Least Bittern / Green Heron Hybrid,
revealing transition of the colors of the hybrid toward Least Bittern's hues.
This, again, is the Least Bittern - Green Heron Hybrid of reference in the two YouTube videos accessible via the home page of this site. This photo, taken two years subsequent to the videos, shows a color transition that you might expect if my assertion as to the origin of this unusual bird is indeed the hybridization of the Least Bittern and the Green Heron.The reddish hue of the head and neck, and the bluish green of the back and flanks were all but unnoticeable to the naked eye when this photo was taken. With the saturation and contrast enrichments added in the process of photo adjustment, these colors are still so muted that the overall impression of the bird is brownish, rather than the stark red and blue-green of the Green Heron. As readily observed in the brief "Bittern Catching Fish Breakfast" video, this bird is markedly smaller than the Green Heron, perhaps a bit more than half the weight of the latter. With the female Mallard two feet behind in the video as a standard of measure, the size difference from the normal Green Heron is obvious. Further validation is evidenced in the above picture with the morphing of the brighter tones of the Green Heron toward the browner hues of the Least Bittern.
The reason this unusual merging of families occured is interesting. A Least Bittern was photographed in 2006 with remarkably grayish coloration. This was actually the female Least Bittern wearing mourning colors for the loss of her mate who had been taken by a predator in the nature preserve where this drama was unfolding. Then a year or so later, folks began observing this new morph, with approximately the colors of the Green Heron, but smaller, and with more striping on the breast. We maintained then that the new morph was derived from this unusual hybridization, and was potentiated by the fact that the Green Heron itself was derived from the Least Bittern ages ago, enabling the Bittern mother to call her mate from the depths of the gene pool of the Green Heron. The color progression of the new family from the bright reds and greens imparted by the initial contact with the male Green Heron toward the brownish hues of the Heron's source species, the Least Bittern, is all but indisputable affirmation of our perception of the sequence of events.
The following three photos provide images of Green Herons from the same area
where these photos of the Least Bittern / Green Heron Hybrid were taken.
Adult Green Heron, April, 2011
Two Green Herons, adult plumage,
Two Green Herons, Immature Plumage,
With Whisps of Down Still Protruding from Their Heads, August, 2007.
Three Views, Female Least Bittern,
In Gray 'Mourning Plumage', 12 August, 2006.
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