Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodia)
Photo by Dorothy Monteith
How to identify
- This is the largest and most widely distributed heron in Canada.
- Standing over 1 m in height with its neck extended and measuring 97 to 137 cm in length, it is also the largest wading bird in North America.
- It has long, stilt-like legs, a long neck and a short tail.
- Its wings are long and rounded. Flies with deep, slow wing beats, its neck folded in an S-shaped and its head pressed between its shoulders.
- Plumage is mostly a blue-grey colour, and adults have a white crown with a black stripe extending from the yellow eyes to slender black plumes at the back of the head.
- Call include deep croaks and squawks.
Where to find
- This species is found in and about open shallow water at the edges of lakes, streams, rivers, ponds, sloughs, ditches, marshes, and mudflats.
- The Great Blue Heron is found in every Natural Region in the province, but is less common in the northern parts of Alberta.
A day in the life of a great blue heron
- Social life
- Great blue herons are very sociable and nest in colonies, also called rookeries.
- The Great Blue Heron stands motionless in the water waiting for prey to come within range of its long, sharp bill.
- It also stalks food with the slow, deliberate pace which is very characteristic of herons.
- Foods include fish, frogs, salamanders, water snakes, large insects, mice, small birds, and plant seeds.
- They return to the same nest sites year after year, so it is important that heron nests aren’t disturbed because they will be a home to the colony for many years.
- New nests are delicate, while older nests, built up over several years, are large bulky structures up to a meter across.
- Lays 3–5 pale, greenish-blue eggs, incubation are by both sexes, 26–27 days.
- Chicks are brooded for one week, after which parents take turns hunting and tending the young.
Why they matter to us and how you can help
- What EALT is doing
- Important predators
- Great blue herons control fish and insect populations in many different habitats.
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