Bryan Brillhart of Bryan Brillhart Photography presents us with the Dig Imperial Beach “Bird of the Week”, the “Great Blue Heron”
Feb 16, 2016 03:47AM
By Paul Spear
Bryan Brillhart of Bryan Brillhart Photography presents us with the Dig Imperial Beach “Bird of the Week”. This week’s bird is the “Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) ”.
The column will provide a picture of a bird(s) locally photographed and we will have
background on the bird.
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“Dig Imperial Beach” Bird of the Week, the “Great Blue Heron ”
This week’s “Bird of the Week” is the Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias), a large wading bird in the heron family. The great blue heron was one of the many species originally described by Carl Linnaeus in his 18th-century work Systema Naturae. Formerly, they were often shot simply because it made a conspicuous and easy target, but this rarely occurs today. Colonies may be disrupted by human disturbance, especially early in the season, but they are still common and widespread, and their numbers are probably stable. Great blue herons are often incorrectly called a "crane”, but they are the largest heron in North America. They are often seen standing silently along inland rivers or lakeshores, or flying high overhead, with slow wing beats, with its head hunched back onto its shoulders. Highly adaptable, they thrive around all kinds of waters from subtropical mangrove swamps, to desert rivers, to the coastline of southern Alaska. A "Great White" form is found mostly in salt water habitats.
With its variable diet it is able to spend the winter farther north than most herons, even in areas where most waters freeze. They are very adaptable, foraging in any kind of calm fresh waters or slow-moving rivers, and also in shallow coastal bays, mostly by standing still or walking very slowly in shallow water, waiting for fish to swim near, then striking with a rapid thrust of bill. Hunting may be during day or night. Diet is highly variable and adaptable, eating mostly fish, but also frogs, salamanders, turtles, snakes, insects, rodents, and birds. They have been seen stalking voles and gophers in fields, capturing rails at edge of a marsh, and eating many species of small waterbirds.
After mating females lay 3-5, sometimes 2-7, pale blue eggs. Incubation is by both sexes in about 25-30 days. Both parents feed young, by regurgitation. Young are capable of flight at about 60 days, and depart the nest at about 65-90 days. Great blue herons yield only 1 brood per year in north, and sometimes 2 in south.
They breed in colonies, often of this species alone, but sometimes mixed with other wading
birds, and rarely in isolated pairs. Males choose nest sites and display there to attract mates. Displays include stretching their necks up with their bill pointing skyward, flying in circles above the colony with their necks extended, stretching their necks forward with head and neck feathers erected and then snapping their bills shut. Nest sites are highly variable, usually in trees 20-60' above ground or water, and sometimes in low shrubs, or on predator-free islands, sometimes well above 100' in trees. Nests, built mostly by females with material gathered mostly by males, are a platform of sticks, sometimes quite large.
Both parents feed young by regurgitation. Young are capable of flight at about 60 days, and depart their nests at about 65-90 days.
The great blue heron is and amazing bird to see due to its impressive size. I have seen a few of these large waders feeding in the Tijuana Estuary recently. Take some time to wander the many excellent trails there and enjoy this local treasure.
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