May 5, 2015: Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias,
is the largest heron in North America. Most often seen as
a silent sentinel along inland rivers or lake shores, they
abandon their solitary habits during nesting season, often
breeding in colonies with other wading birds. The male
chooses the nest site and begins his courtship
display--stretching his neck and pointing his bill skyward,
flying in circles over the nest with his neck extended and
stretching his neck forward with head and neck feathers erect
and snapping his bill--in hope of attracting a mate.
Steve Blackledge won First Place in the
Palm Coast Photo Club contest with this shot. Nesting
sites are highly variable, from atop palm trees 20-60 feet high
to low shrubs or on the ground in predator-free islands.
The male gathers most of the nest material which is arranged
primarily by the female. Generally 3-5 pale blue eggs are
laid and incubated by both parents for 25-30 days. Both
parents feed the young by regurgitation. About 60 days
after hatching, the young are capable of flight. They
leave the nest at 65-90 days of age.
Great Blue Herons are year-round residents in
roughly the southern half of the US and everywhere in the
northern US and into Canada during the summer.