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Debbie — May 16, 03:47PM

What is great blue heron (blue form)?

I often see great blue herons while out birding, or even in my yard. When I go to submit reports I am presented a choice between "great blue heron" or "great blue heron(blue form)". And I admit this totally confuses me. What is a great blue heron(blue form)? Isn't that the *usual* color of a great blue heron? And if so, what is just the plain "great blue heron" (which is what I always check) used for?

I could understand if you had an option for "great blue heron(white form)" such as can be found in S. Florida. But I don't know what great blue heron (blue form) is. Please help me understand what I should use.

Brian Sullivan — May 16, 01:42PM eBird Staff


Currently the Great Blue Heron is comprised of many subspecies, most of which are blue, with one being white. The white form is sometimes considered a separate species, and in eBird that is called Great Blue Heron (white form). That form is restricted to s. Florida and the Caribbean. So if you’re seeing a blue Great Blue Heron, feel free to report it as the Blue Form, or as just plain old Great Blue Heron, which is the parent taxon of these two forms. More below from the BNA Online:

A. h. occidentalis Audubon, 1835, the Great White Heron. Includes A. h. repens Bangs and Zappey, 1905. Resident in s. Florida, Cuba, Jamaica, and n. Yucatan Peninsula [type locality = Key West, Florida]; vagrants have occurred west to Texas and north to Nova Scotia (Mitra and Fritz 2002). Size of A. h. wardi of the Southeast (McGuire 2002) but adult plumage all white; relative to A. h. wardi, plumes on the breeding adult are reduced or absent (Holt 1928) and the bill averages longer (Mayr 1956).



Up rated: 1 Down
Debbie — May 17, 07:44AM

Thanks. I'll continue to use just 'great blue heron' since, to me, the "blue form" is the usual color, and I would only feel a need to remark about color if I saw something unusual. A choice of "great blue heron(blue form)" would feel like picking "northern cardinal(red form)" or "roseate spoonbill(pink form)"! LOL.

Up rated: 3 Down

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