Great Blue Heron

Ardea herodias

Last updated: August 14, 2021
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff

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



Great Blue Heron Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Aves
Order
Pelecaniformes
Family
Ardeidae
Genus
Ardea
Scientific Name
Ardea herodias

Great Blue Heron Conservation Status

Great Blue Heron Locations

Great Blue Heron Locations

Great Blue Heron Facts

Main Prey
fish
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
Habitat
Marshes
Predators
Bears and raccoons, crows and ravens, eagles
Diet
Carnivore
Type
bird
Common Name
Great Blue Heron
Location
North America

Great Blue Heron Physical Characteristics

Colour
  • Grey
  • Blue
Skin Type
Feathers
Weight
5-6 pounds
Length
38 inches

Great Blue Heron Images

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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!

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.

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.


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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

These herons primary food source is 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

Population

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.

Sources
  1. USGS, Available here: https://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/Infocenter/i1940id.html
  2. Find Any Answer, Available here: https://findanyanswer.com/what-does-seeing-a-blue-heron-symbolize
  3. International Bird Rescue, Available here: https://www.birdrescue.org/great-blue-herons-now-and-then/
  4. Chesapeake Bay Program, Available here: https://www.chesapeakebay.net/discover/field-guide/entry/great_blue_heron
  5. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_blue_heron

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