With 64 recognized species, these long-legged freshwater and coastal birds are sometimes referred to as “egrets.” The smallest of this species is under 30cm in length, while the largest stands up to 152cm tall. Unlike most long necked birds, Herons are able to retract and extend due to the “S” shape of their necks.
Herons are mostly associated with wetlands and water where they spear their aquatic prey with their long harpoon-like bills while wading. Their diet includes fish, reptiles, amphibians, crustaceans, mollusks and aquatic insects. Herons are non-swimming waterbirds, predominantly found in lowland areas, as well as migratory, and colonial.
Although monogamous, and sharing an equal role in the care of the young, new mates are chosen each year. Male Herons begin the construction of the nest as a mating ritual but once paired, the female assists in the completion of the nest. Unlike most other birds, there is little difference in the plumage of the male and female of the species; however, females are about 10% smaller.
Herons can be found on all continents except Antarctica and are present in most habitats. They nest near or above water, typically in vegetation and lay between three to seven eggs.
The most abundant and widespread Heron in North America is the Great Blue Heron. They can be found from the Maritime Provinces across southern Canada and north along the entire coast of British Columbia. The adult birds stand over 1m high, weigh around 2.5kg and can live as long as 17 years.
The Great Blue Heron has two main fishing techniques. His first is to stand motionless and wait for a fish to come to him, the second is to slowly wade around in 15cm to 25cm of water until he drives a fish from its hiding place. Once the fish is located, using either method, it is caught in the Heron’s bill and swallowed headfirst. When the supply of fish in one area is depleted, the heron will fly to another area and start again.
Adult Great Blue Herons have few natural enemies, but the mortality rate of their young is high. The eggs can be vulnerable to predators. Environmental factors, such as weather and food shortages, can take a toll on the young. Currently, scientists estimate the population of the Great Blue Heron in the tens of thousands, a healthy number; however, the destruction of wetlands and other feeding areas is the most serious potential threat to the Great Blue Heron’s survival.
When looking for a name for our company, the iconic image of a Heron standing guard over his wetland home offered us the inspiration needed and Heron Instruments was born. Our line of quality Instruments are ideally suited to monitor and protect all your groundwater resources.