A peek at Florida's Nature
Great Blue Heron

The Great Blue Heron is a wading bird that has a long neck and long thin legs. It stands about four feet tall. Its body and wings are mainly gray or bluish-gray. Its head has a black cap with a white streak on top. Its face is white, and it has yellow eyes. The Great Blue Heron's bill is gray on top and yellow on the bottom. It is long and pointed, making it very useful for spearing and catching fish. This bird's neck is white in the front and has delicate dark markings. The Great Blue could very well have been named the "Great Gray Heron" as its main color is closer to gray than blue.

This is the largest of the herons. It is often found alone but sometimes can be seen in a group with various other herons. The Great Blue Heron stands with its head held high in a dignified pose. It often stands near the shoreline or wades in shallow water. When it is disturbed, it squawks loudly and flies away with its neck tucked in an S shape and its long legs stretched out behind it.

Adult Great Blue Heron with breeding plumage

During breeding season this bird has whitish plumes hanging from the front of its neck and subtle grayish plumes on its back. The top bill turns a dull light blue. A black "pony tail" plume hangs from the back of its head.

The Great Blue Heron uses a patient  "stand and wait" method to capture its food. It's surprising to see how large a fish this bird can swallow. You might see a Great Blue Heron standing close to a fisherman, hoping to get a fish thrown its way. The wise fisherman keeps a close eye on his or her bait bucket as many Great Blue Herons have learned to help themselves when the fisherman isn't looking.

Adolescent Great Blue Heron with rust colored
thighs and shoulders

Young Great Blue Herons are much browner than the adults and don't have white on top of their heads. Adolescent Great Blue Herons look very similar to the adults, but they have rust colored thighs and more rust on the wings than the adults. Male and female Great Blue Herons look alike.

The photos on this page were taken at Howard Park
in Tarpon Springs, Florida.

 All photos on this website by J.A. Heintz
All written material by D.C. Heintz

Copyright 2010 D.C. Heintz. All rights reserved.

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