Cruising the shoreline with slow, deep wingbeats or whether poised at a river bend, the Heron is a gallant sight. Herons can move like lightning to catch a fish or snap up a gopher, although they may go slowly. In flight, look for this extensive heron’s tucked-in neck and long legs.
Size and Shape
It is the greatest of all the North American blue herons with a graceful neck, long legs, and thick, dagger like bill. Torso, head, and wing plumes give off a shaggy look. In flight, the Heron twists its long neck into a constricted “S” contour; its wings are rounded and wide and the legs trail beyond its tail.
Herons seem blue-grey from a distance, with a broad black stripe covering the eye. In flight, the upper side of the wing is light on the flight feathers on the forewing and darker. A pure white subspecies appears in coastal southern Florida.
Herons stride or stand statue-like, trailing fish and other targets in open fields or shallow water. Look out for the lightning-quick push of head and the neck as they stab with their powerful bills. Their slow wingbeats, and tucked-in neck, with trailing legs produce an unmistakable picture.
Search for Herons in freshwater and saltwater habitats, from lakes to backyard goldfish ponds, marshes, sloughs, riverbanks, and open shores. Also, they forage in agricultural fields and grasslands. Breeding birds assemble in “heronries” or colonies to build stick nests high off the earth.
Herons have some specialized feathers on their torso that always grow. The herons comb this using other oils from their feathers. They can hunt night and day thanks to the pole-type photoreceptors in their own eyes that enhance their night vision.
Despite their remarkable size, Herons weigh just five to six pounds thanks to their bones that are hollow —an attribute all flying creatures share.
Herons eat almost anything within a short distance, including small mammals, amphibians, reptiles, fish, insects, and other fowl. Smaller prey are grabbed by them using their powerful mandibles or their dagger-like bills to pierce fish that are bigger, shaking the sharp spines to break or slack before gulping them down.
For pond owners, their first encounter with a heron is indirect when fish in their pond begin to vanish in whole or in part. If the heron understands that a fast meal can be found in a pond (residential body of water), it will continue to return in search of food.
Usually, the heron remains on the edge of the pond and is in a crouching position or will stride into the pond, and wait for a fish. These enormous birds can be in this position for extended length of time while searching for food. As time passes, fish (food) will eventually near the water line at which point the heron will strike. The heron captures its food by spearing the fish with its bill that is extremely sharp and long. Next, it will swallow the entire fish. This process will continue if the food supply remains constant or run outs. In which case the heron will move on to find a new food source.
The Heron will eat various food types. Its diet is not limited to only fish. The heron’s diet can consist of fish, crabs, frogs, insects, other small birds, rodents, snakes and anything it can catch! If any of these food sources are in proximity of the pond, they are potential food sources.
The outward appearance of the heron may give the impression that it is a slower bird species. They are very fast when spearing food and in flight. It can fly at heights up to 90’ when looking for food sources. When flying, the heron will look for various reflections in the bodies and related areas when searching for food sources. After a food supply is found, the heron will search the area for any predators before it will fly in.
In most cases, if you are having a problem with Great Blue Herons, your home or business is in very proximity to a body of water (water front homes, retention ponds or Koi ponds). Please note that the Great Blue Heron is a protect bird under the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act and cannot be harmed in any way. As such, there are a few methods to deter the Great Blue Heron from water bodies.
Control Options Strategies
Deterring and Excluding the Great Blue Heron from Ponds
Food Source Reduction
Koi ponds and other food sources will provide Great Blue Herons with a food supply. Bird Exclusion netting around the pond will not allow larger birds to gain access to the food source.
Habit Modification (around water bodies and related areas).
Installation of grid wire system over and around ponds and bodies of water.
Bird deterrent wire on ledges, docks, roof tops and related areas to deter birds from landing on treated areas.
Improve sanitation practices to ensure food source reduction.
Scare and motion activated devices to deter birds from specific areas.
Note that this is typically only practical for smaller bodies of water and docks.
Prior to implementing any type of Blue Heron control program, it is important to properly remove and clean-up all old bird droppings and related debris.
The Heron can cause problems in commercial ponds and water bodies and residential backyard ponds. Typically, the heron will stay around smaller bodies of water but will share larger water bodies if there is an ample food supply.