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Many of the aquatic birds, especially in the heron/egret order (Ciconiiformes) undergo startling color changes as breeding season approaches.  There are rookeries of many species around the edges of the flow-way, and some great blue herons were on nests as early as January.  Others begin later.   But in most species, breeding is not only accompanied by changes in plumage, but by the development of often brilliant colors on exposed areas of skin, especially on the legs and around the eyes and bill.

This is a cattle egret in breeding plumage.  The buffy feathers on the head, chest and back are only present in the spring, and the bright violet skin around the eyes and base of the bill is a striking change.

Below are two shots of another common bird, the anhinga. On the left is a typical looking bird in a typical looking posture.  On the right is a female in breeding plumage - the bright blue-green around her eyes is only present for a fairly brief period, but is amazing when seen well.


White ibis are spectacular in all seasons, but as breeding season nears the reds of their beak, the hues of their head and feet become incredibly vivid and saturated.  The birds below were shot as they jousted for position on what was obviously a preferred perch.

Passerines are in the midst of flux as well, though the changes are not quite as spectacular.

Wintering birds such as the savannah sparrows on the left are little changed, though perhaps they are a bit more active and flighty as they get ready to depart.  Breeding birds such as the red-winged blackbird (right) are really kicking into high gear, and displaying and singing males of this and other species  are more and more conspicuous.


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