Through the Looking Glass of Val Lee—Anhinga

Anhinga Female © Val J. Lee

My photo above reveals a large black and white bird, referred to as the Anhinga of the Cormorant family/Phalacrocoracidae family.

The Anhinga (word defined as “darter” from Portuguese) is a bird of the southern swamplands. The aves I shot were in the wondrous Florida Everglades of alligators and crocodiles and other interesting genres.

Crocodile of Florida © Val J. Lee

A million gators make Florida their home and one to two thousand crocs. It is unusual for both of these kinds to live together and the only place they do is in the Everglades. This because God’s glades offer brackish or saline waters which crocs thrive in and non-brackish for gators.

The Anhinga is also dubbed the “piano bird” as its wings resemble black and white piano keys on a long keyboard as viewed in the first photo.

This ave is also referred to as the water-turkey for its broad tail, so much so, as to resemble an actual turkey’s feathers, though not a complete wrap around. A turkey’s fan feathers wrap around its body with additional decorative feathers adding a more a dressy effect. Obviously, a turkey has no desire to place it’s unique structural design underwater to catch a fish. Turkeys are crafted by God to be adept swimmers though they prefer not to swim. They can swim through surface waters by tucking their wings in close, spreading their tails, and kicking. But it is not considered proper etiquette to throw one in the water to simply watch it swim, being they are land lovers. Though there is a video showing a wild turkey that loves to be in the water swimming—a rare exception with rare personality.

The Anhinga is additionally known as the “snake-bird” for its habit of swimming with just its long head and neck viewed on the surface. And sometimes referred to as “darter” and as stated above, this is the definition of “Anhinga.” It darts here and there in the water to curve its carnivorous cravings.

An Anhinga can remain under water for a length in time when it submerges for the hunt. You wonder if it will ever surface again from its lovely and swift dive. It feeds mainly “on fish, but also aquatic invertebrates, insects, reptiles and amphibians.”

Anhinga male © Val J. Lee

The God-fashioned, lengthy neck of the Anhinga holds within a vertebra, a formed agile organ of movement, with an expanding throat, allowing the sprinting of its head in rapid movement to spear its prey with its elongated, sharp bill.

It appears the Anhinga can do just about anything with its rope-like neck, except tie a knot.

The expanding neck allows the swallowing of the entire fish of a good catch.

It is a marvel of the LORD Jesus Christ, the Creator of all, and all things hold together in Him; Colossians chapter 1. And believers acknowledge the Godhead moves as One in creation from the time of “Let Us” make man in Our own image; Genesis 1:26-28.

My video:

Anhingas must dry out their feathers after a hearty swim. However, they do own a preen oil gland or uropygial gland at the base of their body, above their tail feathers. They rub their beaks and head onto this oil-well or source to deposit on their feathers. This uropygial gland has been installed in many waterbirds—Ducks, Pelicans, Petrels, Ospreys and Oilbirds (Oilbirds are a unique, nocturnal, monogamous, South American, flying, fruit-eating species with whiskers. Both cats and Oilbirds use whiskers for night hunting. In the past, Oilbird chicks were captured and boiled down for their oil content and thus their name. They obtain much of their fruity nutrition from oil palms.)

I believe the LORD God designed the Anhinga’s wing-drying necessity for us to rejoice in; this masterpiece of feather designing. To me, it resembles an intricate, winsome black and white quilt on a clothesline set out to dry.

Anhinga male with webbed feet wrapped around branch © Val J. Lee

Anhingas are also blessed with webbed feet for their water sporting. These beauties kick their feet to move through the waters when they engage in deep dives. They plummet for fish, frogs, young alligators, etcetera. Their masterfully-crafted feet also wrap neatly around branches when perching.

This ave has an obvious, appealing wingspan—3.7 feet.  Its length is 30-37 inches and can weigh in at three pounds or a bit less.

Anhingas soar overhead like a hawk when hunting for prey and once found, they dive deep into the water or simply surface swim like a swift snake.

Anhingas are monogamous—mating for life. Pairs may reuse nests from year to year and will even seize abandoned nests of large bird kinds such as Blue Herons.

Anhingas can breed in colonies above salt water, though they hunt in fresh waters.

A male will entice a gal by soaring and gliding and marking a potential nest site with leafy twigs for courtship and to let her know he is throwing away bachelorhood for family life.

He displays gorgeous, large,  neon aqua-blue and neon light-green hues of skin which surround his eyes. These lovely lores are naturally attractive to a gal. These bright colors are a delight to behold by birders as well. Males also display a large, neon, aqua-blue eye ring, and within is seated his extraordinary, ruby eyes.

Anhinga male © Val J. Lee

Males also exhibit lengthy, fancy plumes arranged down its neck and bodily black and white satin feathers.

And for the grand finale, he will perform an attractive, perfectly synced, rhythmic dance just for her.

And when they have chosen each other, they both may move in synchronized fashion in a courtship ballet-like dance.

Anhinga and Cormorant Rookery © Val J. Lee

These water birds are like social butterflies, they love company and nest with other Anhingas and Cormorants in a rookery aka a breeding colony or what I call a tree-wooded village of watery views. They will also nest in communities with Herons or Egrets.

Of course, safety in numbers applies here as well. This colony life is true of Blue Herons too, though when not breeding, Herons are fishing loners.

It is interesting to me that all the Anhingas can recognize their mates in a look-alike colony, excepting male and female distinctions. God is incomprehensible in His intelligent designing.

The soon-to-be-mom constructs the nest for their arriving young by weaving sticks together and cushioning them with green leaves—the best soft mattress she can make herself. The papa-to-be brings his dear sweetheart nesting materials and places them in her beak. He does his best to do his part for his gal and to please her in nursery preparation.

No gynecologist is needed to tell the couple they will soon have babies. God tells them!  Jeremiah 8:7 in the Bible, “Even the Stork in the heavens knows her appointed times; And the Turtledove, the Swift, and the Swallow observe the time of their coming. But My people do not know the judgment of the LORD.”

And from Job chapter 8: “But now ask the wild animals, and they will teach you; And the birds of the air, and they will tell you; Or speak to the earth, and it will teach you; And the fish of the sea will explain to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this, In whose hand is the life of every living thing, And the breath of all mankind?”

It is quite heart-touching to observe two Anhingas working to form the perfect nest for their offspring. Though it appears the gal is in charge of forming the perfect crib.

The highly territorial papa-to-be will defend, if necessary, any threats to his babies’ bassinet with extensive, forceful displays to protect. It can peck the neck and head of a threatening bird.

Moms are less aggressive; nevertheless, she will defend the nest if necessary. It is a joint mom and pop operation.

The Female is duller than her male mate, displaying a buff brown neck and upper breast. She does display white and silver on her wings like her male counterpart. In her breeding plumage, she too exhibits magnificent neon green lores and neon blue eye-ring around striking, bright red eyes.

Mom will lay 2 to 5 bluish-white or pale green eggs. Incubation lasts 25 to 30 days and both parents participate.

I would like to add, even after mating and while caring for chicks, the couple can express touching affection toward one other, and even signal with their body movements … body and beak-touching.

Ornithologists have observed Anhingas performing loving acts when changing egg incubation duties—the couples for life intertwine necks and pass nesting material when changing positions.

Chicks hatch free of feathers though they may display some white and dark down on the sides of their body. They are brooded or nursed by both parents for 12 days.

