Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
STATUS: Common throughout range.
HABITAT: Inhabits a wide variety of freshwater and saltwater habitats including ponds, lakes, streams, rivers, marshes, wet meadows, tidal flats, sandbars, and shallow bays, or wherever shallow water or marsh vegetation is present.
SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Open water or wetland habitats.
NEST: Generally nests in colonies, preferably in an isolated patch of woodland or on an island. Builds nests in the tops of the tallest trees, live or dead, often above 50 feet, but also in bushes, on rock ledges, sea cliffs, in tule rushes, and on the ground. In colonies, may build dozens of nests, which are used repeatedly, in the crown of the same tree. In mixed heronries, typically nests in highest parts of trees while other heron species occupy lower parts of same trees. May travel as far as 10 miles from nest sites to foraging areas.
FOOD: Usually stands motionless in shallow water and waits until prey comes within striking distance. Also forages in wet meadows, pastures, dry fields, and even along road shoulders and in suburban ponds. Consumes small fishes, frogs, salamanders, lizards, snakes, shrimp, crabs, crayfish, aquatic and land insects, leeches, and small mammals.
REFERENCES: Low and Mansell 1983, Palmer 1962, Pough 1951, Sykes in Farrand 1983a, Terres 1980, Verner and Boss 1980.