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home : birding w/don reimer : birding w/don reimer
January 29, 2020

7/24/2008 4:49:00 PM
Great Blue Heron -
Great Blue Heron hunting a grassy section of Weskeag Marsh in mid July  Photo by Don Reimer
Great Blue Heron hunting a grassy section of Weskeag Marsh in mid July Photo by Don Reimer
by Don Reimer

As the largest and most widespread of the North American herons, the Great Blue Heron is a familiar sight in Maine during much of the year. These four-foot-tall waders are a slate-gray color with blackish flight feathers. In breeding plumage, their white face is accentuated by a black cap and draping black head plumes. With a wingspan of up to six feet, these herons fly with their neck tucked in an S-shaped curve. They are occasionally confused with Sandhill Cranes (that now nest in Maine in small numbers), but cranes fly with their neck outstretched. Great Blues nest in colonies with the prominent stick nests generally located in trees or tall shrubs. Hunting by day or night, Great Blue Herons inhabit marine and freshwater habitats where they exploit a wide variety of prey. Although fish is a dietary staple, other prey items include frogs, salamanders, snakes, dragonflies and grasshoppers, small mammals and birds. Sometimes herons will abandon their watery feeding sites to forage in wet grassy areas. The bird in the photo above had focused his attention on dry land hunting. Since he was attacked by a tiny Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow, I suspect this heron was hunting for ground nestlings. Occasionally this species is recorded on our local Christmas Bird Counts.

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