Great Blue Heron

(Ardea herodias)

               
Conservation Status

IUCN Red List

LC - Least Concern

Great Blue Heron

NatureServe

N5B, N5N - Secure Breeding and Nonbreeding

SNRB - Unranked Breeding

Minnesota

not listed

Occurrence

Common migrant and breeder

Habitat

Rivers, lake edges, marshes, saltwater shores, and swamps

Size

38 to 54in length

72 wingspan

Photo by Wayne Rasmussen

Identification

This is the largest heron native to North America. They are present in Minnesota from March through October and winter along the ice-free coasts and watercourses of southeastern United States and the Caribbean. Most live about 15 years in the wild, though some have been recorded surviving over 24 years.

Adults are 38 to 54 long, weigh 74 to 88 ounces, and have a wingspan of about 7. Males are slightly larger than females.

The wings and back are bluish-gray except for a black shoulder patch. The legs are long, stilt-like, and dark gray except for chestnut brown feathers on the thighs. The chest and belly are whitish. The neck is long and curving. It is grayish-blue on the back, whitish underneath, and with white, black, and rust-brown.

The eyes are yellow. The bill is long, straight, and yellow. The face is white with a black stripe extending from the bill to the back of the head. During Breeding season both males and females develop long, slender, black plumes extending from the back of the head and long plumes extending from the body at the neck, breast, and back.

In flight, the neck is folded over the body in an S-curve and the legs trail behind the body.

 
Voice A harsh, croaking kraak when disturbed
 
Similar
Species

Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) is much smaller and has shorter legs.

Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) is much smaller. The plumage is mostly white. The legs and bill are orangish-yellow.

Great Egret (Ardea alba) is smaller. The plumage is all white. The legs are black.

Green Heron (Butorides virescens) is much smaller and has shorter legs.

Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea) is much smaller and darker. The legs are black.

Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis) has a red crown. In flight, the neck is straight and extended.

Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) is much smaller. The plumage is all white. The legs and bill are black.

Tricolored Heron (Egretta tricolor) is darker above, white below.

Yellow-crowned Night-heron (Nyctanassa violacea) is much smaller and has shorter legs.


Food

Mostly small fish but also amphibians, reptiles, small mammals, dragonflies, grasshoppers, crayfish, and other aquatic invertebrates.

 
Nesting

Great Blue Herons typically breed in colonies of a few to a few hundred nesting pairs. They are serially monogamous, remaining with one partner throughout the Breeding season but choosing a new partner each season. They produce one brood per season.

The male selects a site, usually at the top of a tree, often the same site used the previous year, and attracts a passing female. Together they build the nest, the male gathering materials, the female weaving the materials into a platform nest. Often a fresh layer is added to a nest from a previous season.

The female lays usually 4, but as few as 2 or as many as 7, pale blue eggs. The eggs hatch after 26 to 30 days. The young leave the nest after 60 to 81 days.

 
Migration

March to October


Comments

Taxonomy
Bitterns, egrets, and herons (family Ardeidae) were formerly classified under the order Ciconiiformes. Based on a phylogenomic study published in 2008, the family was transferred to the order Pelecaniformes.


Taxonomy

Order:

Pelecaniformes (pelicans, herons, ibises, and allies)

 

Family:

Ardeidae (bitterns, egrets, herons)

 
Subordinate Taxa

Galapagos Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias cognata)

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias herodias)

Great White Heron (Ardea herodias occidentalis)

Northwest Coast Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias fannini)

Ward’s Heron (Ardea herodias wardi)


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

       

Visitor Photos

   
Share your photo of this bird.

Kirk Nelson


Crosby Farm Regional Park

  Great Blue Heron    
       

Fort Snelling State Park
Near the boat launch on Snelling Lake

  Great Blue Heron

Wayne Rasmussen


  Great Blue Heron   Great Blue Heron
       

Urban parks host a large variety of wildlife if you really spend some time observing.

  Great Blue Heron   Great Blue Heron
       
  Great Blue Heron    
       

Pentax K10D DA 55-300mm @ 300mm, 1/4000th, f7.1, ISO 800 handheld- a little patience and luck in Maplewood Hts Park, my backyard. ~2008, Our resident heron

  Great Blue Heron    
       

Heron & painted turtle in Maplewood Hts Park

  Great Blue Heron    

Tom Baker


  Great Blue Heron  
       
  Great Blue Heron

       
       
       

MinnesotaSeasons.com Photos

   

Unknown subspecies on wintering grounds at Padre Island, Texas

  Great Blue Heron   Great Blue Heron
       
       
       

 

Camera

     

Slideshows

   
  Great Blue Heron
Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren
 
  Great Blue Heron  
     
  Great Blue Heron
Ed McVicker
 
  Great Blue Heron  
     
  Great Blue Heron
JMC Nature Photos
 
  Great Blue Heron  

 

slideshow

     

Visitor Videos

   
Share your video of this bird.

