USGS - science for a changing world

Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

  Home About NPWRC Our Science Staff Employment Contacts Common Questions About the Site

Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Great Blue Heron -- Ardea herodias

RANGE: Breeds from southern Alaska, coastal and southern British Columbia, southern Keewatin, and central Manitoba east to Nova Scotia and south, except in high mountains. Winters from southern-coastal Alaska, coastal British Columbia, central United States, and southern New England south to northern South America.

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.

Previous Section -- Family Ardeidae
Return to Family List
Return to Contents

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

Take Pride in America logo logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
Page Contact Information: Webmaster
Page Last Modified: Friday, 01-Feb-2013 19:21:36 EST
Sioux Falls, SD [sdww54]