The Outdoor Journal

Blue Herons

One of my favorite birds returned last week. The Great Blue Herons are back from their southern vacations. Cornell's All about Birds describes the giant blue fish eaters this way; “Whether poised at a river bend or cruising the coastline with slow, deep wing beats, the Great Blue Heron is a majestic sight. This stately heron with its subtle blue-gray plumage often stands motionless as it scans for prey or wades belly deep with long, deliberate steps. They may move slowly, but Great Blue Herons can strike like lightning to grab a fish or snap up a gopher. “ 

Some people refer to Great Blue Herons as cranes, but they are not in the same family as cranes.  In flight, look for this widespread heron’s tucked-in neck and long legs trailing out behind as opposed to a Sand Hill Crane who flies with its neck outstretched.

Great Blue Herons eat nearly anything within striking distance, including fish, amphibians, reptiles, small mammals, insects, and other birds. They grab smaller prey in their strong mandibles or use their dagger-like bills to impale larger fish, often shaking them to break or relax the sharp spines before gulping them down. 

You may have noticed a Great Blue Heron nest colony.  Great Blue Herons nest mainly in trees, but will also nest on the ground, on bushes,  and on structures such as duck blinds, channel markers, or artificial nest platforms. Males arrive at the colony and settle on nest sites; from there, they court passing females. 

Great Blue Herons can hunt day and night thanks to a high percentage of rod-type photoreceptor in their eyes that improve their night vision. Thanks to specially shaped neck vertebrae, Great Blue Herons can quickly strike prey at a distance, another one of those amazing things we see so often if we take the time to study creation.

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