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A Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias, 105-130 cm) waiting to hunt or fish its meal.

From: www.birds.cornell.edu

The largest and most widespread heron in North America, the Great Blue Heron can be found along the ocean shore or the edge of a small inland pond. An all white form is found from southern Florida into the Caribbean, and used to be considered a separate species, the "Great White Heron."

Description

Large, gray bird.
Long legs
Long, "S"-shaped neck.
Long, thick bill.
White crown stripe.
Black plume extending from behind eye to off the back of the neck.
Shaggy feathers on neck and back.
Bluish gray back, wings, and belly.
Reddish or gray neck.
White morph all white with pale legs, yellow bill.

Size: 97-137 cm (38-54 in)
Wingspan: 167-201 cm (66-79 in)
Weight: 2100-2500 g (74.13-88.25 ounces)
Sex Differences
Sexes look alike.

Sound
Call a deep, hoarse croak.


Conservation Status
The Great Blue Heron suffered less from plume hunters and pesticides than other herons, and its numbers have remained strong.

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


Cool Facts
The white form of the Great Blue Heron, known as the "great white heron," is found nearly exclusively in shallow marine waters along the coast of very southern Florida, the Yucatan Peninsula, and in the Caribbean. Where the dark and white forms overlap in Florida, intermediate birds known as "Wurdemann's herons" can be found. They have the bodies of a Great Blue Heron, but the white head and neck of the great white heron.


Although the Great Blue Heron eats primarily fish, it is adaptable and willing to eat other animals as well. Several studies have found that voles (mice) were a very important part of the diet, making up nearly half of what was fed to nestlings in Idaho. 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. A study found that herons ate mostly diseased fish that would have died shortly anyway. Sick fish spent more time near the surface of the water where they were more vulnerable to the herons.

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Additional Photos by Mario Belanger (EOSF1) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Note Writer [C: 169 W: 1 N: 47] (1944)
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