The Great Blue Heron is a large, majestic wading bird that lives near the shores of lakes and wetlands, both fresh and salt, over most of North and Central America and the Caribbean, with rare appearances elsewhere. Most of its feathers are various shades of gray-blue; its head is white with a plume of feathers that form black stripes over the eyes.
The beak and feet are yellow. The name “great” comes from its size. It has a standing height of four feet and more, a wingspan of up to six feet, and weighs five to eight pounds. When hunting, it stands still waiting for prey to come within range or stalks with very slow, deliberate steps, stunning or killing its prey with a thrust of its long neck. Special neck vertebrae allow the bird to curl its neck into an “S” shape and to uncurl it with lightning fast speed. The Great Blue Heron also eats mice, insects, and other small creatures, swallowing its prey whole.
The Great Blue Heron hunts alone but nests in colonies of from five to more than 100 pairs. The male and female work together to build, incubate, protect, and feed the young. The male brings the nesting materials and the female builds the nest. The female sits on the eggs at night, while the male sits on them during the day. After the chicks hatch, the female watches the nest at night, while the male guards it during the day. The Great Blue Heron was nearly hunted to extinction by the early 20th century because of the value of its beautiful plumage as a female hat accessory. A group of herons is called a battery, a pose, a rookery, or a scattering.
(Friday Church News Notes, February 8, 2013, www.wayoflife.org, firstname.lastname@example.org, 866-295-4143)