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Lingering Great Blue Herons

11-12-14 great blue heron2_U1A1373

Most fish-eating birds that breed where most bodies of water freeze over in the winter migrate further south in the fall, including Great Blue Herons.  Movement of this large wading bird takes place largely from September to mid-October. According to Christmas Bird Count data, the Great Blue Heron has the widest wintering distribution of any heron species in North America.

While the number of Great Blue Herons in the Northeast is greatly diminished in November and December, it’s not uncommon to spot lingering birds at this time of year.  Come January, when most bodies of fresh water are inaccessible to herons, sightings become rare until they begin returning in March.

Where open water remains in the Northeast, those Great Blue Herons braving the cold continue to consume fish, insects, amphibians and crustaceans.  Small mammals, especially voles, and birds remain a warm-month delicacy, when mammal hair is cast in pellets and bones are digested.

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14 responses

  1. Walking the dog early this morning, I looked up to see a flock of about 8 GBHs flying past. They had that distinctive B-52 wingspan.

    November 12, 2018 at 8:32 am

  2. And see just how widespread they are in the winter here:

    November 12, 2018 at 9:13 am

    • Thank you so much for this reference!

      November 12, 2018 at 9:29 am

  3. Jane R Marshall

    Beautiful photo, lines and colors blending so well.

    November 12, 2018 at 9:18 am

    • Thank you so much, Jane. The GBH gets all the credit!

      November 12, 2018 at 9:30 am

  4. Alice Pratt

    Such an alert looking bird.

    November 12, 2018 at 12:08 pm

  5. Kathie Fiveash

    I just came in from walk where I saw two, slowly stalking the edges of the cattails. You never know which is the last one – just take pleasure in each.

    November 12, 2018 at 1:34 pm

  6. Andrew Hutchinson

    I saw one walking on an icy pond last December 3.

    November 12, 2018 at 5:58 pm

    • Alice Pratt

      That must have been tricky going! 😮🤭

      November 12, 2018 at 6:31 pm

  7. Bill on the hill

    Hi Mary… As always, outstanding subject matter & a beautiful photograph too boot!
    This one looks like a female?
    I love the B-52 wingspan comment, quite appropriate, lol…

    November 13, 2018 at 8:30 am

    • Thanks so much, Bill. I would love to know how you determined its sex! I know males are bigger, and have longer bills, but unless there was a pair right next to each other, I don’t think I could tell!

      November 13, 2018 at 12:08 pm

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