Great Blue Heron

great blue heron in a wooden swamp
Great blue heron in a swamp

NPS Photo

Ardea herodias

Great blue herons are the largest herons in North America. They are found in wetland ecosystems throughout the United States. They are carnivorous birds that eat a wide variety of small animals including fish, frogs, and various small mammals. They forage by standing still in the water and using their long, sharp beaks to spear animals that swim. They can forage on dry land as well.

Great blue herons will nest in colonies, building their nests anywhere from 20 to 60 feet off the ground. Males will collect materials for the nest while females build the nest. Both parents will incubate the egg and feed chicks once the eggs have hatched. The parents will feed the chicks by regurgitating the food they’ve caught. Great blue heron chicks are able to fly about two months after hatching and will leave the nest two to three months after hatching.

Bartholomew, G. A., & Dawson, W. R. (1954). Temperature regulation in young pelicans, herons, and gulls. Ecology, 35(4), 466-472.

Kaufman, K. (2001). Lives of North American Birds. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Wetmore, A. (1920). The function of powder downs in herons. The Condor, 22(5), 168-170.

Great Blue Herons in the National Parks

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