An Imperial Beach Hidden Gem and Bird of the Week, Bryan Brillhart Photography present the “Dig IB” Bird of the Week, the Great Blue Heron
May 24, 2018 05:16PM
By Paul Spear
An Imperial Beach Hidden Gem and Bird of the Week, Bryan Brillhart Photography present the “Dig IB” Bird of the Week, the Great Blue HeronThis weekly column provides photos of birds photographed locally in the Tijuana Estuary or on IB's beaches along with background on the bird.
This week’s “Bird of the Week” is the Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias), a large wading bird in the heron family Ardeidae. 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. Northern populations east of the Rockies are migratory, with some going to the Caribbean, Central America, or northern South America. They migrate by day or night, alone or in flocks. Some wander well to the north in late summer. Populations along the Pacific Coast may be permanent residents, even as far north as southeastern Alaska.
Widespread and familiar (though often called a "crane"), they are the largest heron in North America, often seen standing silently along inland rivers or lakeshores, or flying high overhead, with slow wingbeats, its head hunched back onto its shoulders. They are highly adaptable, and thrive around all kinds of waters from subtropical mangrove swamps, to desert rivers, and to the coastline of southern Alaska. With its variable diet it is able to spend the winter farther north than most herons, even in areas where most waters freeze. A form in southern Florida (called "Great White Heron") is slightly larger and entirely white.
Habitat is in marshes, swamps, shores, and tideflats. They are very adaptable, and forage in any kind of calm fresh waters or slow-moving rivers, and also in shallow coastal bays.
Nesting is in trees or shrubs near water, and sometimes on ground in areas free of predators. The "Great White" form is mostly in salt water habitats.
They forage mostly by standing still or walking very slowly in shallow water, waiting for fish to swim near, then striking with rapid thrust of bill. They also forage on shore, from floating objects, and in grassland. They may hunt by 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 the edge of marshes, and eating many species of small waterbirds.
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Paul Spear, Publisher, and Editor of Dig Imperial Beach