Beauty for Beauty’s Sake

Ardea herodias (aka Great Blue Heron)

We spotted this one hunting near the marina by our house. I’m guessing a boy given the longer ornamental plumage? These birds are everywhere around here, especially this time of year but we’ve spotted them in winter too. Truly a beautiful bird. I’m reading a book titled The Evolution of Beauty by Richard Prum, wherein he makes the argument that the aesthetic features in males (physical traits and behaviors) have co-evolved with the female’s preference for them, independent of any survival or reproductive advantage of the features. In other words, beauty for beauty’s sake. His thesis draws on over thirty years observing the reproductive behaviors of Manakins and certain species of Pheasants found in jungles around the world. It set me to wonder if the aesthetic beauty of the Great Blue Heron may have evolved in a similar way.