Great Blue Heron

When I walk at Boomer Lake, I wonder if I’m going to see one of the year-round residents—the Great Blue Heron. The Great Blue Herons belong to the family Ardeidae, along with the bitterns and egrets.

Great-blue heron sitting on drift wood at Boomer Lake.

While I haven’t done a ‘full walk around’ Boomer Lake since before the pandemic hit—I had counted at least five or six Great Blue Herons at the lake. I’m estimating that number because I know that it may be one or two less, but no more than 5 or 6 (as I can’t guarantee that one didn’t fly across the lake while I was walking), though the total population for Great Blue Herons could be higher in town as there are several other area lakes that they could be at during the day.

Great blue heron on yet another piece of driftwood.

While they are named Great Blue Herons—their coloring is more of a blue-gray in terms of their feathers. Though their feathers over their eyes and the plume are a darker blue (almost black) in color.

Great blue heron standing on the rocks…..

They are tall birds that can be seen along the shallow waters standing still (or walking) in search of their prey. Since they are usually stand extremely still, it is possible to either overlook them or not see them until you are extremely close—then they give their call as they fly off to another hunting spot.

Great blue heron flying to another point after I accidentally startled it….

One distinguishing characteristic–while they have long necks, they actually fold them in when sitting or flying, unlike other birds with long necks (such as cranes), that keep them extended.

Though if you’ve ever been to southern Florida—there is actually an pure white “great blue” heron, not to be confused with the common (or great) egret.

For the most part, Great Blue Herons are year-round residents for a good portion of the United States, though they are only spotted in a couple of states during the summer (or breeding) months.

Range map of the Great blue heron. (c) Birds of the World

They can be spotted usually wading, perched on logs, or even perched in trees around a body of water, where they are hunting.

Great blue heron perched in an tree at Boomer Lake.

Though Great Blue Herons are usually not the first bird I think of perching in trees around a lake—those are usually hawks, songbirds, and others.

They are a little territorial of the fishing areas and are more than willing to try to scare off other birds.

Great Blue Heron scaring off an Common Egret so it could have the fishing perch

Their diet consists of fish, amphibians, insects, small reptiles, small mammals, and occasionally other birds. They hunt in shallow waters, so the prey has to be within striking distance. Their necks are long and flexible allowing them to strike quickly in terms of stabbing their prey with their beaks.

Great blue heron patiently waiting for something to swim by.

If one is patient enough, you can even get a picture of the heron striking quickly in hopes of catching a fish, or some other aquatic prey—I’ve only managed to get a picture once.

My photography goals in terms of this magnificent bird include: getting a better picture of one catching its meal. Getting a picture of an immature heron fishing, and possibly getting a picture of one close to it’s nest–though they tend to nest away from where they feed.