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 darker and duller without crest; has a streaked belly and bare parts are duller. 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: This species usually breeds in colonies in trees close to lakes or other wetlands. 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. Incubation ranges from 25 to 30 days and is carried out by both adults.
Foraging and Feeding
Great Blue Heron: They hunt mostly by wading, often belly-deep, impaling prey with a sharp, spear-like bill, or by standing and waiting for prey in shallow water. They also dive feet first after prey and hunt while floating or from floating objects. Their diet consists of fish, frogs, salamanders, lizards, snakes, shrimps, crabs, crayfish, dragonflies, grasshoppers and aquatic insects.
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.