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  • Writer's pictureTerry Wise

Not Bluey - Our Great Blue (Heron)!

The Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) is indeed a fascinating bird, often evoking thoughts of ancient creatures like the pterodactyl with its impressive size and distinct calls. These majestic birds have a subtle blue-gray plumage, gray neck, and a striking black and white throat. Their yellowish-orange bills and yellowish legs add to their distinctive appearance.

Great Blue Herons are commonly found along shorelines of ponds, lakes, and wetlands. Occasionally, you can see them roosting in the trees around the western Carillon Stonegate Pond. They average about 4 feet in height, weigh around 5 pounds, and have an expansive wingspan of 6 feet.

In flight, Great Blue Herons fold their necks into an “S” shape and trail their long legs behind, which differentiates them from storks and cranes that fly with their necks fully extended. Their flight is often described as majestic, though when approaching head-on, they can resemble the “Klingon Bird of Prey” from Star Trek.

These birds are skilled hunters, feeding primarily on fish, frogs, crustaceans, snakes, and other small aquatic animals. They wade slowly through shallow waters or stand motionless, striking quickly to snatch up their prey with their sharp bills.

Great Blue Herons are highly adaptable and thrive in various habitats, from freshwater and saltwater areas to grasslands and agricultural fields. They typically nest in trees near wetlands, often in large colonies called rookeries - there a rookery a few miles north of our pond. Their nests are large, up to three feet wide and one foot deep. The breeding season runs from March to May, with eggs hatching in about a month and the young fledging approximately two months later.

Migration patterns vary, with some herons migrating to the northern U.S. and Canada for breeding, while others remain in the southern and central U.S. year-round. Despite slight population decreases, the Great Blue Heron remains a species of low concern, with an estimated global breeding population of 700,000.

These birds are generally silent but can produce a variety of squawking calls, especially when alarmed. They spend most of their waking hours stalking for food and are monogamous during the breeding season, though they typically choose new partners each year.

Herons’ remarkable patience, distinctive flight, and adaptability make them a captivating subject for bird watchers and nature enthusiasts alike.

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