Great Blue Heron: Large, elegant heron with blue-gray back, black sides, and gray-and-white striped belly. Long neck is gray with black-bordered white throat stripe. Head has white face, cap, and black crest. Upper mandible is dark, while lower mandible is yellow. Sexes are similar. Juvenile is duller and without crest. White and intermediate phases occur in Florida. Easily recognized in flight by 6-foot wingspan and neck folded into shape of an S.
Range and Habitat
Great Blue Heron: Breeds locally from coastal Alaska, south-central Canada, and Newfoundland south to Mexico and West Indies. Spends winters as far north as southern Alaska, central U.S., and southern New England, extending south into Mexico. Preferred habitats include lakes, ponds, rivers, and marshes.
Breeding and Nesting
Great Blue Heron: Two to seven pale blue or blue green eggs are laid on a shallow platform of sticks lined with finer material, usually built in a tree but sometimes on the ground, or concealed in a reed bed; often nests in colonies. Incubation ranges from 25 to 30 days and is carried out by both adults.
Foraging and Feeding
Great Blue Heron: Diet consists of fish, frogs, salamanders, lizards, snakes, shrimps, crabs, crayfish, dragonflies, grasshoppers, and aquatic insects; forages while wading, often belly-deep, impaling prey with its sharp, spear-like bill; active night and day.
Great Blue Heron: Makes a soft "kraak" or "fraunk" when disturbed or in flight; greets other members of its species with "ar."
Great Blue Heron: Sandhill Crane is larger, has red cap, dark bill, and does not fold neck in flight. White phase is distinguished from other white egrets by its larger size and combination of yellow bill and yellow legs.