area of Utah was a great opportunity to continue observing their behavior and to pursue my passion for photographing birds.


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  2. I love the white morph! I think I have told you before, but Ardeidae is my favorite family of birds. So jealous of your experience. Thanks for the images!

  3. Both the Dark and the White Morph are very theatrical with their poses.

  4. What cool birds. I’m loving seeing all the different species you’ve captured (okay and more than a little jealous). I love the “pose” of these two shots.

  5. Hi! Look forword to seeing your Blog everyday! Love all the great photo’s you show! Good work!

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  7. What wonderful behavior to observe, I can see it in my mind just from your description. The photos are just delightful

  8. Exceptional images of the Reddish Egrets! Your excellent photographs are proof that getting down and dirty to photograph nature is well worth the effort and perhaps, discomfort. Superb!

  9. Great action shots Mia! Reddish Egrets are so entertaining!

  10. So a silly question, perhaps. You’ve mentioned a few times that you take these pictures while sitting in the water. What advantages does that bring, from a photographer’s perspective? Do you just resign yourself to getting wet, or do you take long hunting waders or some such?

    • Jake, I have found that for taking images of some birds that by getting low and in the water they are less likely to be alarmed by me (or anyone) and will often approach a person sitting, kneeling or laying in shallow water. You can get great low angles in the water which puts the “viewers” at eye level with the subject and that draws them into the bird’s world. Some times I get into the water because of the angle of light, I want it on the bird, not back lit.

      I know some people do use waders in Florida but I never did. Just my water shoes and my hiking clothing which dry rapidly. Some people in the waders had a difficult time walking and gear got dunked. Here in Utah, yes, I’d wear waders because our water doesn’t get as warm for long periods of time as it does in Florida.

      I only got into salt water that way in Florida because in fresh water there are hidden dangers… like alligators.

  11. What some will do to get in one of your photographs? Posers.

  12. Awesome photos, Mia. I envy you getting down and dirty to get these images. I am afraid that at my age, I could never spend that much time sitting in the water. I would probably topple over and make a fool of my self anyway. I am chuckling as I write this, picturing that scene in my mind. :-)

  13. Wow, Mia. I love the reddish one. Never seen a picture of one before.

  14. very nice poses !!
    it s the kind of picture witch make think it s easy to take the photo… but it s not the case, i know it too, only the time spent on different spots can bring somes results
    have a nice day mia ☺

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