Fishy Friday: 10 things about the Great Blue Heron

Day 24 of 100 Days of Blogging

We’ve made it all the way to Fishy Friday again, hope you have something fun planned for the week-end! How about going along on Saturday’s BPQ field trip? You may spot this weeks featured fish eating bird, the Great Blue Heron!

Early Birder’s Fishy Friday Profile #3

Great blue heron (Ardea herodias) 

Family: Ardeidae    French: Grand Héron

#1. This tall blue-gray wading bird, the largest North American heron, is found across the continent. In winter it migrates southward to Florida, Mexico, the Caribbean and South America.

#2.They can be recognized in flight by the S-shaped curve of the neck; herons fly with deep, slow wing beats.

#3. As long as it can find fish, the Great Blue Heron is found in a variety of salt and fresh water habitat, including swampy areas, estuaries, fresh water lake edges and coastal areas.

Herons hunt by sight, then strike with their longdagger like bill. (Photo: Connie Morgenstern)

Herons hunt by sight, then strike with their long dagger-like bill. (Photo: Connie Morgenstern)

#4. Herons locate prey by sight, then rapidly thrust their head and neck forward to strike with a dagger like bill. Food is usually swallowed whole. It will regurgitate animal hair in the form of pellets but can digest bones.

Herons eat mainly fish but will prey on a variety of other aquatic and terrestrial  organisms.

Herons eat mainly fish but will prey on a variety of other aquatic and terrestrial organisms. (Photo:Connie Morgenstern)

#5.  Its diet consists of mostly fish but it will also eat insects, mammals, amphibians, birds and crustaceans. Herons can be seen foraging at night and during the day

#6. Herons breed in colonies called heronries. Nests are usually constructed in trees, but ground based nests in dense aquatic vegetation are also used. Nests are often reused for many years. These birds are monogamous through the breeding season, but usually choose new mates every year.

#7. Blue Herons are mostly silent except at breeding colonies and when disturbed on foraging grounds.

#8. The Great Blue Heron  is unlikely to be confused in appearance with any other North American wading bird. However, a subspecies, The Great White Heron, can be confused with the Great Egret. Only found in Florida and the Caribbean, in comparison to the Great Egret, it is larger and has yellow legs; the Egret has black legs.

#9. The Great Blue Heron was once hunted for its plumes and eggs. Fortunately, the population has recovered from the impact of these 19th and early 20th century threats. Currently wetland drainage may impact breeding colonies.

Great Bue heron using its pectinate middle toe to preen itself while feeding.

A Great Blue Heron uses its pectinate middle toe to preen itself while feeding. (Photo: Connie Morgenstern)

#10. Herons are one of the few birds with a unique set of preening “tools”; a pectinate middle toe as well as specialized powder down feathers. The middle toenail is serrated and looks and acts much like a comb. The powder down feathers  are kind of like having your own built-in “hair products”!  These specialized patches of feathers don’t molt and, as they grow, will disintegrate in to a sort of talcum powder like substance when rubbed. This is useful to get rid of all the oily muck and slime that comes along withe spending your day wading around in swampy conditions and eating fish!

Photo Credit: Heron with Fish from Wikimedia