The Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) is a very interesting bird. It is a member of the Ardeidae family as are all other herons. All members of the family Ardeidae have specialised feathers called powder down. These feathers never moult but fray from the tip and grow continuously from the base.
While pigeons have similar feathers all over their bodies, in herons, these are concentrated in patches. The fine powder that is generated as these feathers fray is used by the bird to remove slime and oil from their feathers.
Another heron feature is their 4 long toes, 3 pointing toes forwards and one backwards. The claw on the middle of the forward toes has a rough, comb-like inner margin that the heron uses to preen its soft feathers. The Great Blue Heron is overall grey-blue, huge, tall and a wader.
The Great Blue Heron has long legs and a long neck. It is approximately four feet tall or forty-six inches (117 centimetres) with a wingspan of six to seven feet. The Great Blue Heron is about seventy-two inches wide (183 centimetres).
The Great Blue Heron has a blue-grey colour on its belly, bod and wings. The birds beak is yellow, long, thick and sharp. Their shoulders are black and its back is mainly a slate-grey colour and It has a brownish-buff coloured neck. The front of its neck is white with a vertical streak that is black. The birds head is white with a black stripe above its eye. The Great Blue Heron weighs anywhere from 5 to 8 pounds (2 to 3 kilograms).
A male and female heron generally have the same description. It is a huge long-necked, long-legged wader with a thick yellow beak. It holds its neck in an ‘S’ shape both while in flight and while at rest.
The Great Blue Heron will often stand motionless waiting for fish to swim by. It feeds in shallow water or at the waters edge and spears fish or frogs with its long, sharp bill. Its varied diet can also include insects, snakes, turtles, rodents and small birds. It will also raid goldfish ponds in back yards. The Great Blue Heron also eats Lava Lizards and young Marine Iguanas.
The Great Blue Heron usually breeds in colonies in trees close to lakes or other wetlands, often with other species of herons. It builds a bulky stick nest. The female lays 3 to 5 pale blue eggs. Both parents feed the young at the nest by regurgitating food.
Young Great Blue Herons are different from mature herons in many ways. Feathers are on a full-grown herons back but not on a young Great Blue Herons back. Instead, a young bird would have brownish-grey back and brownish grey upper wings.
Young herons do not have a shaggy neck but a mature heron would. A young heron would have a black cap but a grown bird would not. A Great Blue Heron would not have any black feathers coming from behind and above the eye to beyond the back of the head. A mature heron has a white crown and face but a young Great Blue Heron would not have that colour. A young Great Blue Heron is not the same as a mature Great Blue Heron. The call of this bird is a harsh croak.