Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Great Blue Heron

No bird is more regal than the great blue heron. These are large wading birds which are found in wetlands and near open water. Their territory runs over a majority of North and Central America, the Galapagos Islands, and the West Indies. This bird shows up in Europe rarely, and it has also been spotted in the Azores, England and Spain.

The great white heron was once thought to be a separate species, but it's not. The white heron roams south Florida and the Caribbean and is actually a white morph of a blue heron. Another species of heron called the Wurdemann's heron looks similar to the great blue heron, but it has a white head.

In Europe and elsewhere a similar but smaller bird, the grey heron, is predominant. Along with the cocoi heron and the great blue, the grey forms a sort of super-species. There are also five subspecies.

The bird's territory goes up to Alaska and Canadian provinces. Birds normally living in the northern part of their range migrate South for the winter. On the West Coast and in the southern U.S., they stay put. In the north, some of the birds do remain during cold winters, as these are hardy birds.

Great Blue Heron

The blue is the biggest of the herons in North America and grows up to fifty-five inches tall. Stretched out, the wings may cover a length of seventy-nine inches. It can weigh up to eight pounds and it has lovely, slate-blue feathers, reddish brown thighs, and two stripes down the flanks. Its neck is a rust-grey color with white and black streaks down the front. It features an almost-white face and a pair of bushy black "eyebrows" on its head.

The great blue heron has a dull-yellow beak and this turns orange at the start of the breeding season. Young birds have an overall duller color, no plumes, and a beak which is dull gray-yellow. The bird walks in an almost straight line and the distance between steps is about nine inches. It has small talons which imprint as it walks.

Habitat is varied for this large bird. It is very adaptable to its surroundings. The great blue is always found close to bodies of water, and it prefers nesting in an elevated location such as bushes or trees. The great blue heron might be spotted in both saltwater and freshwater marshes, at the edges of lakes, shorelines, and in temporarily flooded meadows, like their cousins the egrets.

They are a favorite of birdwatchers because they are regal, refined and elegant. Watching them wait patiently for prey and then lightning quick catching it, brings a few of those gorgeous Audubon paintings to life.

You are likely to spot these large and beautiful birds if you visit the coast or inland waterways of Alabama. They are very common on the beach, and there you will normally see a solitary heron in search of food. They are very accustomed to humans, so it is easy to get close enough to take a good photo. If you are in a watercraft, look for their nests (from the water, of course) on the islands in and near Perdido Pass.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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