Did You Know (Great Blue Heron)

Photos by E.J. Lefavour

My favorite shore bird, the Great Blue Heron is a large wading bird in the heron family Ardeidae, common near the shores of open water and in wetlands over most of North and Central America as well as the West Indies and the Galápagos Islands. An all-white population found only in the Caribbean and south Florida was once known as a separate species, the Great White Heron

It is the largest North American heron, with a head-to-tail length of 36–55 in, a wingspan of 66–79 in, and a weight of 4.4-8 lbs. Notable features include slaty flight feathers, red-brown thighs, and a paired red-brown and black stripe up the flanks; the neck is rusty-gray, with black and white streaking down the front; the head is paler, with a nearly white face, and a pair of black plumes running from just above the eye to the back of the head. The feathers on the lower neck are long and plume-like; it also has plumes on the lower back at the start of the breeding season. The bill is dull yellowish, becoming orange briefly at the start of the breeding season, and the lower legs gray, also becoming orangey at the start of the breeding season. Immature birds are duller in color, with a dull blackish-gray crown, and the flank pattern only weakly defined; they have no plumes, and the bill is dull gray-yellow.

When I lived in Key Largo, FL, there was a resident Great White Heron, called George, at the Mandalay (an open air restaurant).  He would routinely sneak into the kitchen when the cook’s back was turned, and steal whatever he could off the counter before being chased out, croaking loudly.  He was also known to sneak up behind diners and with incredible speed impale and be off with the burger or fried fish from their plate, and even right out of their hand on occasion.  Amazingly, no one was ever injured, and he was eventually driven away and back to his more natural and healthier food sources.

E.J. Lefavour


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