Object of her Affection

One August day, I realized that our two-year-old male had lost his right hand.

© Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great blue heron stretching his damaged wing.

Above the “wrist,” the bone structure of a great blue heron’s wing is a little bit similar to our arms.

From the wrist down, it’s an entirely different story, but if you look closely at a detailed photo of an outstretched heron’s wing, the most outward feathers appear to be the heron-equivalent of hands and fingers. When about to land, in fact, the heron has the ability to cup the “hands” and “fingers” independently of the bulk of the wing, curving them forward to slow it’s landing speed. 

The previous weekend, while watching him in the cove, I noticed that the leading edge of one of his wings looked a little ragged. It was difficult to see clearly from my position in the kayak in the natural-cover blind. He kept his wings tucked along his sides as he fished from a partly-submerged log as usual, and the binocular angle was awkward.

At the time, I thought perhaps it was just that he was molting still.

But the nagging question bothered me – would he molt his entire set of large hand feathers all at the same time?

I looked at the many photos from recent sessions in the cove with him and couldn’t tell definitively if it was molt or not. There was something white out of place, a shaft-like projection that could have been a feather’s quill shaft, but with the actual feather fronds stripped off, but that was just a guess.

The photos from that August afternoon proved me wrong: he had some sort of traumatic amputation and lost his right wing’s hand.

My heart was in my throat watching him as he stretched out his wounded wing. I felt sad beyond words, anxious for his long-term survival, wondering how the injury would affect his migration.

How did fare? Click here to see his amorous antics with the object of his affection.

And as for me? I am smitten by this plucky heron.


Thanks to Cheri Lucas Rowlands and WordPress for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Object. Cheri challenged us this week with the word “object.” Is an object of one’s affection ok for this topic? I hope so, because this great blue heron certainly fits the bill.)

Thanks to Praire Birder Charlotte for the Feathers on Friday challenge.


A selection of my heron and flower photos is now available at the Five Crows Gallery in Natick, MA. Drop in and see the work of the many wonderfully creative artists who show there when you’re in the area.

Five Crows is on FaceBook. To give the gallery a visit, please click here.

Remember: Walk softly and carry a long lens.™

The Tao of Feathers™

© 2014 Babsje. (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron, Kayak Birding

Posted on January 31, 2014, in ardea herodias, Art, Birds, Feathers on Friday, Great Blue Heron, Heron, Kayaking, Nature Photography, Photography, postaday, Weekly Photo Challenge, Wild Bird Wednesday, Wildlife Photography and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. The poor thing, it looks like it’s doing well despite its injured wing. Thanks for joining me for FoF!

  2. HI Thanks fr an interesting post about that Heron andI am pleased that it did not stop him breeding and rearing a family.

    • Many thanks for your kind words, Margaret! I agree with you, I’m thrilled that he was able to successfully mate the two seasons following his injury.

  3. really nice photo and you wrote the story very well – and how cool that this heron pushed on with a disability – pretty inspirational! 🙂

    • I’m so glad you like this one and that you found the heron inspiring! He did quite well despite that wounded wing. I could tell the difference in his flight at times, but it didn’t stop him from finding a mate and breeding. I love happy endings, don’t you?

  1. Pingback: Feathers on Friday | Prairie Birder

  2. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge / B4 Retouch: Object (Birds eating Nuts) | What's (in) the picture?

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