The largest and most
widespread heron, Great Blue Herons are familiar to many in North America. Vary adaptable, the Great Blue Heron
can be found living in a wide
variety of environments, from mangrove swamps in Florida to the coastline of
Alaska. They are similarly very adaptable in diet, and eating a wide variety of items.
They usually breed in
nesting colonies with large nesting platforms of sticks.
Habitat: Marshes, sloughs, ponds,
streams, rivers, and lakes.
Diet: Variable, includes fish, frogs,
salamanders, rodents, snakes, birds, and large insects. Birds in certain
locations may specialize in a specific prey item.
Behavior: Primarily forages by standing still in the water or walking
slowly, and then striking quickly with it's bill when prey items are spotted.
They will hunt day or night.
Nesting: April and May. Great Blue Herons are
colonial nesters, occassionally in mixed colonies with other wading bird
species. The nest is a large platform of sticks, and is sometimes placed
in a tree, in dense shrubs, in thick wetland vegetation, or on the ground,
depending upon location and predator abundance. The female usually lays 3
to 5 eggs, and both parents help to incubate them. When the eggs hatch,
both parents help raise and feed the young. The young stay at the nest for
a long period of time, for 2 months or more, before fledging.
Migration: Birds in the northern half of the
U.S. are generally migratory. Winters in southern U.S. or near
coasts, also down through Mexico, Central America, and northern South America.
Similar Species: Superficially similar to Sandhill
Crane, Great Egret, or other large cranes and
egrets, but generally distinctive compared to other North American Egret and
Heron species. Most similar to the Gray
Heron, the Old World ecological counterpart fot he Great Blue Heron.
Conservation Status: Generally stable throughout its range,
Great Blue Herons are found across a very wide geographic area, and are common
in many areas.
The IUCN lists the Great Blue Heron as a species of "Least Concern".
eNature.com: Great Blue Heron
Whatbird.com: Great Blue Heron
Photo Information: May 2nd, 2003 -- Western Minnehaha County -- Terry L. Sohl
Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or
text links below for additional, higher-resolution Great Blue Heron photos.