Ardea Herodias – Great Blue Heron

Ardea Herodias - Great Blue Heron found in the US

The great blue heron, Ardea herodias is a big wading bird in the heron family Ardeidae. It is found throughout most of North and Central America, as well as the Caribbean and the Galápagos Islands, near the coasts of open water and in wetlands. It is a very uncommon vagrant to coastal Spain, the Azores, and parts of extreme southern Europe.

Quick Overview: Ardea Herodias – Great Blue Heron
Body size: Around 46-52 in (117-132 cm) and a weight of 3628 g (128 oz)
Main colors: White-Gray, Red, Black, Yellow-green, Gray, Yellow
Range: Throughout the United States
Migratory Bird: Yes
Best time of the year to see in the U.S.: All Year (January – December)
Conservation Status: Least Concern

Great blue heron Description

Their backs and wing scapulars are decorated with long, slender white-gray plumes. In-flight, they have dark bluish-gray primaries and secondary wings. Individuals often have reddish or black markings on their sides, flanks, and thighs. The long legs are yellowish-green to dark gray in hue. Their lengthy necks range in hue from white to buffy, rusty-red, or gray, with a lighter head. A ring of white or gray plumes surrounds the neck. Whitethroat, crown, and auriculars, pale yellow eyes. A thick, blackish facial stripe runs from the lores to the supercilium, down the nape, and into many long plumes. Their sharp, straight bills are usually yellow but can be gray at the upper mandible.

Ardea Herodias - Great Blue Heron found in the US
Ardea Herodias – Great Blue Heron. Photo by: Bob Peterson

Size

These birds have a length of 46-52 in (117-132 cm) and a weight of 3628 g (128 oz). Their wings could range from 77-82 in (196-208 cm).

Feeding

The great blue heron fishes largely during the day and occasionally at night, but their most active period is between dawn and dusk. Herons wade in shallow water on their long legs and seize their prey with their pointed spear-like beak. The food of great blue herons is primarily composed of fish, but it also contains frogs, salamanders, lizards, snakes, juvenile birds, small animals, shrimp, crabs, crayfish, dragonflies, grasshoppers, and a variety of other aquatic invertebrates. Herons locate food visually and typically swallow it whole. Herons have been known to choke on huge prey.

Habitat

Great blue herons are always found near water sources, such as rivers, lake borders, marshes, salty seacoasts, and swamps. They nest in tall trees near bodies of water and frequently nest in groups called “rookeries” that require a stand of appropriate trees. Breeding populations have been discovered at elevations of up to 1,500 m. The majority eschew sea environments along the east coast in favor of inland ecosystems.

Behavior

The great blue heron is most active in the mornings and at dusk when the fishing is most productive. They are stalk-and-strike hunters who identify prey visually and consequently hunt during the day. Although they are solitary hunters, they frequently breed in rookeries and spend the night in flocks of over 100 other herons. Additionally, great blue herons are fiercely territorial and will protect their nests forcefully.

Ardea Herodias Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Chelicerata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Pelecaniformes
  • Family: Ardeidae
  • Genus: Ardae
  • Species: Ardae herodias

Best time of the year to see

In the United States, the best time of year to see these birds is all year round, regardless of the season. This refers to any month of the year between January and December.

Distribution of the Great blue heron in the USA

Breeds in coastal Alaska, south-central Canada, and Newfoundland, as well as in Mexico and the West Indies. Winters in northern Alaska, central and southern United States, and southern New England, extending south into Mexico.

The Great blue heron can be found in the following states in the United States – Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Ardea Herodias – Great Blue Heron

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