First, parents feed chicks by dripping fluid and the regurgitation of fish directly into their open throats. When chicks become older, juveniles, they place their heads into parents’ bills, then thrust them in their throats to obtain aquatic delights, as seen in my video. At this age, they beg unceasingly for meals for their insatiable appetites; and can be quite aggressive as they pester their parents. Obviously, this stage requires far more work for Mom and Dad. These adolescent chicks resemble human teenage boys who seem to have a belly which never registers full.

The chicks are totally dependent upon their parents for three weeks. After the three-week stage, they can climb on a branch near the nest and start exercising their wings, beginning the swerve to independence.

If the young are threatened at their nest at three weeks of age, they are able to drop into the water below and perform a swim-escape.

They fledge or fly at about six weeks. However, they will remain with their parents for several weeks following.

After a length of weeks, the white down on the feathers turns dark; this when maturing into adulthood.

Young reach their sexual maturity at about 2 years old.

The Anhinga does not call out in lovely tones and is mostly silent. If it speaks, it is in a raspy, croaking voice … and signals its mind with snaps, squawks and grunts.

No need for the Anhingas to migrate in their all-year warm range from the coastal areas of the southwest of the US—North Carolina to Texas. This ave also resides in Mexico, Central America, Panama and Cuba. In South America, it is found from Colombia to Ecuador, and from east of the Andes to Argentina. Anhingas thrive in tropical and subtropical regions all around the globe. Many in the world are blessed by their loveliness.

The longevity of these birds is twelve years. God is gracious to allow these flyers length of life.

Letter to bird enthusiast:

In gracious appreciation for information gathered from various websites.


Through the Looking Glass of Val Lee—Laughing Gull of Caribbean


Laughing Gulls and they mate for life

Laughing Gulls and they mate for life @Val J. Lee

Among the many islands in the Caribbean Sea, Antigua is most popular among tourists due to its breathtaking nature repertoire.


Antigua Island @ Val J. Lee

I shot these Laughing Gull photos when vacationing with my husband in Antigua and on the Island of St. Thomas. A community of these gulls can provide a pleasant evening of soaring entertainment, as they descend on and consume small fish navigating near the surface of the ocean and snatch insects on the wing.

Laughing Gull community

Laughing Gulls in a community @Val J. Lee

Their entrée desires include “mollusks, fish, bird eggs, young birds, squid, crabs and other crustaceans, insects, carrion, and garbage.” Like many aves, they will eat whatever is available, though Laughing Gulls, like other gulls, will even steal food.

Bold gulls will come and take from an uplifted hand in offer of a french fry or anything edible.  Of course, they too love to catch food when thrown. Ivar’s Restaurant in Seattle is famous for such gull dock feedings; in fact, if food is tossed in the air, a gull can easily snatch it up! (Though these are not Laughing Gulls). Gulls will fight other birds for food as most birds do.

Laughing Gulls also engage their flying skills to pluck fish from birds in flight, and can shift maneuvers to pester prey birds until they drop the food which a gull will catch before it hits the water. Yes, quite the flying acrobats.

These entertainers laugh like a bunch of crazy people when aroused. Easy to guess their label acquirement.

There is a posted video showing a seagull walking into a store nonchalantly, snatching a small bag of potato chips without even paying for it. 😊 The bird did this everyday, going for the bright orange package near the door, getting a distance from the store and then opening and chowing down. There is also another video of a gull flying through a kitchen window and stealing food on plates, and another of one walking in a back door and stealing kitty food out of the bowl, the cat being too lazy to care.

Laughing Gull © Val J. Lee

Laughing Gull © Val J. Lee

The Laughing Gull is rarely seen solo with no other seagull in sight. Their entertaining characteristics include being gregarious.

Laughing Gull © Val J. Lee

Laughing Gull © Val J. Lee

Yes, that is quite the wingspan you see in the above photo—around 42 inches. Seagulls exhibit remarkably long flight wings. Their body length runs between 15 to 18 inches and they weigh up to 13 ounces.

My video:


The Laughing ones flight range expands from Nova Scotia to Trinidad and winters as far as South America. They never wander far inland, loving the eastern coastal waters of tasty nuggets.

The adult, Laughing Seagull’s body is white, apart from the dark-grey rear wings, black tail wings and its black head with eyes outlined in white and beet-hued beaks.

Laughing Gull © Val J. Lee

Laughing Gull © Val J. Lee

When they open their mouths to talk, you can note, it is beet-red too. (See photo above) All lovely colors chosen from the Master’s pallet.

Their black faces and black eyes—highlighted in white, is the striking stand-out for viewers.

Seagulls own excellent vision … birds, in general, own incredible sight-seeing attributes. Seagulls are one of the few bird species comprised of eyes able to move within the sockets. Yes, miraculously, formed by Jesus Christ the Creator of all; Colossians 1:15-20 (the Bible). All things, including birds, were created by Him and for Him.

Laughing Gulls © Val J. Lee

Laughing Gulls © Val J. Lee

Laughing couples form communities, housing 25,000 pairs or less. A couple of Laughing love birds enjoy company at their nesting door. And they are love birds as Seagulls mate for life. These Laughing colonies also serve to ward off predators. Around a hundred gulls will angrily drive most terrorists away; on occasion, maneuvering them into the sea to drown. No, you do no want to mess with these gulls if you have criminal intentions.

Studies expose a highly developed, complex communication system within the gull family (existing of 28 species), using a wide range of vocalizations and body movements which causes many gulls to move as one, if necessary, to remove anything annoying.

Job 12:7-10 provides us with an education, teaching the birds of the heavens understand God is their Creator and sustainer of life. They know their origin is not held in question:

“But now ask the beasts, and they will teach you;

And the birds of the air, and they will tell you;

Or speak to the earth, and it will teach you;

And the fish of the sea will explain to you.

Who among all these does not know

That the hand of the Lord has done this,

In whose hand is the life of every living thing,

And the breath of all mankind?”

Being quite the architects, a cute Laughing Gull couple will construct a sturdy nest of weeds and grasses on the ground of offshore islands. This, a parenting job they perform together, enjoying each other’s company. Three or four olive-colored eggs with splotches of dark brown are laid. Following three weeks, the embryos emerge. Yearlings are grayer below and display paler heads. Adult plumage is achieved in three years. Male and females appear alike.

Seagulls’ intelligence is observed through their God-provided ingenious, feeding methods … including dropping clams and other shelled mollusks onto rock surfaces, breaking them open. They teach their mature fledglings their maneuverings and other creative hunting cunningness. God cares for all aves and their survival in the wilds of life.

Australia and  New Zealand’s Silver Seagull displays cute polkadots on the tail wings; with the Laughing Gull, you may spot one or two polkadots, as seen in video above.

Laughing Gulls © Val J. Lee

Laughing Gull © Val J. Lee

During the time of fancy hats with their feminine crafted plumage, gull populations plummeted, though they now have wholeheartedly returned. Most birds now thrive under protective laws.

The longest living, known Laughing Gull was at least 22 years old.

Letter to bird enthusiast:

In gracious gratitude for the info I gathered from various websites.

Through the Looking Glass of Val Lee—Mute Swan of Ireland and Black Swan of Australia


Mute Swan of Ireland

Mute Swan of Ireland © Val J. Lee

My husband and I were consumed in Ireland’s radiant exquisiteness when vacationing. What astonishing sites we beheld! These emerald memories remain etched within.

