by Marcia Davis – Go Knoxville
In the hours and days after Morton Massey of Knoxville reported several rare and unusual wading birds on eBird on July 13, many birders arrived at Gupton Wetlands (part of Swan Pond Recreation Area near the Kingston Steam Plant in Roane County) to look for the rarities.
Morton reported two white ibises (one adult and one immature), five little blue herons (all white-phase immatures), one black tern and four cattle egrets. That evening Victor and Ruben Stoll of Centerville arrived. They saw the ibises plus four black-crowned night-herons and an amazing 42 little blue herons. This is a remarkably high number of little blues for East Tennessee. The Stoll brothers also saw 24 cattle egrets and 10 green herons.
Little blue herons are unusual in that their feathers are either all white or all blue, or a mixture of both. Juvenile males and females are white for nearly two years before they molt into the solid, dark slate-blue adult plumage.
Why are little blues different colors depending on their age?