A Day in the Life of a Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron’s are majestic birds that are fascinating to watch. This unique story is told from the heron’s point of view and is packed full of true heron facts.

I wake up as the sun peaks over the horizon. I am sitting on my nest beside my 3 young herons who are still fast asleep. Whoosh, my mate takes off in flight to search for breakfast. As the sun gets warmer, the young begin to stir. They have grown so fast, hatching just a few weeks ago they now have most of their feathers and are learning to hop and flap their wings. The young herons are getting hungry and are eagerly awaiting my mate’s return. I hop up to a higher branch to get a better view.

We live in a small colony, also called a rookery or heronry, which consists of 20 nesting pairs. I have seen large rookeries that consisted of over 100 bulky, stick nests clustered in tall trees; what a sight! Off in the distance I see my mate returning. I open my wings and gracefully take off, as it is my turn to catch food. Feeding 3 growing herons is an all-day task.

As I fly over the lake and pass a patch of trees I am startled by a Bald Eagle who has suddenly taken flight from its perch. This is one of the few animals we herons need to be wary of. I grow nervous and change course as the eagle flies in my direction. A wave of relief washes over me as the eagle plunges down and grabs a fish out of the depths of the lake with its powerful feet. I am safe to continue in my search for food.

Reaching the edge of the lake I swoop down to land. My feet have stirred the water, and all the small creatures in it, so I wait. Motionless, my eyes never leave the clearing water below. Small insects begin to redeploy, but I am waiting for a more substantial feast this morning like fish, frogs, salamanders, water snakes, large insects, mice, small birds or even plant seeds.

Time passes with songbirds boasting their brilliant morning songs from tall trees and frogs croaking from lily pads only a short distance from my legs. One frog is hopping closer and closer catching bugs with its long elastic tongue. My patience pays off; the frog spots a dragonfly and crosses my path to get closer. My spear-like bill and lightning bolt speed give me the advantage as I snatch up the frog without warning. All the surrounding sounds have ceased as I seem to have startled everyone with my breakfast catch. I spear many more frogs, fish and insects before flying back to the rookery.

My young herons squeal with anticipation as I land on the nest. They are flapping and bumping into each other, pushing to get to the front of the line. One of them gets bumped out of the nest in the commotion. Flailing its wings to regain balance, it hops back up the ladder of branches just in time to get the last bit of food I have.

Soon my young herons will be flying and following us to learn how to catch food themselves. It will be a challenge for them to learn to fly, hunt for food, and recognize predators. By the time they figure out these basic life skills, it will be time to fly south for the winter.

To find out more about this magnificent species, visit our Species Spotlight.