     
     

Other Videos

 
  Great Blue Heron (Ardeidae: Ardea herodias) Hunting from Shore
Carl Barrentine
 
   
 
About

Uploaded on May 19, 2010

A stealthy Great Blue Heron takes advantage of the tall grass bordering the water's edge, as well as the position of the late afternoon sun, to stalk and catch an unwary small fish. Photographed at Maple Lake, Minnesota (18 may 2010).

 
     
  Great Blue Heron Near Fish (Ardea herodias)
animals2x2
 
   
 
About

Uploaded on Oct 21, 2011

Watch the Heron and learn how to recognize its unique characteristics. This video captures behaviors and identifies the size, shape and distinctive markings of the Heron. The Heron can be found in the wild and at a number of zoos around the world. Our Heron video is an ideal study guide for students, kids and children who want to learn more about wild animals. Watch the Heron's movement as it carefully walks amongst fish. The high definition quality allows a clear observation of the Heron's color, habits and features. A child friendly learning tool and visual aid, perfect for schools and teachers to use in conjunction with other teaching methods. Watch and enjoy the Heron clip!

 
     
  Great blue heron (Ardea herodias)
tomb0171
 
   
 
About

Uploaded on Feb 18, 2010

Great blue heron (Ardea herodias)
* Family: Ardeidae,
* Genus: Ardea,
* Species: A. herodias,
* Class: Aves,
* Type: Bird,
* Diet: Carnivore,
* Average life span in the wild: 15 years,
* Size: Body, 3.2 to 4.5 ft (1 to 1.4 m); Wingspan, 5.5 to 6.6 ft (1.7 to 2 m),
* Weight: 4.6 to 7.3 lbs (2.1 to 2.5 kg),
* Group name: Colony.

** The tall, long-legged great blue heron is the most common and largest of North American herons.

***Great blue herons are waders, typically seen along coastlines, in marshes, or near the shores of ponds or streams. They are expert fishers. Herons snare their aquatic prey by walking slowly, or standing still for long periods of time and waiting for fish to come within range of their long necks and blade-like bills. The deathblow is delivered with a quick thrust of the sharp bill, and the prey is swallowed whole.

More info: http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/great-blue-heron.html

or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Blue_Heron

 
     
  Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) Fishing at Stanley Park in Vancouver BC 15Apr2010
graywulffe
 
   
 
About

Uploaded on Apr 15, 2010

This Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) found a good fishing hole in Lost Lagoon at Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC. Herons are excellent anglers. They have keen vision and can spot even the tiniest of fish at a fair distance. The bird in the movie caught several piscenes at this one location.

Videometrics:
Canon Rebel T1i (500D)
Canon EF 300mm 1:4 L IS USM
-1/3 EV, 1080p, 20 fps
Monopod, manual focus, program mode

 
     
  Great Blue Heron (Ardeidae: Ardea herodias) Taking Flight
Carl Barrentine
 
   
 
About

Uploaded on Sep 7, 2009

Photographed at Grand Forks, North Dakota (06 September 2009).

 
     

 

Camcorder

         

Visitor Sightings

   
Share your sighting of this bird.

Kirk Nelson
6/30/2017

Location: Crosby Farm Regional Park

Great Blue Heron


Wayne Rasmussen
5/16/2011

Location: Maplewood Heights Park

Great Blue Heron


Wayne Rasmussen
6/28/2016

Location: Maplewood Heights Park

Urban parks host a large variety of wildlife if you really spend some time observing.

Great Blue Heron


Wayne Rasmussen
5/18/2011

Location: Maplewood Heights Park

Great Blue Heron


Wayne Rasmussen
4/23/2003

Location: Maplewood Heights Park

Great Blue Heron


Wayne Rasmussen
about 2008

Location: Maplewood Heights Park

Pentax K10D DA 55-300mm @ 300mm

1/4000th, f7.1, ISO 800 handheld- a little patience and luck in Maplewood Hts Park, my backyard. ~2008

Our resident heron

Great Blue Heron


Wayne Rasmussen
5/31/2015

Location: Maplewood Heights Park

Heron & painted turtle in Maplewood Hts Park

Great Blue Heron


Marilyn May
Summer 2015

Location: Pond along Cannon Valley Trail


Kirk Nelson
9/27/2015

Location: Fort Snelling State Park

Near the boat launch on Snelling Lake

Great Blue Heron


Tom Baker
4/2/2011

Location: Edenbrook Conservation Area

Great Blue Heron


     
     
 

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