Great Blue Heron

Common Name - Great Blue Heron

Category - Birds

ScientificName - Ardea herodias

Kingdom - Animalia

Phylum - Chordata

Class - Aves

Order - Ciconiiformes

Family - Ardeidae

Genus - Ardea

Species - herodias


Description - Gray-blue body; white head; black stripe over eye; yellow or pale yellow, spearlike bill; long legs for wading

Size - 42 – 52 in. (105 – 130 cm) or approximately 4 ft. (1.27 m) tall

Ecological Role - The great blue heron is a top predator in the aquatic food web. It feeds both day and night by standing or walking slowly in shallow water, then grabbing food with its beak; it can feed in deeper water by plunging or swimming. It may hunt small mammals, such as mice and shrews, on land.

Fun Facts - The great blue heron is the largest heron in North America, having a wingspan of nearly 6 feet (1.83 m). The great blue heron flies with its neck folded. The crane, a similar looking bird, flies with its neck extended. The heron is gregarious. Heronries range from 3 – 432 nests in Kentucky. It can defend a feeding territory of several hundred yards in diameter.

Food - Mostly small fish, also dragonflies, grasshoppers, aquatic insects, crayfish, frogs, salamanders, lizards, snakes, turtles, birds


Nest - Large platform nest of sticks placed in trees or shrubs near water and lined with thin twigs and vegetation; usually 30 – 70 ft. (9.14 – 21.34 m) above ground, rarely on the ground

Breeding - March – early June; nest building in west Kentucky in early March; mid-March to the east and north; clutches completed in late March to late-April; more than 1,300 nesting pairs from 16 heronries in 12 counties reported in 1990

Eggs - Usually 3 – 5 per nest; pale blue-green; incubated 28 days by both sexes

Habitat - Marshes, swamps, ponds, edges of rivers and lakes

Kentucky Distribution - Statewide in suitable habitat; large nesting colonies (heronries) found in western Kentucky

Life Cycle

Life Span

Life Stage


Seasonal Changes


Status - Common


Voice - Guttural “frahnk” or short “rok-rok”; bill-clacking is done by both sexes

Young - Young born featherless and helpless; tended by both parents; leave nest 55 – 60 days after hatching; coloring similar to adult except head has solid back cap

What We Can Do


Diagnosis and Control

Interesting Facts

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