Re: Red legged White Faced Heron

To: "Kevin Vang" <>, <>, "Birding Aus" <>
Subject: Re: Red legged White Faced Heron
From: "Danny Rogers" <>
Date: Mon, 23 Aug 2004 21:21:13 +1000
A few brief words in defence of HANZAB - it would have been difficult for the author of the White-faced Heron text in HANZAB to consult the Handbook of the Birds of the World, which was published two years later!
I didn't have anything to do with the White-faced Heron text in HANZAB, but I prepared lots of other Bare Parts texts when I used to work for HANZAB. Lack of information on bare part colours was nearly always a problem - hardly anybody reports them. Lots of the plumage information published in field guides and the like is ultimately derived from museum specimens, but colours of bare parts are not preserved in specimens, so we usually had to work from paltry published literature, whatever photos we could dig up, and the (often vague) details that some collectors wrote on the labels of specimens at the time of collection. Rufous Whistler is a good example of how neglected bare part colours are. It's a very common and easily observed species, yet it was only a few years ago that it was first reported (in a short paper by Jo Weineke and David James) that Rufous Whistlers have substantial seasonal change in bill colour.
The red legs recently photographed in White-faced Herons might be a courtship condition, and it would be well worth following it up and publishing something about it. The bare parts of some species of heron change colour for a brief period while courting and mating - HANZAB reports several examples. I can't say I've paid much attention to these changes in the field myself, but they can be very striking indeed: I was baffled and blown away the first time I encountered Intermediate Egrets with blazing scarlet legs and bill.
Danny Rogers

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