They are slightly smaller than the Great Blue Heron, standing about 3-4 feet tall with solid white feathers. They are usually found in wetlands, fresh or salt, and feed primarily on fish, frogs, crayfish, and a variety of insects. Their lifespan is 16-20 years. While concentrated in the southeast, they are found nationwide as well as in Canada.
Like most Wading Birds, they nest between March and May. The male builds the nest almost to completion, then tries to attract a female who helps finish the finer points of the home. She will lay 1-6 eggs over several days in a nest from a few feet to 100 feet off the ground, or more likely, the water. Incubation time is 23-26 days, and the chicks will fledge in 22-25 days from hatching. Both male and female feed and care for the young, who are fed regurgitated food.
At the rookery, there were nesting pairs in all the early stages of baby making, from nest-building to week old chicks. It is fascinating to watch as they fly out and in with twigs, leaves, etc. They are noisy when they re-enter the nest and with 300 or so pairs around, the racket is constant! I was fortunate to locate a nest about 15 feet off the water that I could see into from a small footbridge over the creek. This allowed me to get some shots into a nest of 3 less than one week old nestlings. The chicks are very aggressive and older ones can sometimes kill weaker siblings. They will also attack predators who try to get into the nest.The pictures below are mostly of these parents and their babies.