Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Living Sanctuary section includes Marine Life, Habitats, Ocean Environment, History and Culture
Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Living Sanctuary section includes Marine Life, Habitats, Ocean Environment, History and Culture
Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Living Sanctuary section includes Marine Life, Habitats, Ocean Environment, History and Culture

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron
(Ardea herodias)

Habitat
Freshwater marshes, swamps, river and lake edges. Saltwater tideflats, sandbars, shores, and in the Pacific Northwest, eelgrass beds.

Range
The most widespread heron in North America. From southern Canada to Mexico.

Eats
Mostly fish, but an opportunist: crustaceans, frogs, salamanders, rodents, turtles, insects and small birds.

Feeds
Stands motionless in water for long periods waiting for prey to come close, then snatches or pierces prey in a lightning-quick strike with dagger-like bill.

Moves
Flight is distinctive, with slow, deliberate wing beats, long neck folded back into an S-shape and thin legs trailing behind. Average about 25 mph; maximum near 35 mph. Standing three to four feet tall with a wingspan of nearly six feet, weighs only 5 to 6 pounds.

Song
Raucous, harsh croak.

Reproduction
Breeds near estuaries within OCNMS. Seasonally monogamous; one brood per year. Gregarious, nests in colonies. One colony in Washington contained 135 active nests. Nests on the ground or elevated in bushes or treetops.

Threats
Eggs or nestlings often stolen by eagles, ravens, gulls, hawks and raccoons.

Status
After severe depletion in the 19th and early 20th centuries by hunters collecting plumes for women's hats, hunting was outlawed. Now protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Presence in Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary
Resident; present all year

Notes
The tips of the heron's powder-down feathers, which help insulate this water bird, disintegrate into a powdery substance that soaks up water, fish and swamp slime, blood and oils. This protects the feathers and makes preening easier.

In 2003, named Seattle's official city bird.



Contact for page content: Liam Antrim
Photo of peach coral
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