COMMON NAME: Great Blue Heron
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Ardea herodias
Not a great picture, right? This is a distant, shadowy picture of the one Great Blue Heron I’ve seen around here, flying over my property (10 Mar 2012). Its primary hang-out is the neighbor’s pond 1/4 mile up the road.
Below you will find much better pictures of this bird that I took a week later while riding past the neighbor’s pond.
Click on any photo to enlarge
This one’s a bit blurry, but it’s the only photo I got pre-flight. I promise, there are better, clearer shots provided below.
DESCRIPTION: The Great Blue Heron is a large wading bird common near the shores of open water and in wetlands over most of North and Central America as well as the Caribbean and the Galápagos Islands. It is rare in Europe.
It has head-to-tail length of 36–54 in, a wingspan of 66–79 in, a height of 45–54 in, and a weight of roughly 4-1/2 to 8 pounds. Features include grayish flight feathers, red-brown thighs, and a paired red-brown and black stripe up the flanks.
The bill is dull yellowish, becoming orange briefly at the start of the breeding season, and the lower legs gray, also becoming orangish at the start of the breeding season.
Just as it’s taking off from its standing/wading position. What a beautiful big bird.
In this photo, the neck is straight, it has not yet adjusted its head to an S-shape as it does in full flight.
HABITAT: “The Great Blue Heron can adapt to almost any wetland habitat in its range. They may be found in numbers in fresh and saltwater marshes, mangrove swamps, flooded meadows, lake edges, or shorelines. They are quite adaptable and may be seen in heavily developed areas as long as they hold bodies of water bearing fish.” – Wikipedia excerpt
Here you can see the neck bending into the S-shape. Notice also the long, dark plumage extending from the head.
FOOD: “The primary food for Great Blue Heron is small fish, though it is also known to opportunistically feed on a wide range of shrimp, crabs, aquatic insects, rodents and other small mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and small birds. Herons locate their food by sight and usually swallow it whole. Herons have been known to choke on prey that is too large.” – Wikipedia excerpt
A little bit of a different view/angle, showing more of the neck and shoulder are and a varying wing position.
BREEDING: “Great Blue Herons build a bulky stick nest, and the female lays three to six pale blue eggs. One brood is raised each year. If the nest is abandoned or destroyed, the female may lay a replacement clutch. Reproduction is negatively affected by human disturbance, particularly during the beginning of nesting. Repeated human intrusion into nesting areas often results in nest failure, with abandonment of eggs or chicks.
Both parents feed the young at the nest by regurgitating food. Parent birds have been shown to consume up to four times as much food when they are feeding young chicks than when laying or incubating eggs.” – Wikipedia excerpt
And it is gone. It usually keep fairly low to the ground until it reaches the other end of the field (and its pond) and then lifts off over the surrounding trees, flies a circle around the area, touching back down at its place near the pond’s edge.
I’ve noticed that this bird has taken up residence at the neighbor’s pond for about the last 3 years, I think year-round. We’ve been living here for 5. I think it’s a solitary Great Blue Heron, as I’ve never seen a 2nd one around.
For more information on, and other photos of, the Great Blue Heron, visit the Wikipedia page (click here).
For highly detailed and comprehensive info and a large supply of photos, visit the Great Blue Heron record at Encyclopedia of Life (click here).
I hope to capture more and better Heron flight photos over my rural Texas property one of these days.