Blue Heron

Photo copyright Pat MacGregor

It’s not called the “Great” Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) for nothing. Though the blue on this large wading bird tends toward gray, the Great Blue Heron is indeed great in size, reaching 36 to 55 inches from head to tail. With dagger-like bill and s-curved neck, it stalks its prey in solitude, moving meditatively and precisely through the shallows at the edges of a pond or marsh. When it spies an interesting fish, the heron slows, stops, and then stands motionless for a long while, quietly watching. Suddenly, at the perfect moment, its head snaps forward in a rapid blur, striking its quarry with impressive speed. The Great Blue Heron also eat crustaceans and reptiles, lifting its black-and-white crowned head high to swallow them whole.

You may find a Great Blue quietly hunting at the edges of the Reynolds farm pond near the entrance to the Angle Fly Preserve, where it blends in with the surrounding foliage surprisingly well for such a large creature. When startled, it takes a grand leap into the air like a ballet dancer, then opens its expansive wings, and with a couple of strong, deliberate beats, lifts into the air and is gone.

Although we don’t have a nesting population of Great Blue Herons in Angle Fly, a heron rookery is an impressive and entertaining sight. These big birds build bulky twig nests high in trees where they land in a comical and ungainly manner, the branches of the tree swaying with the force of their arrested flight.

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