I photographed the Mute Swan or White Swan (first photo) adjacent to this castle:

Ireland Castle © Val J. Lee

Ireland Castle © Val J. Lee


Ireland pond of Mute Swans © Val J. Lee

Ireland pond of Mute Swans © Val J. Lee

Gray citadels are visible in most every tidy town. And I must add, an award is presented to the tidiest of towns. Inhabitants were in dire need of a fleeing refuge, a place of defense in ages past. And, of course, kings desired ultra-impressive residences to live regally. Our family was in search everyday for these tall fortresses.

Blarney Castle © Val J. Lee

Blarney Castle © Val J. Lee

Ireland Castle © Val J. Lee

Ireland Castle © Val J. Lee







Christ Jesus is the fortress of believers. Born again Christians run to Him continually for comfort, love and support.

Ireland Castle © Val J. Lee

Ireland Castle © Val J. Lee

To learn of His personal love for you, please click here:

Mute Swan of Ireland © Val J. Lee

Mute Swan of Ireland © Val J. Lee

The Mute Swan is Ireland’s largest bird though not mute. It’s repertoire is grunts and hisses, never singing lovely notes to you. Oh my, yes, this lovely bird does drop these menacing, out of tune tones. Certainly, by which point, it acquired its name. Despite this, this phenomenal waterfowl owns many positive attributes including poise and elegance. And no other aqua-bird can move as swiftly upon the water or in the air.

Mute Swans “are the largest waterfowl species of the subfamily Anserinae, family Anatidae—order of Anseriformes.” It is native to much of Europe and Asia, being introduced to North America. It does appear to be more appreciated and acknowledged in European countries. It is an ave of taste.

The Mute is regarded as an elegant bird, represented in Russian ballets and European children’s tales.

For centuries, Mute Swans were known as “Birds Royal” because only a king or a few favored subjects could obtain them. Traditionally, they were gifts moved between dignitaries—ownership being a mark of distinction. The Swan was often served roasted at banquets—quite the large entrée, weighing in at 27 pounds, being five feet in length, and 57 inches in height. This main dish was completely popular during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria, and here is a recipe surviving from Elizabeth’s reigning tenure: “To bake a Swan, scald it and take out the bones, and parboil (boil thoroughly), then season it very well with Pepper, Salt and Ginger, then lard it, and put it in a deep Coffin of Rye Paste with store of Butter, close it and bake it very well, and when it is baked, fill up the Vent-hole with melted Butter, and so keep it; serve it as you do the Beef-Pie.”

Besides Mutes being feasted upon at meals, the leathery web portion was applied for crafting purses and the wing bones for forming whistles. Old records have been preserved regarding their historical uses including quills for pens.

The next time you pick up a pen, consider this: Molted flight feathers (The wing feathers from fowl when shed, gaining new ones) from the female “pen” Mute Swan were used as writing implements—known as “pen quills” and later “quill pens.” The tips, sharpened with a pen knife, were continuously dipped into an inkwell (a small bottle holding ink) for letter and document writing. Eventually the “quill” was omitted and only “pen” remained for our present-day, pre-ink-filled writing instruments.

The LORD God has developed many of His species to be helpful to man in various, notable ways. This representing the grace of God placed upon us all.

Mute Swan or White Swan © Val J. Lee

Mute Swan or White Swan © Val J. Lee

Swans are no longer kept for fare for the royal palate, “But in England the Crown still has an official Swan Keeper and the ancient ceremony of swan-upping.” Swans on the Thames (The river running through central London) are rounded up for identification by the Crown, commencing on the Monday of the third week in July.

I read an article from 2013 written by an American hunter who bought a swan tag to hunt and did shoot a swan for a tasty meal. He knows fellow huntsmen who buy swan tags too and there are photos on the Internet of hunters who have shot swans. Link for purchasing tags to hunt swans in South Dakota:

“Swans after feeding in North Carolina grain fields for a month and slow roasted are the best eating of all waterfowl.”  (Smith)

Hunting must be kept at a minimum, knowing swans have been hunted in former years to the place of near extinction. Formerly, thousands of robes were made with the feathers of swans and were shipped to Europe each year.

Though they have become a nuisance in some areas and people want the numbers controlled. And they are a loud bird, and when flying their wingbeats can be heard a mile away.

Though Swans are weighty, they are crafted to be powerful flyers, though take-off is a labored affair … They must prance across the surface of the waters to gain momentum while frantically beating their muscular wings— seven feet across when stretched out—to get airborne. Once in flight, they appear as the perfect maneuvering navigators. However, landing is a skiing event, crossing the surface to slow their substantial bulk. This is one of the LORD’S mighty big birds!

Mute Swan or White Swan © Val J. Lee

Mute Swan or White Swan © Val J. Lee

What qualifies the Mute as being the king of swans, is how it holds its neck curved gracefully and bill pointed somewhat downward, which makes our hearts strum in awe. This is what stands out to us birders, their graceful ways of maneuver, bending their dextrous necks, every whichaway in showy array.

Wings may be arched over the back, thus fanning the feathers in an upward swoop in gorgeous presentation. A Trumpeter Swan will only hold its head erect with no upsurge of the wings when gliding through the waters. Simply not as elegant as the Mute. However, the Black Swan of Australia will, at times, display wings in an upward swoop.

Mute Swan or White Swan © Val J. Lee

Mute Swan or White Swan © Val J. Lee

Swan necks are diving necks that stretch far, used to grab food on shallow pond bottoms. They maintain oxygen underwater by aquatic design.  Because they cannot dive underwater with full body like ducks, God manufactured them with maneuvering long necks.


Mute Swan or White Swan © Val J. Lee

Mute Swan or White Swan © Val J. Lee

Mute Swan’s diet consists of vegetation—underwater plants and algae, also munching on bank grasses and grains in fields. They are also insectivores.

Although the cob (male) and pen (female) look strikingly similar at first glance, they can be distinguished by their beaks. In the spring and summer, the cob’s bill is brighter in hue and the black knob is more bulbous. Males are larger than the gals, as with geese.

God created these striking beautiful aves for lifetime mating—another positive note. (Love birds, Geese, eagles, doves, sparrows, owls, penguins and on and on, orchestrate lifetime commitments. Ninety-percent of bird species are reported to be monogamous.  All these flyers are a witness to humans of the importance of sustaining the marriage covenant. If the wild can do it, why can’t civilized humans?)

The courtship of the cob and pen include “mutual bill dipping or head-to-head posturing.” It is a beautiful dance of royal commitment. They will intertwine, winding their necks together, in a most spectacular pose. Their wings expand upwards in copying beauty of wonder. They are the queens and kings of synchronized swimming. Jesus Christ is the one who creates life artistically.

The Mute couple might touch beaks and look at each other with affectionate eyes. Yes, to mate for life, they must maintain feelings for that special ave they become attracted to and it shows in their continual nearness to one another. They are committed to total devotion to each other for life and dedicated to their young in every nurturing aspect. The striking couple is equipped by the LORD God to erect that perfect home surrounded within their committed romance.

The cob and pen build a nest in March and April, on land near water, in an undisturbed, secluded location, perfect for honeymooning. If necessary, the cob will surround his gal to protect her from all harm. He is her brave knight in shining armor.

The cob will collect reeds and sticks, bringing them to the pen so she can arrange them to her whim. (Isn’t it amazing the female is the home decorator, all by God’s design?) The nest is often a large platform-like structure. A couple often enlist their previous nest (sometimes year after year) with some remodeling. The cob is never far from his nesting gal, keeping an eye out for intruders. If a potential predator gets too close, he will hiss and if necessary, charge with flapping wings. (A swan is capable of breaking a man’s arm or leg using its muscular, structured pinions.)

