Beautiful Great Blue Heron Glamour Shot and Focus on Feathers

Great blue heron head-shot in the cove.

Head-shot of Great Blue Heron preening – babsjeheron

Look, you might as well know, this thing
is going to take endless repair: rubber bands,
crazy glue, tapioca, the square of the hypotenuse.
Nineteenth century novels. Heartstrings, sunrise:
all of these are useful. Also, feathers.

Barbara Kingsolver
“Hope, An Owner’s Manual”

How many different types of feathers do you see in this next detailed image?

© Babsje (

Great Blue Heron Feathers – Detail – babsjeheron

“Everything must be made as simple as possible. But not simpler.” 

~ Albert Einstein

Great blue heron , detail of neck feathers.

Great Blue Heron, detail of neck feathers – babsjeheron

While most people are readily aware of the magnificent wingspan of the Great Blue Heron, the beauty of Heron feathers isn’t simply limited to those huge wings. There are a number of less prominent but still stunning feathers, some arranged in intricate patterns.

The photo detail crop shown above is one I have always liked because of the way it reveals the lovely pattern of a Great Blue Heron’s neck feathers. Here, the Heron has her bill tucked behind a wing, and her neck juts out prominently, showing off the symmetrical pattern of feathers running the length of the neck,

This next photo shows some other great blue feather patterns. Can you guess where on the heron these are found?

Great blue heron feather patterns.

Great Blue Heron feather patterns – babsjeheron

Location of feathers shown – clockwise, from top left:

immature wing,
adult lower neck,
adult upper neck,
adult upper back,
immature shoulder patch.

© 2013 Babsje. (Http://

Great Blue Heron Feather – babsjeheron

Red is grey and yellow white,
but we decide which is right,
and which is an illusion.

Moody Blues, Days of Future Passed

The feather shown in the top pane here is the same feather as that shown at bottom. Both photos were taken on the same day, with the same camera and lens, within minutes of each other. Only the background colors have been changed. Its a natural optical illusion.

Some fascinating examples of ‘color illusions’ such as this can be found at Brain Den. Enjoy!

Question: How do Great Blue Herons fly when they’re molting?

Answer: Awkwardly.

And what tutorial on feathers is complete without at least mentioning the molt?

© Babsje (

Great Blue Heron molting – babsjeheron

Some birds molt by dropping most of their feathers at the same time, and then go into hiding while the new feathers are coming in.

As you can see from the above photo, this young Great Blue Heron has only dropped a full layer of wing feathers already. For comparison, the photo here below shows the intact wing feathers.

© Babsje (

Great Blue Heron wings for comparison with wings in molt – babsjeheron

It was a treat to observe the molting young Great Blue Heron that summer. Birds in molt tend to make themselves scarce, hiding away until they have regained solid flight, to keep safe from predators. This young Heron chose my favorite cove as a hideout, and so I was able to photograph for a couple of weeks, well-hidden in a natural-cover blind along the shore.

The Heron was able to fly while missing that layer of feathers, but lifting off and gaining altitude seemed slow and clumsy compared to the Heron’s usual gracefulness. Coming in for a landing was also awkward – with fewer heathers to act as “brakes.” If you look closely at the top photo here, you can see that the Heron’s neck and head feathers are all erect. That isn’t a configuration that’s part of their usual landing, and I had the impression that the bird was straining to use all of its feathers – even neck feathers – to land.

Great Blue Herons have special downy feathers that crumble and create a powdery substance they use to clean their other feathers. While the powder down feathers are most comminly mentioned as occurring on the Heron’s chest, I believe that the bright white bands you see in the top photo give a good look at other layers of these special feathers.


This post is prompted by the Lens Artist ladies (Tina, Amy, Patti, and Leya) and Cee Neuner, all of whom encourage the community. This week, the Lens Artists focus on gorgeous photos with the theme of Your Inspiration. It is no secret that a Great Blue Heron is my muse and an inspiration. The poet William Stafford wrote an exquisite poem about muses, “When I Met My Muse.” My reading of that poem is that our muse lives inside each of us. For me, the muse is the Great Blue Heron within. As Stafford wrote

“. . . I am your own
way of looking at things,” she said. “When
you allow me to live with you, every
glance at the world around you will be
a sort of salvation.” And I took her hand.

When I Met My Muse [excerpt]
Poem by William Stafford
Ask Me: 100 Essential Poems of William Stafford

From Patti Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 160: Inspiration .

From Tina Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 160: Inspiration .

From Amy Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 160: Inspiration .

From Leya Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 160: Inspiration .

Thanks to Cee for her CFFC: Blue.


