Great Blue Heron
Ardea herodias
Heron, Egret, and Bittern Family (Ardeidae)
By E. Ann Poole

Often seen hunting near shore in streams and lakes, the statuesque great blue heron is our largest North American heron. When spotted, if you remain still, you might be lucky enough to see the great blue heron use its elegant neck to strike, and tong-like bill to skewer or clamp on to a fish, frog, salamander, crayfish, or snake. Once caught, a quick death blow is delivered and the prey is swallowed whole.

Great blue herons are very wary, however, and take flight the moment they are disturbed. They have excellent eyesight and hearing and attempting to approach undetected is nearly always futile.

Awkward as bagpipes at take off, they quickly regain their composure in the air. With their six-foot wing span, slow wing beat, and long trailing legs, there's no mistaking the great blue heron's graceful flight and prehistoric appearance.

E. Ann Poole is a Consulting Ecologist & Environmental Planner in Hillsborough, NH. She can be reached by calling 603.478.1178 or via the web at

Chicks and adult great blue herons at their nests at Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary (photo by Webmaster)


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