GREAT BLUE HERON

GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)

With its abundance of shallow shores, rivers and marshes with tides exposing even more suitable feeding grounds, the geography of Prince Edward Island is an ideal environment for the Great blue heron, which wades in those waters in search for food, mainly fish. The Great blue heron usually migrates south for the winter, but some lone bird can occasionally be observed in the winter on unfrozen patches of water. They can be seen hunting for fish alone or in small groups with some distance between individuals. They hunt by sight, holding their long necks in an ‘S’ shape, ready to deploy quickly to spear their prey. Great blue herons will also, if given the opportunity, raid the ponds of gardeners, even in cities like Charlottetown. Their call is a harsh ‘krwak’.

The Great blue heron is about 54 inches high (135 cm), and has a wing span of about six feet (180 cm). They fly slowly, with their necks folded as opposed to geese and swans. It has more grey than actual blue in its plumage, and the sexes are similar. Their nesting habits are interesting for such a large bird. First, they nest in colonies, and second, at the top of mature trees. It is quite a sight to see such large birds delicately perched high in the trees. The Grey heron (seen in Japan), a slightly shorter bird, has the same behavior. The nesting colony is called a ‘heronry’, and because the birds use it year after year, and due to the number of birds in a colony, the trees supporting the colony eventually die from the accumulation of guano, and the colony then has to move elsewhere.

There’s a rare photo below showing the great blue heron’s feet, as more often these birds are shown in the water. It is helpful to estimate the bird’s overall height.

Great Blue Heron - Victoria by the Sea, PEI - Sept. 2016 - © Marie Smith
Great Blue Heron – Victoria by the Sea, PEI – Sept. 2016 – © Marie Smith
Great Blue Herons - Apr. 13, 2017 - © JoAnne Dunphy
Great Blue Herons – Apr. 13, 2017 – JoAnne Dunphy
Great blue heron perched on a pole before storm - PEI, 2006 - © Denise Motard
Great blue heron perched on a pole before storm – PEI, 2006 – © Denise Motard
Great blue heron just caught a fish - North Rustico, PEI - June 8, 2016 - by Matt Beardsley
This Great blue heron just caught a fish – North Rustico, PEI – June 8, 2016 – by Matt Beardsley
Great blue heron on the north shore - PEI, June 9, 2016 - by Matt Beardsley
Great blue heron on the north shore – PEI, June 9, 2016 – by Matt Beardsley
Great Blue Heron taking off - Victoria by the Sea, PEI - Sept. 2016 - © Marie Smith
Great Blue Heron taking off – Victoria by the Sea, PEI – Sept. 2016 – © Marie Smith
Great Blue Heron - Souris River, PEI - Apr. 12, 2013 - © Carmella Cheverie
Great Blue Heron – Souris River, PEI – Apr. 12, 2013 – © Carmella Cheverie

This following two videos of a great blue heron show a peculiar visual effect due to the water current moving counter to the bird. It looks as if the bird is walking backwards. Taken at the North River along the boardwalk in Victoria Park, Charlottetown.

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