The pen lays 5-8 large, greenish-brown eggs, one every two days. She also performs the incubation nesting, which follows the completed egg-laying. This allows all the young to hatch together—36 days hence. The adoring parents dutifully feed their little ones with water plants and invertebrates. Cygnets will ride on the back of mommy in the water and even buried within her wings—a hidden treasure on the waters. The young reside with their parents until the following winter, by which time, they lose their brown plumage—replaced by gray down. It will be a full year or two before they are white as snow. The cygnets will fledge or fly within the range of 120 to 150 days. The parents must teach them how to fly before winter migration. Breeding will occur when they are three or four years old.

The cob loses his fight feathers or molts after the pen has re-grown hers. This way, a parent swan is always with the cygnets to protect them and can fly if necessary, all by God’s design. Waterfowl cannot fly during molting. Ducks and geese will usually lose their feathers after their parenting skills are no longer necessitated.

If a lifelong mate dies, a swan will often take another mate or will perish in its grief. One example: “On March 5, 2015 the Moscow Times reported that Gvidon, a Mute Swan, died of depression at the zoo a few months after his life partner, Tsarevna, was cruelly killed by a zoo visitor.”

Some swans fly short distances for migration. A swan can make a round-trip of almost 4,000 miles between their early spring breeding and wintering grounds.

Mute Swan and Mallard Duck © Val J. Lee

Mute Swan and Mallard Duck © Val J. Lee

Swan and duck swimming together in above photo; they being of the same kind in the eyes of God Almighty. Though the swan is mentioned as an unclean animal in some Bible versions, the true Hebrew actually is an unknown word and may apply to an extinct bird or possibly to the barn owl since owls are the main subject matter here. A swan is of the “kind” of duck and therefore was clean to eat in accordance with Jewish Old Testament law; Leviticus chapter 11. Anything within the duck species could become an entrée. Birds of prey were unclean and forbidden for consumption in the Old Testament according to God’s laws. In the New Testament any animal can be partaken as a food for Jews and Gentiles. All believers in Christ can bite into whatever eatable animal God placed on the earth. God declares, “Kill and eat.” In Acts chapter 10, God deems all foods clean. Anyone who states different, is adding to or subtracting from the Word of God, and therefore, a heretical teacher or false prophet, cursed of God.

Three other Bible verses for Christians: 1 Corinthians 8:8 – “But meat commends us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse.”

1 Timothy 4:4-5: “For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer.”

1 Corinthians 10:31 “Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (We must always offer thanksgiving for the LORD’S provisions.)

The Mute Swan lives 10 to 20 years in the wild, and up to 50 years in captivity.


Black Swans of Australia © Val J. Lee

Black Swans of Australia

The Black Swan is recognized as the bird of Australia and is the close relative of the Mute Swan through design. I enjoyed seeing so many of them in “down under” Perth. When our tour director had our bus stop and mentioned the Black Swans nearby, I requested to leave the bus for a few moments to shoot photos. And she, being fair dinkum complied and let everyone off for a short duration. I am so grateful she did.

Sydney Opera House © Val J. Lee

Sydney Opera House © Val J. Lee

The Black Swan is the state emblem of Western Australia, maintaining its appearance on its flag. Black Swans are mainly found in southern Australia; breeding in the southeast and southwest regions. This species was hunted to extinction in New Zealand, but later reintroduced.

Black Swan of Australia © Val J. Lee

Black Swan of Australia © Val J. Lee

The Black Swan displays its lovely white wingtips for take-off, flight and courting, and can, at times, be noted when just swimming—lying centered, between their black wings. Blacks are gorgeous in flight with their black necks stretched straight-out and displaying their red beaks and white flight wings.

Black Swans of Australia © Val J. Lee

Black Swans of Australia © Val J. Lee

The Black Swans are aggressive, more so than the other seven swan species. Of course, this being most evident during mating and cygnet season.  This species can be angrily aggressive and will actively seek out predators or intruders with its tamed senses.

They are noted for displaying the longest neck of all swan species, though they will not contort them as much as the Mute Swan. The ambidextrous necks of swans are absolutely remarkably fashioned by the Creator of all.

Black Swan of Australia feeding © Val J. Lee

Black Swan of Australia feeding © Val J. Lee

Black Swan feeding video:

The Black Swan cygnets are off-white in color, growing darker as they age. Breeding habits are akin to the Mute Swan.

Black Swans of Australia © Val J. Lee

Black Swans of Australia © Val J. Lee

Video on Trumpeter Swans, which is equipped with the same protecting characteristics as the Mute and Black:

Baby Mute Swan rescued:

Much info gratefully gathered from various websites.

Val Lee

Through the Looking Glass of Val Lee—Little Blue Penguins of Australia and New Zealand


Little Blue Penguin

                                                                 Little Blue Penguin

Sydney Opera House © Val J. Lee

Sydney Opera House © Val J. Lee

Our Ship docked adjacent to “Sydney Opera House.”

Sydney is the main city in the “down under” world of Australia.

These are the cutest little things! It was such a blessing to see the winged wonders in person. Of course, I relished the koalas, wallabies and kangaroos too. God is amazing in all His creation, which no man can even begin to replicate, though he imagines he can. Man has a brain and mobility; yet, he cannot recreate what he believes absolutely nothing manufactured over limitless years. He cannot remanufacture one human hair to perfection.

The Little Blues scientific genus name, Eudyptula, translates “good little diver;” and who can dispute?

These penguins do not migrate. They are year-round residents of their island and mainland locations in the Southern Hemisphere.

The majority of Little Blue Penguins are found down under, aka Australia. Other places they call home include New Zealand and Chile. A small number of them have been spotted around Tasmania as well.

Their wings, used for swimming, hang down like arms, which adds to their cuteness when they walk about. Penguins do not fly; yet, are considered birds.

Little Blue Penguin swimming

They do swim so they seem more closely related to fish. However, spending a good deal of time on land, out of the water, makes them non-qualifiable.

All species of penguins are disabled to take to the sky. Overall, there are eight bird kinds which do not soar heavenward, including the Kiwi bird of New Zealand. (New Zealand folk refer to themselves as Kiwis after this bird and after the abundant kiwi fruit of New Zealand.) These eight genre are better equipped by God for swimming, walking, running (Ostriches run at 40 miles an hour) and diving.

Bible verses in Psalm 8 explain God crafted man to have dominion over all, including the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, and all which swim the paths of the seas. “Oh LORD God, how excellent is Thy name in all the earth.”

There are 17 species of penguins. Five penguin species reside in Antarctica. Most species love the beach with the heat including species of South Africa. Yes, this is not what most of us normally imagine.

Penguins’ pygmy legs and stocky-build provide them with that distinctive, adorable, waddling walk.

Upper parts of the Little Blues are pale blue to a dark grey-blue, depending upon age, season, etc. The Little Penguin Blue, “has slate-blue to black feathers and a white chin and chest.” Since this animal owns feathers and a beak, it must be classified as a bird, combining with the reasoning earlier stated.

Shiny feathers uniformly overlap to cover a penguin’s skin. Penguins have more feathers than most other birds, with about “100 feathers per square inch.” Penguin plumage is highly specialized—short, broad, and closely spaced, preventing water penetration … protecting the skin from hydrous elements. Tufts of down on the feather shafts or quills, increase the insulative properties of the feathers. God knows just how to design, allowing this seabird creation to thrive in every way.

