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Location: Birds & Bats
Tags: great / blue / heron / ardea / herodias

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)



Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)
Order: Ciconiiformes, Family: Ardeidae

There are several types of herons in the southeastern states: green heron, little blue heron, tricolored heron, yellow-crowned heron, black-crowned night heron and the great blue heron, which is one of the most prominent. Approximately 4 feet high, the great blue heron is the largest heron in North America. It has a wingspan of about 6 feet. Above, the great blue heron is bluish gray, while its belly is black. Its head is white, with a black stripe along the sides of the crown. During the breeding season, this stripe extends to elongated black plumes.



I. DESCRIPTION:
  • There are several types of herons in the southeastern states: green heron, little blue heron, tricolored heron, yellow-crowned heron, black-crowned night heron and the great blue heron, which is one of the most prominent.
  • Approximately 4 feet high, the great blue heron is the largest heron in North America.
  • It has a wingspan of about 6 feet.
  • Above, the great blue heron is bluish gray, while its belly is black. Its head is white, with a black stripe along the sides of the crown. During the breeding season, this stripe extends to elongated black plumes.
II. GEOGRAPHICAL RANGE AND HABITAT:
  • The great blue heron's range includes North and Central America, the Caribbean and Greater Antilles, and the Galapagos. Some populations migrate to the South American continent for winter.
  • Great blue heron inhabit riverbanks, lake edges, marshes, saltwater shores and swamps. They usually nest in trees near water.
III. DIET:
  • The great blue heron fishes both night and day, and is most active around dawn and dusk. The heron uses its long legs to wade in shallow water and its sharp "spearlike" bill to catch its food.
  • It consumes fish, frogs, salamanders, lizards, snakes, shrimps, crabs, crayfish, dragonflies, grasshoppers and many aquatic insects.
IV. LIFE CYCLE/SOCIAL STRUCTURE:
  • Breeding season lasts from March through May in the great blue heron's northern range, and from November through April in the southern.
  • Females usually lay between three and seven eggs, with clutch size increasing from south to north. Chicks start to fly at about 2 months old.
V. SPECIAL NOTES/ADAPTATIONS:
  • Compared with other kinds of herons, the great blue is relatively quiet. When disturbed in flight, it emits a soft "kraak." It also lets out a "fraunk" when disturbed near its nest, and greets other herons with an "ar."
  • Great blue herons spend 90 percent of their day foraging for food.
  • The great blue heron is the most well known and widespread heron in North America. Urbanization has led to the destruction of heron habitat. Every year, many herons die from flying into utility wires.



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