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Description

BREEDING MALE

The Great Blue Heron is a tall, long-legged, long-necked heron with a bluish-gray body, a pale head with a black stripe above the eye, and black streaking on the foreneck.

 

Great Blue Heron

Female

Similar to male.

Seasonal change in appearance

Non-breeding birds lack ornate plumes, have yellower bill.

Juvenile

Similar to adults but with a black cap.

Habitat

Marshes and shorelines.

 

Diet

Fish, frogs, snakes, rodents, insects, and birds.

Behavior

Forages by standing or walking and suddenly striking at prey with its heavy bill.

Range

Breeds across much of North America and retreats from northern breeding areas in winter.

More information:

Bent Life History

Visit the Bent Life History for extensive additional information on the Great Blue Heron.

Wing Shape

The shape of a bird's wing is often an indication of its habits and behavior. Fast flying birds have long, pointed wings. Soaring birds have long, broad wings. Different songbirds will have a slightly different wing shape. Some species look so much alike (Empidonax flycatchers) that scientists sometimes use the length of specific feathers to confirm a species' identification.

Wing images from the University of Puget Sound, Slater Museum of Natural History

Fun Facts

Great Blue Herons often reuse the same nest for many years.

Chicks can take up to nearly 48 hours to complete the hatching process.

Vocalizations

A hoarse squawk is occasionally given.

Similar Species

  • Other bluish herons lack the black head stripe. White-morph Great Blue Herons in the Florida Keys resemble Great Egrets but have yellow instead of black legs.

    Little Blue Heron
    The Little Blue Heron is all blue and much smaller.

     

    Little Blue Heron

     

     

  • Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron
    The Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron has a chunkier body and heavier bill.

     

    Yellow-crowned Night Heron

     

Nesting

The nest is a platform of sticks placed in a tree or on the ground on an island.

Eggs

Number: 3-5.
Color: Pale blue.


Incubation and fledging:
- Young hatch at 25-30 days.  
- Young fledge (leave the nest) in 65-90 days after hatching but remain with the adults for some time.

Professor Bird