Animal Facts: Great blue heron

  • Jun 11, 2019
  • 334 words
  • 2 minutes
  • By
© Greene
Expand Image

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

Big Bird

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.

Fast Flier

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!

Related Content

illegal wildlife trade, elephant foot, ivory, biodiversity


The illegal wildlife trade is a biodiversity apocalypse

An estimated annual $175-billion business, the illegal trade in wildlife is the world’s fourth-largest criminal enterprise. It stands to radically alter the animal kingdom.

  • 3405 words
  • 14 minutes
A grizzly bear lies dead on the side of the road


Animal crossing: Reconnecting North America’s most important wildlife corridor

This past summer an ambitious wildlife under/overpass system broke ground in B.C. on a deadly stretch of highway just west of the Alberta border. Here’s how it happened.

  • 3625 words
  • 15 minutes


Rare birds

Spread your wings with birdwatching’s elite guard in south Texas

  • 2583 words
  • 11 minutes
A northern cardinal in a tree


7 ways to enjoy birds in your backyard this summer

You’ll be amazed at the feathered friends you can attract to your yard by following these simple tips

  • 1580 words
  • 7 minutes