THE GREAT BLUE HERON
The largest heron in North America, the Great Blue Heron has a six-foot wingspan in flight; although it only weighs 5 to 6 pounds. Its slate-gray body and long legs and neck, with a shaggy ruff at the base, make it easy to spot. Thanks to specially shaped vertebrae, its neck curls up into an S shape for more aerodynamic flight.
The Great Blue Heron can be found in a variety of freshwater and saltwater habitats including marshes, meadows, lake shores and shallow bays. It’s in such environments, the Great Blue Heron can be seen moving slowly through the water, in search for prey. They’ll also stand silently in wet meadows and along riverbanks, waiting for prey to approach before striking with their sharp bills and using their neck muscles to swallow the prey whole. Dagger-shaped bills help impale larger fish.
Great Blue Heron
It’s a diverse diet that enables the Great Blue Heron to inhabit many different habitats where they feed on fish, amphibians, reptiles, invertebrates, small mammals, such as mice and gophers, and even small birds. Fortunately for the Great Blue Heron, it can hunt day and night, due to a high percentage of rod-type photoreceptors that improve night vision.
Although they’re primarily solitary foragers, Great Blue Herons nest in colonies, typically found in forests, on islands and
near mudflats, away from human habitation but close enough to feeding areas. Although they mainly nest in trees, some 100 or more feet off the ground, they also nest on the ground and in bushes.
Despite increasing numbers since 1966, the Great Blue Heron still suffers the loss of habitant, human development destroying wetlands needed for feeding and breeding. Contamination in waterways has also posed a threat to their populations.