One of the focal birds that I am working with on my project in the great white heron. Prior to this internship I wasn’t aware of this bird but it is quite interesting with his relationship to the great white heron. Debate on its taxonomic position has gone on for years and what was once considered its own species and then only a color morph, the great white heron is currently believed to be a subspecies of the great blue heron, although the debate continues on. The great white heron is unique to South Florida and the Florida Keys. Florida Bay is home to the largest number of breeding pairs (850). Because of its limited numbers, documentation of its presence in Biscayne Bay is important. Adding to the mix is the presence of the Wurdemann’s Heron which is an intermediate form produced by the hybridization between a great blue heron and great white heron, which exhibits as one would expect an intermediate plumage. Wherever the truth may lie, I find this absolutely fascinating.
Readings on this topic:
- “Great White” Heron – not just a color morph – Article by David Sibley
- A Wurdemann’s-like heron from South Florida
- Evaluating the Taxonomic Status of the Great White Heron (Ardea Herodias Occidentalis) Using Morphological, Behavioral and Genetic Evidence. (Mcguire 2001)