A great blue heron photographed at Nebraska Wildlife Rehab in Louisville
A great blue heron photographed at Nebraska Wildlife Rehab in Louisville
Photograph by Joel Sartore, National Geographic Photo Ark

Great Blue Heron

Common Name:
Great Blue Heron
Scientific Name:
Ardea herodias
Type:
Birds
Diet:
Carnivore
Group Name:
Colony
Average Life Span In The Wild:
15 years
Size:
Body: 3.2 to 4.5 feet; wingspan: 5.5 to 6.6 feet
Weight:
4.6 to 7.3 pounds
IUCN Red List Status:
Least concern
Current Population Trend:
Increasing

The tall, long-legged great blue heron is the most common and largest of North American herons.

Fishing Abilities and Diet

Great blue herons are waders, typically seen along coastlines, in marshes, or near the shores of ponds or streams. They are expert fishers. Herons snare their aquatic prey by walking slowly, or standing still for long periods of time and waiting for fish to come within range of their long necks and blade-like bills. The deathblow is delivered with a quick thrust of the sharp bill, and the prey is swallowed whole. Great blue herons have been known to choke to death by attempting to swallow fish too large for their long, S-shaped necks. Though they are best known as fishers, mice constitute a large part of their diet, and they also eat insects and other small creatures.

Characteristics and Behavior

Great blue herons' size (3.2 to 4.5 feet) and wide wingspan (5.5 to 6.6 feet) make them a joy to see in flight. They can cruise at some 20 to 30 miles an hour.

Though great blue herons hunt alone, they typically nest in colonies. They prefer tall trees, but sometimes nest in low shrubs. Females produce two to seven eggs, which both parents protect and incubate. Chicks can survive on their own by about two months of age.

The all-white color morph found in the Caribbean and southern Florida is often called the great white heron, but it is in fact the same species.

This photo was submitted to Your Shot, our photo community on Instagram. Follow us on Instagram at @natgeoyourshot or visit us at natgeo.com/yourshot for the latest submissions and news about the community.
This photo was submitted to Your Shot, our photo community on Instagram. Follow us on Instagram at @natgeoyourshot or visit us at natgeo.com/yourshot for the latest submissions and news about the community.
Photograph by FRANK ROSSI, National Geographic Your Shot

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet