Bird of the Week #13: Great Blue Heron

We’re going to do something a little different this week. Raptor Week is over and now we’re back to regularly scheduled content. However, instead of talking about yet another backyard bird, I wanted to cover something excited that happened! This week, the Bird of the Week is the Great Blue Heron, which you might actually attract to your backyard with a decently sized pond or other body of water. Herons don’t come to my yard, but I did have a very up-close encounter with one.

Unlike previous weeks, the photos here are all cell phone photos. I didn’t have my camera with me when I took them.

An Off-Duty Bentley PD officer and a Sedgwick County Deputy work to catch the poor heron to rescue him

I was out in the sticks close to Mount Hope, northwestern Sedgwick County, when I saw a Great Blue Heron in the river. There was a bullfrog in its mouth, but the heron wasn’t swallowing it. I looked a little bit closer and released there was a bunch of twine tied around its beak. The bullfrog escaped and the heron wasn’t able to open or close its mouth.

Mount Hope Police as well as a Sedgwick County Sheriff deputy came out to help catch the bird and you can see a volunteer officer as well as the deputy who helped out. The bird resisted, walking up and down the bank of the river to avoid us, but it wasn’t flying away. There was no telling how long it had the twine around its beak and it was probably weak from not having eaten anything. We managed to catch it and it didn’t put up a fight as we worked to cut the twine away.

Once it was finally cut away and the bird was free, it seemed stunned. It was still not moving much and didn’t take off, like I thought it might. My thought was that it was afraid and stunned in fear. We left the bird alone as soon as we could so it could hopefully snap out of it and find something to eat.

It was cool getting to be up close to more of an “exotic” bird rather than the little guys I’m used to seeing at my birdfeeders. There was also something special about getting to touch it.

Anyway, let’s talk about the bird!

Great Blue Herons are found throughout pretty much all of North America, as far south as South America and as far north as Alaska. They’re large birds with long necks, long sharp beaks, big yellow eyes, and stand on stilt-like legs. They’re often found standing on the shores of rivers, lakes, and all kinds of wetlands where they hunt for food. They eat practically whatever they can find, including crustaceans, fish, ducklings, reptiles, amphibians, and even rodents. They like to swallow their food whole, so they’re generally limited by whatever actually fits in their mouths.

Poor guy was a little frazzled after all that, but I think he’ll be alright!

Herons are usually found solitary, but breed in colonies. They build their nests in places difficult to reach on foot, protecting their young from non-swimmers. They are not monogamous for longer than a breeding year and, even then, are only “socially” monogamous, meaning they’ll happily “cheat” on their mates.

Down in Florida, there is a subspecies of the Great Blue Heron called the Great White Heron. Beyond the white coloration, they don’t differ by much and it hasn’t been settled yet whether or not the white herons are a different species altogether.

You’ve probably seen a Great Blue Heron at some point in your life. They’re numerous and common wetland birds, though that does not discount that they’re beautiful and interesting as well.

What do you think of Great Blue Herons? Do you have any neat experiences with them? Let me know!

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