Project Description

Great Blue Heron

Ardea herodias

Aquarium Location

Saltmarsh

Habitat

Lurks along the edges of marshes, swamps, lakes, rivers, and mangroves. They adapt very easily to their environment and can be seen near all types of water.

Range

Can be found in all areas of North America.

Diet

The great blue heron eats mainly fish, but will also eat other animals found in or near the water such as frogs, snakes, shrimp, rodents, birds and insects. While hunting they stand completely still, like a statue or walk slowly to stir up fish. Then they strike at their prey with their bill.

Fun Facts

Largest heron in North America.
Young birds sometimes strike at people who get too close or regurgitate bad smelling partly-digested food.
Have 15-17 vertebrae in their neck (humans have seven), but the length is hidden in flight due to the “S” curve orientation of their bodies.
When angered, blue herons make a harsh “frahnk” sound or a short “rok-rok” sound.

Cool Adaptation

Great blue herons, like many wading birds, have long, skinny, stilt-like legs that give them a tall vantage point above the water. Herons wade in the shallow waters at the edges of swamps, marshes, lakes, rivers and mangroves using their tall stature to physically look down into the shallow water. They will feed by standing completely still, like a statue, and then striking quickly at their prey using their bill. Alternatively, herons have also been known to simply wade through the shallow waters stirring up prey with their feet. The great blue heron will swallow the entire body of their prey, which means there might be cases where the bones are too large to digest; these large bones will be regurgitated along with fur and feathers in the form of a cast.

Conservation Connection

This is the most well-known and most widespread heron in North America. Human interference with the heron is mostly through the destruction of habitat. Many herons are also killed each year because they fly into utility wires. In the past, herons were shot because they were easy targets, but hunting for heron is not as common today. Presently, the Great Blue Heron is common and widespread throughout its native range.

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