The great blue heron is the largest heron in North America and stands about one metre tall. This bird has greyish blue feathers on its body, a white head with a black stripe on each side, a long neck and long legs. It has a long, yellow-orange beak and displays brighter feathers during mating season. Great blue herons have large wings and can fly up to 55 kilometres per hour. During flight, they often hold their necks in an “S” curve.
Water and land are both necessary for the great blue heron. It hunts for fish, amphibians, insects and other small animals in both salt and freshwater, but builds its nest in trees, bushes or on the ground. To hunt, a heron will either stand completely still and wait patiently for its prey or it will wade into the water to drive its prey out. When the time is right, it will lunge its neck into the water and usually swallow the prey in one gulp.
Great blue herons are Canada’s most widespread heron, and are found from the Maritimes to British Columbia. Most of the Canadian population of this species is here only during the breeding season. When rivers and lakes begin to freeze up in the late autumn, herons head south, though some living on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts stay year-round.
Fast Facts: Great Blue Heron
Scientific name: Ardea herodias
Average height: One metre (adults)
Average weight: 2.5 kilograms
Average lifespan: 15 years in the wild
The great blue heron is the largest and most common heron in North America.
Safety in Numbers
Great blue herons breed in colonies, numbering anywhere from dozens to hundreds of nesting pairs.
Great blue herons can fly at speeds of up to 55 kilometres per hour.
Did you know?
Great blue herons build their nests out of sticks and line them with moss, grass or pine needles. Sometimes these nests are quite large, measuring up to one metre across!