Great Blue Heron

Ardea herodias

Summary 3

The Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) is a large wading bird (between 3 and 5 feet tall) that are mostly blue-grey, with brown thighs, and a white cap over a black eye stripe that merges into long, black plumes. The sexes are similar in coloration but the female is normally around ten percent smaller than the male, while juveniles are duller and lack the long plumes of the adults (EOL).

Similar speciesGreat Egret is another tall wading bird sometimes seen on campus, but as the name suggest, is all white in coloration.

Where on campus? 4

Great Blue Herons are occasionally seen hunting in the grassy areas of campus, both on the hills in the main quads and along perimeter road in the drainage ditches.

Habitat 4

Great Blue Herons live in both freshwater and wetlands, and also forage in grasslands and agricultural fields. Most breeding colonies are located within 2 to 4 miles of feeding areas, often in isolated swamps or on islands, and near lakes and ponds bordered by forests ( On Foothill campus, they are usually just visiting to hunt.

Life History 4

Nesting Males gather materials and females weave it into nests, usually high up in trees bordering water bodies. Colonies can have up to 500 nests. Chicks are altricial.

Feeding Great Blue Herons are opportunistic feeders and will eat fish, crustaceans, small mammals, frogs and other amphibians, lizards and other birds.

Distribution 4

Great Blue Herons are found in most of North America and Central America as well as the Caribbean and the Galápagos Islands.

Migration 4

While some populations are migratory, ours are year round residents.

Sources and Credits

  1. (c) Mike Baird from Morro Bay, USA, some rights reserved (CC BY),
  2. (c) David, some rights reserved (CC BY),
  3. Adapted by gillian360 from a work by (c) Wildscreen, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA),
  4. (c) gillian360, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA)

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