Right on schedule, I have been getting reports of large wading birds being spotted in the southern Piedmont. I am not talking about the common and familiar great blue herons, a species which is with us year round and has several large nesting colonies locally. Rather, I am referring to other species of large herons or egrets that disperse inland during the summer months after their nesting is complete. It is not really a migration since it is not a mass movement. It does involve a significant number of individuals, though, and the intensity can vary locally from year to year.
Birders will most commonly notice great egrets, large waders approaching the great blue heron in size. They will have yellow bills and black legs. Little blue herons have been reported to me, too. The immature birds are white, while the adults are blue-gray and brown. You will most likely encounter immature birds. They are smaller than great egrets.
I have already been contacted about some white ibis in the Grove Park neighborhood in northeast Charlotte. Ibis can be easily identified by their strongly down-curved bills. The adults are white, but brown immature birds are most commonly seen.
Less common species that potentially could be found include the snowy egret, tricolored heron and cattle egret. Snowy egrets have black bills and blackish legs. If you get a good look and the bird is an adult, the feet will be yellow. Cattle egrets have yellow bills and yellow legs. Tricolored herons are gray, brown and cream colored. If you see one of these summertime waders, check the combination of bill and leg colors and consult a field guide to help with your identification.
Roseate spoonbills have been moving northward from Florida in large numbers this year, mostly along the coast. There have been a few reports from well inland in South Carolina, so potentially this species could reach our area. If you see a large light pink to bright pink bird in Mecklenburg County, let me know. It will be a first Mecklenburg County record.