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Written by: Nancy Moncrief
Monday November 9, 2015

On a couple of recent walks around a local lake, I was able to photograph a Great Blue Heron. I often see one or more herons at this lake, but they usually don’t let me (or anyone else) anywhere near them. These large birds are easy to recognize; they are the largest heron in North America.  They stand about 60 cm (about 2 feet) tall and have a wingspan of about 1.5 to 2 meters (about 5.5 to 6.5 feet).

Great Blue Heron at a lake in Martinsville, Virginia.Great Blue Heron at a lake in Martinsville, Virginia.

As you might expect for a bird that lives near a lake, Great Blue Herons mostly eat fish, but they also feed on frogs, salamanders, turtles, snakes, and insects. They are solitary ambush predators that stalk animals by standing motionless or walking very slowly in shallow water.  They capture prey using lightning-fast strikes of their long bill. They locate their prey visually and mainly hunt in the mornings and at dusk.  I think this animal was actively hunting as I approached, so I was able to get close enough for a photo.

Great Blue Heron at a lake in Martinsville, Virginia.Great Blue Heron at a lake in Martinsville, Virginia.

Great Blue Heron takes flightGreat Blue Heron takes flight

Tags: Biology, Birds, Dr. Nancy Moncrief, Research and Collections

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