RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas – Tucked in the protective branches of thick mangroves along the shore of the Lower Laguna Madre, this Green heron shelters a clutch of four newborn chicks.
Every now and then a couple of downy heads pop up as a parent tends to the offspring.
Skewered just below the nest on a mangrove limb is the discarded pale, bluish-green eggshell of a recently hatched youngster.
Both the male and female share incubation and feeding duties, and the two are virtually identical in plumage.
When not caring for their young, the herons are out stalking shallows for small fish, frogs, insects and crustaceans.
Their preferred method of hunting is to remain still as a stalk near waters edge and deftly ambush any potential meal.
Meanwhile, back at the nest what a difference a week makes as a noticeably larger junior pokes its head out from beneath sheltering feathers.
When the parent leaves the nest for a fishing trip, four young eagerly await return in hopes of a piscine treat.
Arriving back, the adult is immediately assailed by the foursome as they aggressively reach for the parent’s bill striving to be first to receive a regurgitated meal.
After much strenuous stabbing, a lucky youngster latches onto the parent’s bill and receives a meal.
It’s a wonder the frenzied spearing doesn’t put out an eye, and after several
feedings the adult has had enough and leaves the nest.
The four little herons however are ready for more, and it will take a devoted and daring parent to enter this nest of sword wielding youngsters.
The rapidly growing chicks will soon be clambering about in their mangrove home, where they will continue to be fed by their parents for several weeks until they hone their hunting skills.