GREAT BLUE HERON

Ardea herodias

Widespread and familiar, the largest heron in North America. Often seen standing silently along inland rivers or lakeshores, or flying high overhead, with slow wingbeats, its head hunched back onto its shoulders. Highly adaptable, it thrives around all kinds of waters from subtropical mangrove swamps to desert rivers to the coastline of southern Alaska.

Conservation Status

Formerly often shot, simply because it made a conspicuous and easy target, but this rarely occurs today. Colonies may be disrupted by human disturbance, especially early in season. Still common and widespread, numbers probably stable.

Habitat

Marshes, swamps, shores, tideflats. Very adaptable. Forages in any kind of calm fresh waters or slow-moving rivers, also in shallow coastal bays. Nests in trees or shrubs near water, sometimes on ground in areas free of predators.

Diet

Highly variable and adaptable. Eats mostly fish, but also frogs, salamanders, turtles, snakes, insects, rodents, birds. Has been seen stalking voles and gophers in fields, capturing rails at edge of marsh, eating many species of small waterbirds.