WHAT THE PECK: Heron Happenings

(Illustration by Jessie McLaughlin)

It’s April, which means the majestic great blue heron will be swooping onto a shoreline near you any day now.

These little pterodactyls weigh only 5-6 pounds and build 1-metre-wide nests high in trees. They live for about 15 years on average but can live up to 24 years. 

Great blue herons are progressive — both males and females incubate the eggs and feed the young fluffs. They breed together in colonies, and often return to the same feeding grounds each year.

Herons are not diving birds. These long-legged beauties wade into the water, becoming part of the shoreline as far as the passing schools of fish are concerned.

They lunge their long beaks into the water, piercing the fish and oftentimes gulping it down in one swift swallow. They also eat small reptiles, rodents and small birds, and have even been seen snacking on gophers in fields.

Each fall, great blue herons migrate thousands of kilometers south to the warmer winds of the southern U.S., Caribbean and Central America. Herons are supposed to migrate around September or October, but some have been hanging back longer, departing later in the season or even opting to stay the whole winter in Nova Scotia.

As with many other birds, herons make the trip back up to northern U.S. and Canada in the springtime. So the next time you see a great blue heron stoically landing on the shore, they could be just landing from their nonstop flight from Florida.


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