In contrast to the other penguin species, Little Blues are nocturnal (night creatures). They usually will not waddle to a wave-reaching beach before dusk, and will depart before the dawn. However, in a reserve, you can observe them all day, though you often notice their eyes are shut. Little Blues are fed during the day, allowing patrons to continually view them.

Little Blues display bluish-gray eyes. Like other birds, penguins possess a nictitating membrane, sometimes called a third eyelid, though it resembles a clear-like mucus on penguins. This covering protects the eye from injury, being wonderfully manufactured by God for land and water. Other birds have three eyelids as well; also cats, dogs, reptiles, fish, and camels.

Penguin diminutive legs are strong, though they do not appear to be so. Their feet are webbed, with visible claws. The legs and feet are straight-backed to aid in streamlined navigation while skimming the seas. This placement also ensures penguins stand vertically and walk upright, which makes them doubly cute.

New Zealnd, Dusky Sound, fjords, cruise ship


New Zealand fjords © Val J. Lee

Dusky Sound, New Zealand, where many of the “Little Blue Penguins” breed,

and where my husband I cruised (ship with real grass, first photo). © Val J. Lee

At about three years of age, the Little Blues reach mating age. They will choose one mate for life, being monogamously faithful by Almighty God’s design. Ninety percent of bird kinds are monogamous.

Little Blue Penguins

Lifetime unions commence around June. Complex, maneuvering rituals are performed by the guys in order to get the females to take notice. A gal desires just the right guy since this is a life commitment. One would think, she certainly wants she and her guy, to be the cutest couple around, though every little penguin couple is winsome.

Courtship begins with the Little Blue guys performing courtship displays with calls to attention. A guy who desires to woo will hold his body in an upright position with flippers above his back, neck stretched, and head toward the sky. At which point, he emits a mule-like sound. Yes, it all sounds rather primitive.

On occasion, the single guy will perform in front of a nest he constructed. Apparently, to give a hint of his intentions of being a family man.

When a match is made in Aussie-land or Kiwi-land, the newly tied ones, present a display together. One will stand upright and spread its flippers with head bowed, which signals the other Little Blue to follow. At which point, they walk in small circles around the nest, braying as they go. After this public commitment performance, the couple honeymoon.

Nests vary by location with underground burros under thick grass-roots … the preferred way. However, some nests might be located in rock crevices or caves. Community burrows are slightly over six feet apart; being lined with grass, leaves, or seaweed.

In urban areas, nesting may involve man-made cavities—under buildings, stacks of wood, and even railroad tracks. In some areas, Blues may nest in artificial nest boxes supplied by humans, some quite artistic.

After securing the home environment, the petite homemaker will lay two eggs to her delight and the glee of the papa. And is it not interesting, God placed in the heart of birds the knowledge, these offspring belong to papa too and there is no question who the daddy is? In our wicked society, DNA testing must sometimes be implemented to determine, and such kits can be bought at pharmacies.

Both parents take turns incubating the eggs, their shifts can be for ten days or shorter. Mom’s eggs filled with mini Little Blues, must be incubated for a period of five weeks to develop their hatchlings. It is possible for mommies to lay more eggs through August of the same year.

Upon their chicks being hatched, all baby food sustenance is foraged for them by their parents during the day. The doting parents will sleep beside the nest at night.

Youth are made independent by their parents from 57 to 80 days.

Obviously, the Little Blue Penguins do not require a significant amount of fish food due to size. Their compact diet consists of little bitty fish, krill, and squid. They are known to dive in shallow waters, consuming the catches supplied by the LORD. Being quite petite, inshore fishing suits them best, while supplies last; if not, deeper waters will suffice.

The precious Little Blues live mainly in their own colony. The committed couple return to the same nesting area yearly.

On their first anniversary, the Blue male will arrive at the home nesting site and apply his carpentry skills, renovating last year’s nest. If he chooses not to do this, he will select a new homesite, digging, using his bill and feet. He will then stand in front of the readied nest and await his gal. Most likely, quite excited for their renewed, heart-felt commitment, and the new wee ones which will result.

The adorable Blues are highly social with the other penguins in the colony community. Jesus Christ made them gregarious, part of His marvelous design. Penguins needing penguins to fulfill inner needs.

Most penguin species go through one complete molt (shedding their feathers to be replaced with new) each year, usually following the breeding season. This is true of most birds.

During this period, the penguins are land-bound, not having enough adequate feathers to maneuver in water, leaving them food-less. Because God informs them their molting will begin in a few weeks, penguins increase their food intake, building a fat reserve to sustain them while they are denied a swim.

Birds are never attractive when they are molting. It is a bad feather-day or a long time.

Little Blues can become tasty-prey to a variety of predators, including—seals, sharks, weasels, snakes, rats and foxes.

Little Blue Penguin

Though penguins might appear silky smooth from afar, these flightless aves own about 10,000 feathers—three to four times the feather density of flyers. The feather bases are thick downy … trapping air, providing water-resistant insulation.

God further crafted the feather-tips to be stiff, preventing them from being compressed by water pressure. And He masterfully provides countershading. Penguins are dark when viewed from above, and light when viewed from below. In a marvelous way, this protects them with swimming camouflage.

Penguins are athletes of the seas, completely rhythmic and acrobatic—diving for long periods of time by God’s masterful design.

“Penguins can switch between two modes of oxygen use in the water—either starving their muscles or giving them an extra shot of oxygen;” thus maintaining oxygen operation when submerged.

The Little Blue Penguin’s standing height is 13 to 15 inches.

The life span for the Little Blues in the wild is about 6 ½ years.

Wild penguins may bite if touched.

Val Lee

(Info facts gratefully gathered from various websites)


My video slide show: 


Cute Penguin story in video:


Letter to bird enthusiast:  letter-to-bird-enthusiast

Through the Looking Glass of Val Lee—Saffron Finch of Hawaii

Saffron Finch (male) © Val J. Lee

Saffron Finch (male) © Val J. Lee

My husband and I had a spectacular time feeding this wild Saffron Finch (Sicalis flaveola) on the volcanic Island of Hawaii—A paradise set atop black, molten rock.

Hawaii sunset (molten rock stretches into the ocean)

Hawaii sunset (molten rock stretches into the ocean) © Val J. Lee

This island continues to expand as God touches the volatile volcanoes and makes them smoke and spit their fiery lava skyward. (Psalm 144:5 refers to Almighty God touching the mountains to make them smoke.)

Hawaii volcano © Val J. Lee

Hawaii volcano © Val J. Lee

These petite Saffron Finches, sometimes called roof canaries, were plentiful at our vacation stay. They would bask in the sun and stiff grass in search of seeds, bugs and worms. They had no time to pay attention to vacationers who walked by within a few feet.

Saffrons provide pleasant songs, though often high-pitched.

Saffron Finch, (female) © Val J. Lee

Saffron Finch (female), © Val J. Lee

They mate at two years of age and are faithful to their mates, mating for life, as designed by God.

Jesus Christ designed His birds in such a way that 90% are monogamous. Colossians chapter 1, in the Bible, teaches, all things were created by Jesus Christ. He is God the Son who created with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, the Godhead, three in one.

Saffron Finch and English Sparrow (background), © Val J. Lee

Saffron Finch and English Sparrow (background), © Val J. Lee, Saffron Finch comparison to English Sparrow

“Saffron” explains the color of the finch, yellow to orange, the color of the stigmas of the Mediterranean crocus plant that are dried to sell as a spice, and it is the most costly of herbs. Though you can find it at an inexpensive price at Amazon.

