Great Blue Heron

Ardea herodias

Last updated: October 14, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© Brian Lasenby/

Their wingspan is larger than an eagle’s; both males and females help hatch the eggs; rich in symbolism


Great Blue Heron Scientific Classification

Scientific Name
Ardea herodias

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Great Blue Heron Conservation Status

Great Blue Heron Facts

Main Prey
Fun Fact
Their wingspan is larger than an eagle’s; both males and females help hatch the eggs; rich in symbolism
Most Distinctive Feature
6-7 foot wingspan
Incubation Period
30 days
Litter Size
2-7 eggs
Bears and raccoons, crows and ravens, eagles
Common Name
Great Blue Heron
North America

Great Blue Heron Physical Characteristics

  • Grey
  • Blue
Skin Type
5-6 pounds
38 inches

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The Great Blue Heron is a large water bird found primarily in North America.

They have beautiful plumage and an impressive wingspan size. Native people believe there is symbolism in seeing one of these birds.

4 Incredible Great Blue Heron facts!

Some of the most interesting facts about Great Blue Herons are:

  • These birds only weigh about six pounds, despite their large size
  • These birds have a wingspan of about seven feet
  • We call their nesting grounds a rookery
  • The oldest known herons lived to be 24 years old!

You can read more incredible facts about the great blue heron.

Great Blue Heron Scientific name

The scientific name for these birds is Ardea herodias. People sometimes call them cranes, which is incorrect, as that is a different species. There is a white variety known as the Great White Heron, which is found primarily only along the Florida coastline. There is also a Little Blue Heron, which is much smaller and lacks the head plumage. It also has a different call.

Great Blue Heron Appearance

These birds are blue-gray with black stripes. The juveniles are somewhat brownish and shaggier. Their eggs are pale blue.

Great Blue Heron catching a huge fish.
Great Blue Heron catching a huge fish.

©David Byron Keener/

Great Blue Heron Behavior

Herons nest in trees. They hunt for food both day and night, thanks to excellent night vision. They typically do this by wading in the water.

Great Blue Heron Habitat

These birds are typically found in marshes, and along rivers and shorelines. Throughout the southern United States, they are often seen wading in shallow waters beside roadways, probably in search of food. Their habitats range from southern Canada to the very Northern parts of South America.

Great Blue Heron Diet

Blue herons primarily eat fish, but in fact they will also consume a range of other animals they find while wading, including turtles, reptiles, insects, other birds and sometimes small mammals.

Predators and threats

Though the fully grown birds have very few natural predators, the juveniles and eggs are often prey for crows and ravens, eagles, hawks, turkey vultures, bears and raccoons.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

These birds lay anywhere between two to seven pale blue eggs. Both males and females take part in the incubation process, which takes about 25-30 days. Within 60 days of hatching, juveniles are capable of flight. They leave the nest about 30 days after learning to fly


The exact number of these birds is unknown, but the population estimates range from 100,000 to 250,000, and it is classified as “Least Concern“.

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Great Blue Heron FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What does it mean when you see a blue heron?

There is a lot of symbolism attached to these birds. According to some Native American tribes, seeing a heron means evolution, wisdom and progress.

Are blue herons dangerous?

Only for those who must handle them for some reason, such as veterinarians. They are capable of killing a human, but are not aggressive and do not attack humans unless they are being held while under stress.

What eats a great blue heron?

Several other birds eat the eggs and juveniles of herons, including crows and ravens, eagles, hawks, and turkey vultures. Bears and raccoons may also eat them.

What is the difference between a grey heron and a blue heron?

The most significant differences between grey and blue herons are their size and locality. Blue herons are taller with a larger wingspan and are native to North America, while grey herons are smaller in size than the grey ones and are more centralized in Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

  1. USGS, Available here:
  2. Find Any Answer, Available here:
  3. International Bird Rescue, Available here:
  4. Chesapeake Bay Program, Available here:
  5. Wikipedia, Available here:

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