Posted by Beth Anne Quinlan, PhD Avian Sciences on 4/4/2020 to Wild Birds
I vividly recall the first moment I gazed upon a great blue heron in flight. What a majestic sight! A beautiful blueish bird with a wingspan of 6 feet--WOW! It was a thrill I cannot adequately describe. And the first time I lay in my bed drifting off to sleep to hear a loud thump on the second story roof above my head. I flew down the stairs and out the front door to see a heron flying toward the neighbor's home--I guess I scared the bird as much as his landing scared me. Little did I know how amazing these birds are.
Each spring now, I eagerly await the return of the Great Blue Heron to the lake on which I live. This year, our lake has been blessed with four herons. For the majority of the summer, I will watch these great fishermen in awe.
Like other birds in spring, the herons' thoughts are of love. Blue herons mate for life. Each spring, males and females alike perform courtship rituals often displaying their beautiful crests. Mornings and evenings on our lake are filled with spectacular diplays of flying herons. They circle in flight calling loudly to one another, land on the shore and extend their necks, and then take off to fly in circles again filling my view with remarkable birds!
Herons are colony breeders; such a colony is known as a rookery. The males take responsibility for building a platform nest in a high tree. To support these huge birds, the nests must be large as well--often three feet in diameter. The herons construct their nests using twigs and branches often repairing last year's nest rather than starting anew. The nests are lined with soft materials, such as grass and moss, to protect the eggs.
Female herons lay 3 to 7 eggs in a clutch. After incubation by both parents for 28 days, the heron pair will only raise one or two chicks. Like many other birds, herons feed their chicks with regurgitated food. Both parents are active in the feeding and care of their young. Chicks remain in the nest for almost two months. Approximately 30 percent of all hatchlings will survive until their first birthday.
Herons have been observed to live over 20 years.
Wish you could enjoy a heron in your home or garden? Click here to view our selection of Blue Heron home and garden decor.