They are a gregarious bird, outside of breeding season; seen in groups with fellow Saffrons, as I observed.

My video of Saffron Finch:

Saffron meals include a mixture of grass seeds, wild seeds, plants, ant eggs, mealworms, wax-worms, and fruit fly larva. They do visit feeders and will sometimes make a nest under an eave of a house. A homeowner may provide a ready-made nest such as a large, elevated, gourd bird house.

It is a Tanager bird from South America. In North America we have the Western Tanager that is far more striking in vibrancy.

Western Tanager (male) © Val J. Lee

Western Tanager (male) © Val J. Lee

The Saffron Finch is common in open and semi-open areas in lowlands. It can be spotted in Colombia, western Ecuador, western Peru, Brazil (here referred to as “native canary”), Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, and northern islands of South America and the Caribbean.

It was introduced to Hawaii and other locals.

Though commonly thought of as a canary, it is not related to this ave.

Saffron Finches, though exotic birds, can be bought in pet stores, and make hardy, caged pets.

Male Saffron Finches are territorial and will fight for a nesting area for he and his bride during mating season. He will even fight unto death and will not only wrestle fellow Saffrons, but also large male birds twice its size.

Due to this aggressive nature, male Saffrons are frequently used as fighting birds in South America. They are the pit bulls of birds. This is referred to as “blood sporting.” Two are placed in a cage to fight until the loser dies. Wagers are placed on the preferred bird. It is not highly favored and authorities will raid locations of the fights.

Saffron Finch (male) © Val J. Lee

Saffron Finch (male) © Val J. Lee

When a Mr. Saffron spots the gal of his dreams, he will chase her until he has won her heart. At which point, he will court the gal, sitting beside her, romancing her with dancing and songs.

Mommy finches will lay three to five off-white eggs, heavily marked in brown, in a cavity of a tree, crevice in a rock, in an abandoned nest or under an eave of a building, using sticks or bamboo.

Mom incubates the eggs while Dad guards the nest. Incubation is 12 to 14 days. Upon hatching, both parents feed the young and the doting father often checks on his babies.

Baby bird diaper changing involves both the male and female removing the waste from the nest, placing it in their beaks and flying it away.

The young Saffrons resemble their mommies. Hatchlings, are often olive-brown with heavy dark streaks. The males are slightly lighter than the females.

After a few days the chicks fledge (fly from the nest).

A Saffron Finch is over 5 inches in length, weighing in at .7 ounces.

Their flight pattern consists of rapid wing beats with its rounded wings pulled to its sides. Its feathers are black, edged in yellow with yellow-green upper-tail coverts: Covers for all other feathers. Coverts help smooth airflow over the wings and tail.

Adult males are brighter yellow than the females and display an orange crown. Females are more greenish in general. Saffrons, at times, can be difficult to distinguish and often, you see photos at birding sites where the gender is not provided.

Saffron Finch, (female) © Val J. Lee

Saffron Finch, (female) © Val J. Lee

God’s manufactured phenomenal wings; blessing birds with an oil gland at the base of their tail, whereby, birds take the oil and cover their wings for weather-proofing while preening or grooming their plumage. This includes aligning their feathers as well. God tells them what to do to for maintenance for perfect piloting.

Birds, in general, can own up to 25,000 feathers. This includes their numerous, itsy bitsy down feathers.

Tanagers experience a molt and also, a half molt. When a bird molts, they lose all their feathers, unless it is a half molt. A complete molt is when they gain a new set of pinions from God. Unfortunately, we humans can never shed our old bodies for new ones. Though true Christians will obtain new bodies one day in heaven.

Most birds molt after the nesting season.

The LORD God blesses Saffron Finches with an average lifespan of 10 years.

In the Bible book of Hosea, God reveals to us, during the millennium, when Jesus Christ rules the earth from Jerusalem, that the birds will be blessed! God will make a covenant with the birds. They will enjoy peace!  There will be no more war! They will be able to lie down in complete safety. (Hosea 2:18)

Letter to bird enthusiast: letter-to-bird-enthusiast

Bird data gratefully gathered from various web sources.
My Hawaii Part 2, video with Saffron Finch: YrogeWMHltSTdCkspkQ&index=13

Hawaii Part 1, video of volcanos:

Through the Looking Glass of Val Lee —African Golden Weaver Bird

African Golden Weaver Bird (female) © Val J. Lee

African Golden Weaver Bird (female) © Val J. Lee

The African Golden (or yellow) Weavers, Ploceus subaureus, are intricate artisans! Males are the architects and constructors of painstakingly weaved creations. Bird lovers are enthralled when they gaze upon their ingenuity. These creations are their renown, fostering the best African environment for their young … an exquisite, rounded green tree house. God manufactured each and every bird, and He knows which nest will best accommodate each species in regard to their composition and environment.

I am set in awe observing homes of breeding aves. Complex engineering capabilities have been implanted in each bird, classified as “Weavers” or not. Jesus Christ is absolutely awesome in His wonders. The songs, flight and nesting distinctions of flyers are worth our observation time.

My video shows an African Golden Weaver and Weaver nests:

The Golden male who wants to make the plunge into fatherhood, will build one of these remarkable rounded nests which dangles from a tree. This caring, feathered, father to be, is most selective regarding the timber, foreseeing the fact, African tribesmen and their male young hunt for the eggs of Weavers for food. God instilled wisdom in this bird so he can avoid humans, animal predators and weather obstacles. A Weaver will selects a tree that is covered in biting insects, including ants. Who or what would want to venture near?

He begins his home plot with one long blade of grass, which he snips at ground base with his black beak, and in which, he carries it away to a limb where he ties it securely. His beak and balancing skills are his tools of necessity, implemented for every aspect of his love nest.

Dad-to-be must carefully sew each blade of grass—the thread, with his beak—the needle. This might be reminiscent of a young lady sewing a wedding dress by hand. He eventually forms a nest hole entrance, using his head as a guide for size (no tape-measure is ready-handy) for the doorless portal which will be placed at the base of the home, that must not be too large or predators can see in and get in. Absolutely, no windows.

Snakes also are unable to slither in with this type of architectural style; they drop to the ground having no support while they attempt to reach. A bottom-holed nest also protects from the strong flooding African rains. A regular nest, cradle-like, would flood over and over again.

The rounded nest requires hundreds of blades of grass, woven tightly together to make it durable. These homes are winsome; you could put a price tag on each one.

This nest crafting requires a great deal of practice and sometimes the nest falls, through lack of fatherly experience.

Male suitors know an eligible lady will be most particular about the nest she chooses. Her design is mainly on the green nest (and it must be fresh and green), not the male carpenter suitor. I mean, of course, she is going to place her unhatched babies in it and they will be nurtured and raised within. It must be of the finest, practical art form.

(Birds who have never had previous families know the cycle of procreation; God has laid it in their hearts and minds as the Bible teaches—Jeremiah 8:7)

The male courtier will wave his wings and call out, to get a gal’s attention after the nest is completed. If the gal is a bit interested, she will inspect the complex grass hut to see if it is suitable for a family. Often times a male’s arduous work will be rejected to his deep disappointment. He will simply have to untie the nest, letting it drop; and then, will begin again the tedious construction with hundreds of more blades of grass to be sewn in hopes of future acceptance. (It must drop to the ground, owning it will turn brown and a female will not choose a brown nest. Plus he must rebuild in his territorial, branch site with his fellow Golden, feathered friends.) Don’t feel too sorry for the young fellow, outside of forging for his daily diet—insects, seeds, and nectar, this is all he has to do.

Mom-to-be does have her small part involving the nest. She lines it with soft grasses and down to protect her precious wee ones, she being the one who truly wants them in soft snugness. Any mother can relate to down baby comforters.

God has implanted in female birds just the right time for their laying. It would be harmful for expecting birds to hold within the growing eggs beyond God’s perfect prescription. He knows the perfect timing for the womb process of release. Of course, this is true of humans as well. A woman does not want to be carrying a 50 pound baby around in her belly. A child appears when it is done in the its mother’s oven.

When the two to four durable, Golden Weaver light blue eggs are laid, Mom will solely incubate them.

God protects His vulnerable creation including bird mommies. This is what He commanded in the Old Testament regarding bird eggs or hatchlings and snatching.

Deuteronomy 22:6-7: “If you happen to come upon a bird’s nest along the way, in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs, and the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young; you shall certainly let the mother go, but the young you may take for yourself, in order that it may be well with you and that you may prolong your days.”

A Golden Weaver mother may experience deception from an Diederik Cuckoo Bird. Her laid eggs may include an egg from this hoodwinking flyer. The Cuckoo often engages in brood parasitism—placing its eggs in other bird nests. (Only God truly understands the heart of parasitism birds—birds who want others to raise their babies. God does create some animal life to make us laugh.) I guess they don’t feel they have the time to build a home and raise a family, or are simply too lazy to do so. The scoundrels will use the mothering instincts of the Golden Weavers for their selfish benefit. They place their egg in a Golden’s nest, disposing of a Weaver egg when mom is away foraging for food. Cuckoos are aware of the counting abilities afforded to all birds by God.

Mothers know the cry of their hatched young. They recognize the voice of their mate and nearby nesting birds. When a baby Golden becomes extremely hungry and wants Mom to know, it bellows its voice, creating a strange, unusual racket. The hatchling wants Mom to feel sorry for it so she will get on the move with food. Sound familiar? This fact came to light through a German and Swiss ornithologists’ study of Golden Weavers.

Cute Cat Alfredo © Val J. Lee

Cute Cat Alfredo © Val J. Lee

Recently, my husband and I went on vacation. We left plenty of food and water for our cute cat, Alfredo. Also our son came by to check on him. When we returned home, after being away more than two weeks, Alfredo voiced the most mournful cries. Never had we heard such expressions speak from him previously. It tore our hearts. He was extremely elated to see us; yet he wanted us to know he did not like us leaving him! Many love scratchings and hugs did calm him down.


God wisely implements a female bird to address unfaithfulness in the Bible—Proverbs 27:8, “Like a bird who wonders from her nest, so is a man who wonders from his home.” Of course, if a mother ave were to lose her way, taking a too distant flight, and not locating her homeward course, she could not nourish her needy young. She would be left in deep and sad distress, crying rapid bird calls that her doomed chicks cannot hear.

A man who chooses to be unfaithful to his wife and leaves her and their children, carries no wisdom or godly faithfulness. He acts like a fish out of water so to speak, being one who has abandoned his home for what he believes to be great party times. But he is blind to the fact his life is torn into pieces and he will pay the consequences the rest of his life. The wife and children grieve the most. Such a departure leaves lifetime scars. I have a friend and her son-in-law left her beautiful daughter and their sons to do his own thing. Today, many years hence, he says it was the worst decision he ever lived out. His life became a mess, like a nest fallen to the ground.


Male Golden Weavers are bright yellow, and they display a tinge of orange on the head. Females are light brown with a lighter underside, and possess pink-brown beaks. They are native to south and east Africa. Their lifespan is a quandary.

Here, I must divulge, I did not shoot the photo and video in Africa. That would have been great if possible. I have only viewed Africa from afar, and that was when peering at its Northern end from Gibraltar. I do have a cousin, once removed, who served as a missionary in Africa the majority of her life. She has been significantly used of God, introducing many to Jesus Christ. She now lives in a retirement area for missionaries in Sebring, Florida. My husband, other family members and myself visited her in Sebring several years ago. She regally put on the food spread, and entertained us with her stories!

When she first ventured to the mission field, her hut was adjacent to a cannibal graveyard. She rode her bike to get about with God’s message of eternal hope. (to understand eternal hope, please click on “Letter to Bird Enthusiast” on right bar within “Categories,” above.)

When she was on furlough in the states, she would teach children the Good News of Jesus Christ. She has never been one to sit around and neglect God’s message.  She is now 98 years of age.

The Animal Kingdom in Orlando is where I took the photo and shot the video, in the African aviary. This theme park houses many interesting species of beasts, many of them African.

Letter to the bird Enthusiast: letter-to-bird-enthusiast

*Info gathered from various websites.

A detailed, educational BBC video link of the Weaver:

Through the Looking Glass of Val Lee – The Great White Heron and The Great Blue Heron

Great White Heron © Val J. Lee

Great White Heron © Val J. Lee

I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to observe two Great White Herons; as well as the pristine coastal setting of Punta del este, Uruguay.

My husband and I trekked beside the edge of the ocean with eyes wide open in attempt to catch it all. There is a broad, concrete walkway; whereby we could behold a great deal of sea life.

Punta del este, Uruguay © Val J. Lee

Punta del este, Uruguay © Val J. Lee

We arrived at this port of call by water taxi, aka a tender, from our cruise ship.

© Val J. Lee

The Great White Heron, above, is quite rare. It is recognized by its bright white, hanging feather headdress. Also displayed on the Great Blue Heron.

My video of Great White Heron:

I assumed I would never be able to see a Great White Heron, knowing they are incredibly rare. Many birders, even the world’s experts, surmise that Great Egrets are the Great White Herons, though they hold differences. These Egrets do not reveal the snow-white headdress that is always on display atop the Great White Herons.

Great White Heron © Val J. Lee

Great White Heron © Val J. Lee

An ornithologist, employed by Boise State University, informed me regarding the truth of these rare, exquisite specimens that exist on a small island in the lower Florida Keys.

A debate arose in our area of Idaho over a visiting, Great White Egret. A retired Boise State ornithologist, his wife and I were watching this elegant, white Heron at a wildlife area. I was thrilled to observe this shinning, white beauty! I had never seen an ave like it in Idaho, though I had in Florida:

Great Egret © Val J. Lee

Great Egret © Val J. Lee

Egrets are quite common there. The ornithologist, being a former teacher, naturally asked me if I knew what kind of bird it was. I was not absolutely sure, though obviously it resembled an Egret. He enthusiastically let me know that I was in the presence of a Great White Heron. What a privileged sighting I thought, until I sent an email and attached a photo of the Heron to our Audubon president, Pam. This was forwarded to birding experts. I received various opinions and info. The person, who seemed most knowledgable on the subject, was a current BSU ornithologist, who, as I mentioned above, seemed most accurate from what I personally researched. It was a Great White Egret not a Great White Heron.

Great White Herons display a long black or yellow beak with yellow or black legs set on yellow feet. Great White Egrets reveal a yellow beak and black legs on dark feet. The Snowy Egrets display a black beak and black legs on yellow feet. The Great Blue Herons reveal a yellow beak and dark grey legs on dark grey feet.

From my Uruguay photos, I noticed the legs on one of the Great White Herons to be yellow, topping matching yellow feet, and the other Great White revealed black limbs on yellow feet.

