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Merlin Bird ID

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    Great Blue Heron

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    Great Blue Heron

    Ardea herodias
    • ORDER: Pelecaniformes
    • FAMILY: Ardeidae
    Basic Description

    Whether poised at a river bend or cruising the coastline with slow, deep wingbeats, the Great Blue Heron is a majestic sight. This stately heron with its subtle blue-gray plumage often stands motionless as it scans for prey or wades belly deep with long, deliberate steps. They may move slowly, but Great Blue Herons can strike like lightning to grab a fish or snap up a gopher. In flight, look for this widespread heron’s tucked-in neck and long legs trailing out behind.

    More ID Info
    image of range map for Great Blue HeronRange map provided by Birds of North AmericaExplore Maps

    Find This Bird

    Scan shorelines, river banks, and the edges of marshes, estuaries, and ponds across much of the U.S. for this tall, slow-moving heron. Great Blue Herons also feed in meadows, farmland, and other open fields. Some colonies or “heronries” are found near developed areas; look for the herons’ bulky stick nests high in trees. And once you recognize their slow wingbeats and massive silhouettes, you’ll start to notice these birds in flight high in the sky as well.

    Other Names
    • Garza Morena (Spanish)
    • Grand Héron (French)

    Backyard Tips

    Great Blue Herons aren’t likely to visit a typical backyard. However, they are sometimes unwelcome visitors to yards that include fish ponds. A length of drain pipe placed in the pond can provide fish with a place to hide from feeding herons. Herons, like most of our birds, are legally protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

    If you are near appropriate habitat, consider building a nest platform to attract herons. You can get plans for Great Blue Heron nest platform on our All About Birdhouses site.

    • Cool Facts