Bird of the Week: Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Herons are the largest herons in North America, and a common sight on streams, lakes, and marshes across the continent. These wading birds, which may grow to be four feet high or taller, hunt in shallow water, their slow and deliberate steps belying their agility. Specially shaped vertebrae in their necks allow them to spear fish with their heavy bills with lightning speed and precision. Though they are solitary hunters, Great Blue Herons nest communally, and often in great numbers: heron colonies may comprise five hundred or more individuals. These colonies are the scenes of elaborate courting ceremonies during mating season, during which the males will raise their deep blue feathered crests and snap their bills to establish their territories. While Great Blue Herons are normally a gray-blue hue, a pure white variation can be found in southern Florida and the Caribbean, which looks very much like a Great Blue Egret.

Compiled by Owen Moorhead. Sources include the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society.

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