What graceful bird has bright yellow feet that are rarely seen because they are in the mud?

Photo from ODFW.

The bright yellow feet of the adult Snowy Egret are typically hidden by the mud and shallow water. The younger birds have dull yellowish legs and feet. The distinctive foot (yellow) and bill (black) colors make this bird easy to identify compared to other herons.

Habitat

Snowy Egrets forage the marshes and wetlands along the Oregon coast. The bright white feathers make the bird easy to see particularly as it stands still, closely watching its prey and poising for an ambush.

Prey can insects and worms, crustaceans, fish and crayfish, reptiles, snails, and worms. They will also startle prey through movements such as head sways and wing flicks, or through sounds, stab prey with their beaks, and take prey stirred up by other animals (such as cows).  

Too beautiful

At one time, the distinctive bright white feathers growing along the bird’s nape and neck captured too much attention. Egrets were overhunted in North America for these stylish hat decorations until 1910. Populations have increased.

Check out the bright yellow feet. Photo from Unsplash.

On the rebound

The Snowy egret is an Oregon Conservation Strategy Species in the Northern Basin and Range ecoregion and protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

The birds breed eastern Oregon and in several southern U.S. states from California to Mississippi and throughout Central America. Snowy Egrets can be found year around in South America.

Where to look

The Snowy Egret is native and very common on the southern Oregon coast and likes to hang out near estuaries (such as Haynes Inlet near North Bend and along the Coos Bay), salt marshes (Isthmus Slough), flooded agricultural fields (like along the Coquille River drainage near Coquille) and mudfields, pond edges, and other shallow waters. A full-grown Snowy Egret is about two feet tall and has a wing span of nearly 40-inches.  

Where to learn more:
–All about birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology (https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Snowy_Egret/id)
–ebird, Merlin, Cornell Lab of Ornithology (https://ebird.org/species/snoegr)
–Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (https://myodfw.com/wildlife-viewing/species/bitterns-herons-and-egrets)

Western gull (Larus occidentalis)

The Western gull is a large, white-headed gull that lives on the west coast of North America between British Columbia and Baja, California. This species is an exclusively marine gull that is seldom encountered inland. It nests on offshore islands and rocks along the coast as well as islands inside estuaries. Within nesting colonies, long term pairs aggressively defend territories whose borders may shift slightly from year to year, but are maintained for the life of the male. The Western gull typically lives 15 years, but can live as long as 25 years.

Western gulls are omnivores and eat a variety of things including fish and other aquatic invertebrates. Like many other gull species, Western gulls drop hard-shelled items from the air to break them on hard surfaces. The Western gull is highly opportunistic and will steal unguarded eggs or chicks of other species. They will also situate colonies near sea lion breeding colonies and scavenge dead pups.

Because of their opportunistic nature and adaptability, gulls can thrive in urban environment. However, living in close proximity to human environs means these birds are also subject to abnormal environmental pressures. For example, when their normal sources of food are diminished, gulls are quick to take advantage of an easy food source such as a trash and leftover scraps. By exploiting unnatural food resources their population may be growing larger than it would normally thus upsetting the ecosystem balance. Next time you visit the beach be sure to take your extra food home and pick up any trash to prevent Western gulls and other seabirds from eating foods outside their typical diet.

American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)

The American crow, the more you know about them the more interesting they are. Crows are a large, intelligent, all-black bird with a hoarse, cawing voice that is familiar over much the continent.

They are common sights in treetops, fields, and roadsides, and in habitats ranging from open woods and empty beaches to town centers. These birds are inquisitive, somewhat mischievous, and good learners and problem-solvers.

They usually feed on the ground and eat almost anything, including earthworms, insects and other small animals, seeds, and fruit as well as garbage and chicks they rob from nests.

Communal Roosting 

American crows are very social, sometimes forming flocks in the thousands. In the winter, American crows congregate in larger numbers to sleep in communal roosts.

Roosts can consist of a few hundred up to two million crows. Some roosts have been forming in the same general area for well over 100 years. 

Mobbing

American crows will work together as a group to harass or drive off predators, a behavior known as mobbing. This interesting video features a crow solving 8 puzzles in a row in order to reach food.

The crow has also been the subject of Native American legends, including this one: http://nativeamericans.mrdonn.org/stories/raven.html