Great Blue Heron

photo by Phil Swanson

Ardea herodias
L 46″ (117 cm) W 72″ (183 cm).

Song or calls:
Deep, rough croak.

Description: Sexes similar. Flies with long neck coiled back onto itself; slow wingbeats. Adult mostly medium gray, with narrow plumes over back and breast; crown and face white, with broad black band extending into long, narrow plumes from nape; stripe down foreneck expands into black and white breast; black belly; rufous thighs; bill large, yellowish, daggerlike; long, grayish legs. Juvenile lacks plumes, mostly grayish with rufous feather fringes; cap blackish; throat white; upper mandible black.

Bird Map
Habitat: Migrants are found along all water areas supporting a fish population and having shallows for foraging. Nesting usually occurs in colonies among groves of tall trees.

Where in Nebraska: Common regular spring and fall migrant statewide; local breeder in the western and central portions of the state; uncommon in the east. Locally rare but regular winter visiter. The heron may be seen along most rivers, streams, farm ponds, lakes or reservoirs that contain a fish population. Tall cottonwood trees are often used for nesting colonies although some active colonies have been documented in low-growing hackberry trees in the Sandhills and on abandoned tranmission poles along the Platte River.

Fun Facts: Great Blue Herons catch much of their prey by spearing fish with their long sharp bill and sometimes a heron has been known to choke to death trying to eat a fish that was too big.

Great Blue Heron - photo by Phil Swanson Great Blue Heron - photo by Phil Swanson
(click image for larger view)