Tricolored Heron in breeding plumage

Tricolored Heron standing in the surf of the Gulf of MexicoTricolored Heron standing in the surf of the Gulf of Mexico – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/640, ISO 250, Nikkor 70-300mm VR at 116mm, natural light

I was digging through my image files yesterday and came across a series of Tricolored Heron images that I had never edited from a May morning in 2009 when I was photographing birds at Fort De Soto’s north beach. The Tricolored Heron had the red legs, blue lores and bill and the long white occipital plumes that indicated the heron was in full breeding plumage.

Tricolored Heron with preyTricolored Heron with prey – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/640, ISO 250, Nikkor 70-300mm VR at 300mm, natural light

The Tricolored was fishing in the Gulf of Mexico and as I recall it was quite successful in capturing prey. The waves where choppy that day because of wind but that didn’t slow the heron down at all. The Tricolored heron would catch a fish…

Tricolored Heron swallowing its preyTricolored Heron swallowing its prey – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/640, ISO 250, Nikkor 70-300mm VR at 220mm, natural light

And swallow it whole. In this image you can see the small fish about to go down the heron’s throat.

Tricolored Heron after eating preyTricolored Heron after eating prey – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/640, ISO 250, Nikkor 70-300mm VR at 195mm, natural light

After swallowing the fish it seemed the heron would take a small break and just stand still at the shoreline where the waves would wash over its feet. The wind was blowing from the south that morning which blew the heron’s feathers around creating this spikey little “do”.

Tricolored Heron in breeding plumageTricolored Heron in breeding plumage – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/1000, ISO 250, Nikkor 70-300mm VR at 230mm, natural light

I left the Tricolored Heron where it stood and wandered north on the beach to find other birds. As always, it was another lovely morning at Fort De Soto’s north beach.


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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.


  1. Humming Bird lover

    Hi! what wonderful pictures! Keep up the great work! I so enjoy looking at such beautiful work you do! Have a great week

  2. Gorgeous photos, Mia, the detail is amazing!

  3. Such a beautiful bird. And a fisherman who leaves humans behind for grace, for beauty – and for success. Thank you.

  4. ohh, this heron is so beautifull, and you present him very well, a pleasure to discover this serie
    thanks mia, have a nice day ☼

  5. I have fond memories of watching this species dancing in the surf off Rollover Island. An amazing series of this beautiful Heron.

  6. Wonderful set of photos. Herons (and egrets) are always fun to watch.

  7. Mia, this is a great example of beautiful morning light; at what time was it shot? I ask you because the light is so perfect; it fills in the entire bird and lightens every detail. I love those nuptial feathers.

    • Thank you Maria, I checked the EXIF on the images and although the time stamp says 8:31, I am certain these were taken at 7:31 am as I forgot to adjust the time on my camera for daylight time.

  8. Mia– your joy in what you’re doing is contagious…and much appreciated.

  9. Wonderful set of photos

  10. Mia, Awesome shots of the Tri-colored heron!

  11. You and Ron have been very good medicine for me, real pejuta…have been,and will continue to be, dealing with some depressing stuff beyond my power to change or fix…Happy Dappy pills won’t help, but your pictures, the behaviors you capture and expose, the information and stories that go with them, the comments, questions and answers from your followers, literally make my day. Thank you for it.

    • Patty, when I have gone through rough spots in my life; and there have been many, nature has soothed me, healed me and refreshed me. When I was bed ridden even looking out the window helped. I can relate to “good medicine”! I am happy that the images, the stories behind them and the information imparted in my posts helps you!

  12. Ohhhhh I love love this!!! What a beauty and of course I have a soft spot for the herons! ;)

    • Thanks Sherry, I know that Tricolored Herons have gotten misdirected and ended up in Idaho so it isn’t that big of a stretch that one might end up in Montana one day!

  13. I wish we could swap this heron for the Rainbow Lorikeets for a weekend! Really lovely images Mia, you always manage to make me feel as though I’m with you when you’re seeing the birds, thank you.

    • I wish we could swap Rainbow Lorikeets for Tricolored Herons for a weekend too Kim! As you know Rainbow Lories captured my heart on my visits to Australia! I love your Rainbow Lorikeet images. Thanks so much for commenting.

  14. Terrific photographs of this beautiful heron! I especially love the windblown feather photographs but the whole series is wonderful.

  15. I thought I knew most bird parts, but obviously don’t. What do you mean by lores?

    • Hi Patty, the lores are the skin around and in front of the eyes, when Tricolored Herons are not in breeding plumage the lores would be yellow and that yellow extends to the bill but in breeding plumage the lores of these herons turn blue as well as part of the bill.

  16. Mia–these are gorgeous shots…love the colors, the foamy water, the little silver fish the wind-lifted feathers on the head. it always intrigues me what these birds can do with their necks. How I wish I could go the places you do,see what you see and experience what you experience. I’ve traveled and camped (backpack and tent) enough to know it isn’t always easy or comfortable, but once it’s under your skin……lucky lady! Thanks for sharing these wonders.

    • Thanks Patty, I adore being out in nature whether it is camping or just wandering along a beach, lake, mountain meadow, deserts or deep in the woods. I feel very fortunate to be able to wander! You can always follow along via my blog, I try to tell the stories behind my images too!

      These Tricolored herons always thrilled me to photograph, I don’t see them here in Utah because their range does not extend here but I have loads of images of them I took in Florida.

  17. Isn’t it beautiful, so well photographed.

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