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Great Blue Heron

Ardea herodias

Family:

Ardeidae, the heron and egret family.

Conservation Status:

Least Concern, IUCN.

Distribution:

Temperate and tropical North America.

Habitat:

Near sources of water including rivers, lakeshores, marshes, saltwater seacoasts and swamps.

Factoid:

Herons will abandon a colony after a predator has killed an adult or chick in the area.

These are large birds with slate-gray bodies, accented with chestnut and black, long necks and very long legs for wading. Adults sport a shaggy ruff at the base of their necks along with black “eyebrows” that extend backwards to form black plumes.

Their diet consists of fish, amphibians, reptiles, invertebrates, small mammals and even other birds, which is located by sight and usually swallowed whole. They forage by standing along riverbanks, lakeshores or in wet meadows, waiting for prey, which they then spear with their beaks. They may also stalk prey.

Crows and ravens eat heron eggs, while eagles, raccoons, bears, turkey vultures; and red-tailed hawks prey on young birds and sometimes even adults.

They breed in colonies containing up to several hundred pairs. In February, males choose a nesting territory and display to attract females. The male gathers sticks for the female who fashions them into a platform nest (usually in a tree), lined with small twigs, bark and conifer needles. Both parents incubate the 3-5 eggs for 25-29 days, and then regurgitate food for their young, who can fly at about 60 days, although they return to the nest to be fed by the adults for another few weeks.

 

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