The Great Blue Heron

July 17, 2015

The Great Blue Heron is a large wading bird common near the shores of open water and in wetlands over most of North America and Central America as well as the Caribbean and the Galápagos Islands. It is the largest heron in North America possessing a large body with a slate-gray body, chestnut and black accents, and very long legs and neck. Great blue herons’ size (3.2 to 4.5 feet/1 to 1.4 meters) and wide wingspan (5.5 to 6.6 feet/1.7 to 2 meters) makes them a joy to see in flight.  It is often seen standing silently along inland rivers or lakeshores, or flying high overhead, with slow wing beats, its head hunched back onto its shoulders. It may move slowly, but Great Blue Herons can strike like lightning to grab a fish or snap up a gopher.  The Great Heron has blue-gray feathers on most of its body and a plume of feathers on its chest and back. It has a long, pointed yellow bill and long legs. Adults have white on the top of their heads and long black plumes above their eyes. There is also an all white version of the great blue heron, the great white heron that can be found in southern Florida.

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The Great Blue Heron forages mostly by standing still or walking very slowly in shallow water, waiting for fish to swim near then striking with rapid thrust of bill; they also forages on shore, from floating objects as well as in grasslands and will hunt by day or night. Their diet consists mostly of fish but they also frogs, salamanders, turtles, snakes, insects, rodents, birds. It has been seen stalking voles and gophers in fields, capturing rails at edge of marsh, eating many species of small water birds.

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This bird breeds in colonies often with its own species. The male chooses the nest site and displays there to attract mate. It would stretch its neck up with bill pointing skyward, flying in circles above colony with neck extended, stretching neck forward with head and neck feathers erected and then snapping bill shut. The nest is built by the female with the male gathering the materials. Incubation of eggs produced about 3-5 sometimes 2-7 is done by both sexes. The young will be fed by both parents by regurgitation.

Herons are not your typical backyard visitors but they can sometimes be seen visiting backyards with fish ponds. To protect your fishes from feeding herons, place a long drain pipe for your fishes to hide in.


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