Folks, now that some areas are opening back up, please consider supporting your local Arts communities – whether music, theater, crafts, visual arts venues, and others. All have been impacted over the past year and they need your love.

My brick & mortar presence in Massachusetts dates back to 2009 in several local venues/galleries.

2015 (May), 2016 (March and July), 2018 (May, June, July), 2019 (December), 2020 (January) several one-woman photography shows at TCAN – The Center for Arts Natick
2018 (September, October) one-woman photography show at Natick Town Hall
2013 thru now 2021 Five Crows Gallery in Natick
2009 one-woman photography show at a local Audubon Sanctuary

From December 4 through January 28, 2020, my Great Blue Heron photographs were once again on display on the walls of the lobby and theater in a free one-woman show at the Summer Street Gallery, of The Center for Arts in Natick.

Many of the photos in the exhibit were shown for the first time, and do not appear on the blog. As always, many of the photos were taken on the waterways of the Charles River watershed.

Thanks to Erica V and WordPress for the recent WPC: Place in the World. My favorite place is where the Herons are, of course it is. And the Herons? Their place is near the water, but also on the gallery walls and my blog. How else can I share them with you?

Thanks also to Ben H and WordPress for their WPC Challenge: Liquid. The Herons are drawn to water, as am I.

Remember: Walk softly and carry a long lens.™

May the Muse be with you.™

The Tao of Feathers™

© 2003-2021 Babsje. (

Great Blue Heron, TCAN, Five Crows, Natick


Posted on August 12, 2021, in # Lens-Artists, ardea herodias, Birds, Cee's Fun Foto Challenge, daily prompt, Feathers, Heron, Nature, Photo Essay, Photography, Wildlife Photography and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 34 Comments.

  1. Wonderful images Babsje, I especially love the detail in the neck feathers. It reminds me of some of the Celtic designs we see here – perhaps they were inspired by a heron! 💛

  2. Great post about feathers Babsje! It’s that time of year isn’t it. I’m always on the look out for a feather!

    • Many thanks Wayne. Glad you like the feathers. I think part of their magic is the way – when you least expect – nature gifts you one. Your Eagles and Herons may already have you in their sights! Best, Babsje

  3. Simply wonderful, Babsje! I learned a lot from that. The folks at Wachusett Meadow, my local audubon, always say that the herons leave on the last day of summer camp, which is next week. What do you do in the winter without herons ? You must miss them terribly!
    Wishing you a wonderful (if hot) day,

    • Hi Julie. Thanks for your kind comment. So it is eternal spring, sumner and fall for me and the herons. In deep winter all I need to do is open my laptop and view Heron photos from warmer days. That said, I have been on the lake as late as December 27th before it froze over. Not all Great Blue Herons migrate from here. Some hardy souls winter over. The ones that do migrate leave between late August and early October from here. You’re farther west than I am where it snows and gets colder sooner and so your Herons will leave earlier. So in deep winter I just go into withdrawal and look at summer archives. It helps a lot. Glad you liked the feathers post! Best, Babsje

  4. Very very nice detail shots, Babsje ♥

  5. I adore feathers. I’m forever picking up discarded ones in the yard or wherever I find them. Your detailed images were the next best thing! Actually they’re better since they’re still attached to the bird. We seem to have an abundance of Spotted Sandpiper baby feather fluff around here…they’re in that awkward stage. A beautiful post as always! 🙏

    • Hi Gunta! This is the best phrasing ever “since they’re still attached to the birds.” If brought a big smile. Glad you adore feathers and the spotted birds you have sound adorable. Thanks for your kind comment. Best, Babsje

  6. Great images, as always! I love the details and the wings.
    Thank you for sharing with us.

  7. Excellent. It’s hard to get behind the ears with a beak like that! 🙂

  8. Lovely as always Babsje. The feathers close-up are wonderful. My favorite experiences with the herons are from when they are young chicks. We’re fortunate to have several rookeries nearby where it’s great to watch their antics.

    • Many thanks for your kind words Tina! I’m awed by the diversity or birds you have there that we lack – such as Anhinga, Wood Stork, Ibis, Spoonbills and more. We only rarely have a Great Egret in residence. Great Blue Heron chicks are so fascinating to observe. Thanks again. Best, Babsje

  9. We have learnt so many information about feathers from your blog and the photos are also exclusive. Thank you for sharing ☺️🤗🌹👌

  10. A wonderful gallery, Babsje. I especially love the black and white feather image.

  11. Great gallery, Babsje – my favourites are the close-ups of feathers. Just gorgoeus.

  12. Babsje, thank you for these beautiful details and an interpretation of what we are seeing.

  1. Pingback: Beautiful Great Blue Heron Magic Trick? | Babsje Heron

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