The Great Blue Heron
, a large, widespread wading bird, is probably the most well-known in North America. It might be found in a wetland with Green Herons or Redwinged Blackbirds or on a beachshore with Sanderlings or Great Egrets,
or fishing for koi in your backyard pond. It is a versatile species that is thriving in an era where many other birds are struggling. The Great Blue Heron is a favorite bird photographer’s subject. There is something ancient about it.
Relying on past success
The Great Blue Heron likely never shared the landscape of Tyrannosaurus Rex with any other dinosaur. About 66 million years ago, the Mesozoic Era (or the age of dinosaurs) ended. Although some birds have lived alongside dinosaurs, there are no known extant bird species with a lineage as old as this.
The genus Ardea is 14 million years old. However, the Pleistocene Epoch was about 1.8 million years back and the oldest fossils of the Great Blue Heron date back to that time. This bird’s “prehistoric” appearance, with its thick, long bill, curvaceous, powerful neck, and long legs, is more evidence of the successful adaptations that have been made to the species over the last 1.8million years. How Long Do Birds Live
This doesn’t mean that the Great
Blue Heron is dead. Different geographic factors have led to different populations that changed in size and proportions over the millennia. Ornithologists are still puzzled about the taxonomy of the species. There are at least four to nine subspecies of the Great White Heron, a pure-white bird found in the Florida Keys or West Indies.
Some consider this population to be a distinct species. A “blue Great Blue Heron will mate with a Great White Heron to create a “Wurdemann’s Heron,” which is white in the head but resembles a blue Great Blue Heron.
The great blue, at 5 feet tall and with a wingspan up to 6 feet Bother No More, is North America’s largest heron. Its large size, blue coloration, and black-striped head make it stand out from other large North American herons like the Great Egret or the Reddish Egret.
The Sandhill Crane is the only taller, overall-gray wading bird found in North America. It has a dark, red-crowned bill and has a unique posture. This includes a “bustle”, which is formed by its inner-most flight feathers (tertials). Herons tend to fly with their necks extended, but cranes have their necks in an “S” shape. The great blue’s distinctive wingbeats are deep and slow, while their neck position is curved making them stand out in flight.
The Great Blue Heron is found
at least once a year near any body of water in North America. The Great Blue Heron breeds in southern Alaska, central Canada, Nova Scotia, northern Mexico, and rarely northern Belize. For the coldest months, the northern breeding population moves to warmer climates.
The great blue can be found in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean during winter. It reaches the northern coast of South America. The Galapagos archipelago has a resident population. The Great Blue Heron is usually seen alone outside of nesting season.
However, it can sometimes migrate in small groups, either day or night. The Great Blue Heron is usually silent but can be heard if disturbed or while nesting. In fact, their breeding colonies are quite loud. The most common sound it makes is a “cranky” and loud squawk.