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Blue Heron

photo taken by Howard on recent trip to Georgia.

Blue Heron , Ardea herodias,

Description:  Wading bird in the heron family
Habit: Common over most of North and Central America as well as the West Indies and the Galpagos Islands,

Identification: Largest North American heron, with about a head-to-tail length of 36-55 inches, wingspan of  about 66-79 inches, and a weight about 4-8 pounds.

It is blue-gray overall, with black flight feathers, red-brown thighs, and a paired red-brown and black stripe up the flanks; the neck is rusty-gray, with black and white streaking down the front; the head is paler, with a nearly white face, and a pair of black plumes running from just above the eye to the back of the head.

The feathers on the lower neck are long and plume-like; it also has plumes on the lower back at the start of the breeding season. The bill is dull yellowish, becoming orange briefly at the start of the breeding season, and the lower legs gray, also becoming orangey at the start of the breeding season. Immature birds are duller in color, with a dull blackish-gray crown, and the flank pattern only weakly defined; they have no plumes, and the bill is dull gray-yellow

Other Names:  Grande Héron (French) Garza morena, Garza blanca granda, Gallinaza (Spanish)


  • The great blue Heron eats primarily fish, it is adaptable and willing to eat other animals as well.  Voles (mice) were a very important part of the diet, making up  half of what was fed to nestlings. Occasionally a heron will choke to death trying to eat a fish that is too large to swallow.

  • Great blue herons congregate at fish hatcheries, creating potential problems for the fish farmers, but the Herons ate mostly diseased fish.  Sick fish spent more time near the surface of the water where they were more vulnerable to the herons.  

    The great blue heron suffered less from plume hunters and pesticides than other herons, and its numbers have remained strong.

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