Birds

The Great Blue Heron

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This beautiful bird can be seen fishing in streams, ponds and lakes in the United States, and Central and South America.

The Great Blue Heron is a very large bird, iand the largest of all American herons, as well as the most common. With its 6 foot wingspan and height of nearly 5 feet, this slow moving, graceful bird is an attention getter wherever it resides. A member of the Ardeidae family of wading birds, it lives in a wide range of climates, near either fresh or salt water. Those living in cold winter areas fly south to a warmer climate in the winter, sometimes as far as South America.

Appearance

It is nearly impossible to mistake the Great Blue Heron for any other bird. These American birds are recognizable in part by their long legs, and long necks in the shape of an "s". They are a pale bluish color with unkempt looking feathers on their backs and necks. Males and females look alike for the most part, however males are slightly larger and have a raised column of feathers on the backs of their heads. Young birds are not as deeply colored as those that are more mature. There is also a white variety of this bird, which normally resides in the southernmost United States. Recently, though, it has been seen as far north as New York.

Diet

The Great Blue Heron is a fish eating bird, and will often stand still for extended amounts of time, waiting for them to swim close enough to catch. They spear small fish with their long, sharp bills and swallow them whole. These wild birds have been known to choke to death when attempting to eat fish that are too big for them to swallow. In addition to its fish diet, the heron will also eat rodents, bugs, and just about any other small creature. While they usually hunt in the daytime, they will also hunt at night if necessary.

Nesting Habits

Herons build their nests in colonies, in tall trees, near slow moving or still water, where the female heron lays from 2 to 7 eggs. This is the only time the birds flock together. Both the male and female incubate and watch over the eggs. They both feed the newborn chicks as well, by catching food and regurgitating it for them. Chicks can subsist on their own when they are about 2 months of age.

Do Not Disturb

Solitary birds except during mating season, herons prefer to be left alone. When agitated they will complain by making a loud, croaking sound. They will quickly abandon their nest if either humans or other animals come too close. As bald eagles have been increasing in numbers, they have begun preying on the heron nests, killing the baby chicks. Crows and other scavengers will often show up after the eagle has left, to feed on whatever remains.
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