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Great Blue Heron

  • Birds


The Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) is an iconic and fascinating species of large wading bird that is found throughout much of North America. Though these birds are usually found near bodies of water, they can thrive in a variety of different habitats all across the continent, making them one of the most iconic and widely distributed creatures in the United States. As their name implies, these majestic herons are especially notable for their striking blue-gray plumage and their ability to survive in a variety of different environments.

Appearance & Behavior

The Great Blue Heron is a tall and regal species of bird that stands about 3-4 feet (1-1.2 m) in height. The length of the bird’s body ranges from 36-54 inches (90-140 cm) and they typically weigh between 5-7lbs (2-3kg). These impressive birds also have a wingspan of roughly five to six feet (1.6-1.8m). The Great Blue Heron has a distinctively dark bill, long dark legs, and a characteristic white head with a black-streaked crown, often giving them a somewhat regal appearance.

The Great Blue Heron is a primarily solitary species of bird that typically only associate with other birds when roosting or during mating season. Though these herons can be seen wading in shallow waters to capture fish, they are mainly terrestrial, terrestrial birds spending most of their time roaming land or even soaring high into the sky in search of food. These birds have a variety of distinct calls and sounds, but are typically silent throughout most of the year. The Great Blue Heron is also known for being a diurnal species, choosing to be active during the warmer daylight hours and retiring to rest at night.


The Great Blue Heron is one of the most adaptable species of wading birds, thriving in various regions of the United States, Canada and Mexico. Though they prefer freshwater wetlands and coastlines, these herons can also be found in dry grasslands, woodlands, and even in urban areas. These majestic birds are typically found near slow-moving streams, marshes and ponds as these provide them with plenty of nourishment as well as a safe place to wade and hunt for fish. Along coastlines, these birds may also feed on a variety of water-dwelling species from crabs to small mammals.


Like many other species of birds, the Great Blue Heron typically reproduces during the warmer months of the year. Though reproduction typically begins in the spring, it can continue into the early summer for prolonged nesting periods. During mating, the birds form large colonies near freshwater wetlands that take on the appearance of a rookery. As many as twenty or more nests may be found in a single colony, with each nest being constructed out of sticks and reeds that are sometimes a few feet off the ground.

Great Blue Heron two


When the eggs are laid, the birds typically take turns incubating throughout the day. The young herons typically hatch within four to five weeks and are usually cared for by both parents. The young herons are born with a distinctive brown downy plumage and typically fledge the nest within 4-6 weeks. The fledglings then remain with the parents for another several weeks before finally leaving the nest to form small family units.


The Great Blue Heron is a carnivorous species that has a varied diet. While they mostly feed on aquatic species such as fish and invertebrates, these birds will also eat frogs, small animals and even small birds in some cases. The herons usually hunt in shallow waters, where they use their long legs and sturdy bill to capture prey.

Conservation Status

The Great Blue Heron is classified as a species of Least Concern by the IUCN and is a common sight in various regions of America. Though the species is a normally common sight in many habitats, it is still important to take note of their conservation status to ensure that the population is preserved for future generations.

Closing Thoughts

The Great Blue Heron is an iconic species of large wading bird that has adapted to live in many different regions of North America. The striking blue-gray plumage of these birds make them a joy to see in many different habitats. Despite their conservation status, it is still important to ensure that these herons are preserved for future generations to enjoy.

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