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Great Blue Heron

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Great Blue Herons are the largest of the herons, flying majestically with strong, steady beats of their enormous wings. They typically feed alone while wading slowly in the quiet waters of a marsh or slough, often standing upright and motionless as they search the surrounding water for prey.

Great Blue Heron
ARDEA HERODIAS
• Length: 46 inches
• Wingspan: 72 inches
• Season: Year-round
More about Great Blue Herons.
Where they are, and when.

Great Blue Herons have a slate-gray body with rufous accents, a long neck and bill, white face and black plumes coming off the back of their head. Wispy feathers cover their breast and back, giving them a shaggy appearance. The similar but smaller Tri-colored Heron is distinguished in part by its blue neck and face, white underside and blue-gray bill in breeding season.

Great Blue Herons feed in shallow fresh and saltwater wetlands, along quiet shorelines and in the surf, grabbing small fish, frogs, birds, snakes, eels and insects. By curling their necks in a tight “S” they can strike fast and hard. They grab small prey and spear larger fish with their bill.

Great Blue Herons breed both in isolated nests and colonies in the hundreds. Their nests are large platforms of sticks built high above the ground in trees or shrubs. They lay about a half-dozen pale blue-green eggs.

July 11, 2008

A tall Great Blue Heron stood out on the beach from the sandpipers and other shorebirds scurrying around the beach of the Padre Island National Seashore. It strode into the modestly rough surf and came back shortly with a small Pompano impaled on the end of its bill. For the next few minutes it repeatedly turned the fish over in its bill until it stopped moving, flipping it in midair, without ever letting it drop to the sand.

About Scott Clark

I’m a digital journalist who’s worked as a photographer, reporter, producer and editor. My interest in the natural history of my surroundings reaches back to my early days beachcombing on the Jersey coast, rowing my boat on a quiet lake in Missouri and, more recently, discovering the mountains and backwoods of Montana, where I was born.

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