BIRD OF THE WEEK / WEEK 14: April 2, 2018

© Liron Gertsman

Bird

Great Blue Heron

Species Name

Ardea herodias

Appearance

97-137 cm length | 167-201 cm wingspan | 2100-3500 gm weight

The great blue heron is a large, slender wading bird with a long neck, long plumes on the lower neck, long, broad wings, long, pointy, spear-like bill, short tail and long legs. They are able to retract their neck into an S-shape and it is this shape held in flight that distinguishes them from other long-necked birds such as swans, geese, cranes and flamingos. They are the largest herons in North America and the third largest heron in the world, surpassed by the white-bellied heron and the Goliath heron

They have slate-blue wings, back and tail, rufous thighs, a greyish neck with white and black streaking down the front, a mostly white face with black plumes that start above the eye and extend into a long crest. The bill is yellow and the legs are grey although both become orange during the breeding season

Habitat / Behaviour

Piscivore | Wetlands, ponds, rivers, lakes, coast

Common in wetlands and near the shores of lakes, rivers and coasts.

The great blue heron is primarily a fish eater, typically hunting species such as flounder, sticklebacks, gunnels, sculpins, perch, bass and top smelt. They will feed opportunistically on other aquatic fauna such as crab, shrimp, aquatic insects and amphibians and only rarely on non-aquatic sources like reptiles, rodents and small birds. These powerful birds hunt in shallow water, patiently waiting, motionless, or by slowly stalking before lunging to seize or spear their prey.

Breeding

Seasonally monagamous | large messy stick nest | 3-6 pale blue eggs | 1-4 chicks

Great blue heron parents quadruple their food intake while nesting and feed their chicks by regurgitation.

The call is a harsh croak. They have no song. Other sounds include bill clapping and bill snapping.