Tuesday, April 28, 2009

At the pond... Great Blue Heron

Great Blue HeronGreat Blue Heron, Dawson Creek Park, Hillsboro, Oregon on 11 January 2009 by Greg Gillson.


The widespread Great Blue Heron is found near water from southern Alaska and across the mid-latitudes of Canada, south to Florida, Texas, and northwestern Mexico. Most birds move out of the frozen north and interior in winter and are found well into Mexico.

This bird is found in all sorts of wet habitats. In the Pacific Northwest you may see one hunting voles out in a flooded grass seed field, stabbing at fish in a small puddle or backyard goldfish pond, walking the mudflats of the estuary, perched on jetties in the ocean, or even hunting frogs or snakes in the freeway median. In fact, this bird is so well known in the Pacific Northwest that it is the official City Bird of Portland, Oregon!

Many persons are quite surprised the first time they see herons perched in trees! These herons nest in small colonies quite high in trees near water. They build large stick nests 2-3 feet across and lay 2-6 eggs, March to May.

As for similar species, Green Herons are 1/3 the size and colored differently. "White Herons" in the West are the slightly smaller Great Egrets or the much smaller Snowy or Cattle Egrets. Many people call Great Blue Herons "cranes." However, the Sandhill Crane is a larger, sandy-colored bird with a red crown with populations nesting in agricultural grasslands of the Great Basin. Flocks of these local cranes, supplemented by birds that nest in Alaska and Canada, winter locally in the Willamette Valley (Sauvie Island NWR, Oregon and Ridgefield NWR, Washington) and the Central Valley of California. Herons may congregate in wetlands, but do not migrate in noisy flocks as do the cranes. While Great Blue Herons fly and rest with their long necks crooked under their breast with the head resting on the back (as shown above), cranes always walk and fly with their long necks held straight out.

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful image! You are very fortunate to have access to wetland such as these.

    *I Donated to Cornell Ornithology!*