The closest in size to the great blue heron, the common egret is an impressive bird. We are lucky to have a good number of them on the shores of Humboldt Bay. This great white bird has an yellow bill (orange when breeding) and black legs and feet. The common egret stalks its prey with slow, deliberate, long steps with its neck extended in eager expectation of a nice lunch.
One must not confuse the common egret with the little blue heron, which is white in its juvenile phase. The little blue heron is slender and about the size of a snowy egret. The legs are a dull greenish color and the bill is bluish tipped with black. Since identification is difficult in some light conditions or at a distance, I am never sure unless a common egret is nearby. Then I let size guide me. (Note: Serious bird watchers will look down on this practice.)
On Humboldt Bay, the common egret nests high in the tall trees of a rookery on Woodley Island. The bridge from Eureka to the Peninsula touches down on the island. In the 1960s when the bridge was under construction, there was some concern that the traffic might disturb the rookery and diminish the blue heron and common egret population. However, the bridge seemed to have the opposite effect. The population actually increased. I always thought it was due to the ‘TV factor.’ It gave the birds some entertainment while nest sitting.