Though not a backyard bird for many, I believe the Great Blue Heron is still very well known to those of us who enjoy birds. They are found through virtually all of the U.S. and Mexico plus much of Canada. I think they are a quite handsome.
At almost 4 foot tall they definitely stand out with it’s long plumes, long dagger-like bill and long legs. Amazingly, due to their hollow bones, these very large birds weigh only 5-6 pounds! Though they have a blueish tinge to their plumage, they are often mistaken for ‘gray cranes.’ During most winters many of these water-dependent birds head for south to warmer climes but with this year’s mile winter it looks like more stayed in northern areas.
Though they primarily eat fish, they will eat most anything that they can catch including insects, frogs and voles. Best known for their patient hunting technique during which they stand motionless for extended periods of time, they are lightening fast in thrusting their bill to nail their prey with great accuracy.
Great Blue Herons are colony nesters–they nest, usually near the top of trees, with other Great Blue Herons, cormorants and egrets. Though they look rather awkward high up in a tall tree, they do an amazing job of building and maintaining nests.
The males assist nest building by bringing nesting material and providing ‘moral support’ as they stand in the nest watching the female weave the vegetation into a nest that can hold both adults and several offspring through strong winds, rain, hail and sometimes snow (this pair of herons nest not far from where I live in Colorado and both strong winds and snow is in the forecaste for us tomorrow).
Cornell Lab of Ornithology has Great Blue Herons nesting right outside one of their buildings and they have set up a web cam with live streaming you can see them up close and personal during the nesting process. The female has already laid 2 eggs but she may lay more.
Do you have Great Blue Herons in an area near where you live?
Have you seen Great Blue Herons nesting before?