The White Herons in my photos do not reveal lower neck feather plumage; however, they are not often seen on the Great Blue Herons.


© Val J. Lee

© Val J. Lee


This growth appears as Herons age, the older the Blue Heron, the more lower throat feathers—and more impressive are its looks.

Great Blue Heron  © Val J. Lee

Great Blue Heron © Val J. Lee

Of course, ornithologists relish in the classifications they place on birds as the “authorities,” though many of their dubbings change over time. I am not complaining, ornithologists are a great assist in the realm of birding assessment.

I do believe the Great White Heron is a unique Heron. It may simply be an easy tag for those Whites that do not stay in the lines.

The Great White Heron is close in appearance to the Great Blue Heron, excepting the bleached coloring and beak and leg hues.

Even in the Florida Keys, the home of the Great White Heron, there seems to not be a completely convincing argument regarding the Great White Heron:

As you read here, the Florida Keys Great White Heron (lower right photo) also displays yellow legs, not the dark legs of the Blue Heron. What is the obvious difference with the Uruguay Great Whites and the Florida Keys Great Whites is the black beak.

The below information also states the Great White Herons are only located in this Florida Keys refuge. This is referring to their location in the United States. This is where the majority of this species congregate and where they live exclusively in America. The also dwell in the Yucatan Peninsula, and in the Caribbean. And, of course, I photographed them in Uruguay.

Info from US Fish and Wildlife:

Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1938 as a haven for great white herons, migratory birds, and other wildlife. Great white herons are a white color-phase of great blue herons and are only found in the Florida Keys. The refuge was created to protect great white herons from extinction. Great White Heron NWR is accessible only by boat.

(I must personally add, I believe they were crafted by God in all their white glory from the beginning of creation.)

Interestingly, Wikipedia states Great White Herons and Great Egrets are the same.

You also have the Snowy Egret to compare to. If you peer at various Snowy Egret photos, you see how much resemblance there is to the Great White Heron overall.

Many Snowy Egrets will reveal a tall, head feather warbonnet and lower feather dress—expanding like a radiant full skirt; this during courtship exhibitions. The display and precision movements are amazingly gorgeous; all crafted by Jesus Christ. They also reveal long, poofy tail feathers, every season.

The Great White Heron’s upper headdress is not for breeding impressions, being viewed continually, as stated previously. The Great White Egret’s is a breeding presentation only.

It is also interesting to note that dark and white forms of the Great Blue Heron overlap in Florida. They are the intermediate Herons known as “Wurdemann’s Herons.” They have the body of a Great Blue Heron, but the white head and neck of the Great White Heron.

Years ago, I noted a Blue Heron that was quite lighter in color than the average. It lived in our local wildlife park. I am sure it would be classified as a Wurdemann’s, though it was in Idaho.


Great Blue Heron and Great White Heron interesting facts:

I appreciate the fact that some of the Blue Herons at our Boise, Idaho, “Katherine Albertson Park” of wildlife, do not mind me moving in with my camera. I love the varying details of this grand specimen that can contort to a multitude of poses when fishing—truly a must see. The same is true of the Great White Heron. These Herons can be ballerina-like in their movements. White Herons are more so, wearing their prim, white dress that often becomes a full skirt.

You simply gaze on in amazement as you observe and watch the contortion of the necks of these Herons that often resemble an “S.” These proficient anglers always snatch their catch in a wink, but their work does not end there. They must maneuver their captured, finned critter down their long snake-like throats to reach the point of digestion.

One thing to note about these wingers, is, they are loners. You never see a large Heron fishing with another.

The Great Herons are spectacular, photogenic, wading birds of the heron family Ardeidae (Blue Heron) and Ardea alba (White Heron).

Great Blue Heron © Val J. Lee

Great Blue Heron © Val J. Lee

The Great Blue Heron is an eye-catcher, and it is commonly viewed near the shores of open water—in wetlands over most of North and Central America, as well as the West Indies. It is a rare vagrant to Europe.

The Great Blue Heron is definitely the largest North American Heron, with a head to tail length of 36-55 inches. Plus, an impressive wingspan of 66-79 inches.

 © Val J. Lee

© Val J. Lee

It weighs in at 4.6 pounds (on average). The Great White Heron may hold slightly smaller dimensions.

The Blue Heron is incredible in formation with azure feathers that cover the main body. It displays red-brown thighs, with a paired red-brown and black stripe up the flanks. Its neck is rusty-gray, with black and white streaking down the front. The crown is white, and its forehead, and sides of face. A pair of black plumes run from above the eye to the back of the head. The feathers on the lower neck are long and pluming.

Great Blue HeronGreat Blue Heron © Val J. Lee

Great Blue HeronGreat Blue Heron © Val J. Lee

Their bill is dull yellowish, becoming orange briefly at the start of the breeding season, along with its lower legs. Male and female are indistinctive.

The Great White Heron is, of course, completely snow white, except for its yellow or black legs, yellow feet and black or yellow bill.

Blues and Whites comb their down feathers with a claw on their middle toes, acting as a brush, removing all that yucky fish slime from their fishing times. They apply a powder that protects their feathers against the slime of swamps and ponds, as well as from the oily foods they consume. Obviously, they are uniquely and marvelously designed by Jesus Christ.

The call of Herons is a harsh loud croak. You can hear it from afar and it always catches my attention. For sure! Herons are most vocal during the breeding season.

The primary food for Herons is small fish, though they are also known to relish a range of shrimps, crabs, aquatic insects, rodents, other small mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and small birds.

Great Blue Heron © Val J. Lee

Great Blue Heron © Val J. Lee

It is fun to watch Herons consume their catch of the day, implementing their bills as swords. They spear it and swallow it whole. Yes, most amazing! Their angling habits are performed day and night.

I have heard Blue Herons flying in the dark; obviously trekking to their next fishing hole. God has granted them day and nocturnal vision for all their hunger needs. They most often roost for a good night snooze when the sun is setting.

My video of a Blue Heron roosting:

This species usually breeds in a monospecific (only of their kind) colony—a heronry; in trees close to lakes or other wetlands. A heronry may include other species of Herons.

The size of these colonies may be large, ranging between 5–500 nests per tree village. Several years ago, I saw such a colony. It was quite impressive … seeing all those nests in one tree.

The males are quite elaborate in their courting displays for the ladies with their concocting bodies, extended necks, bills raised to the sky, circling flights, as well as courtship noises for attention. God implements all of this to bond parents to raise their young as a team.

Parents take turns warming their unhatched young, consisting of three to six pale blue eggs. Once the wee ones are released from their shells, parents share in the responsibility of nourishment, regurgitating their caught prey to make it more like baby food during the first three weeks. The young will take directly from the beak from after this period, until the seven to eight week mark, at which time, the young will fledge—soaring through the air in their first solo flight.

Herons are monogamous during the breeding season, raising one brood. They may or may not choose the same mate the following year.

Whites and Blues live an average of 15 years. One Blue holds the age record of 23 years. God has granted them great length of days.

The LORD Jesus Christ was most gracious to provide us with this glorious, structured being. He created everything according to His desires and omnipotently. Psalm 148 from the Bible, encourages our praise to God. Praise is commanded from the heavens and praise from the earth, because the LORD commanded and all things were created. The birds are commanded to praise Him—all of creation, including mankind, are to praise the LORD for His goodness in presenting creation.

*Info gratefully gathered from various web sources.

Letter to the bird Enthusiast: letter-to-bird-enthusiast

My South American Video Show:

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