Great Blue Heron      Ardea herodias

One of several top predators in Puget Sound, the Great Blue Heron feeds on small animals such as sculpins, sticklebacks, small perch, shore crabs and other invertebrates that it can easily swallow.  The Great Blue Heron relies on stealth to capture its prey.  Watch one on a log boom or along the shore and you will see it stand still or move slowly along watching closely for movement in the shallow water with it's neck in the S shaped ready position.  When prey is spotted, the neck unfurls hurling the head forward with lightening speed grabbing the unlucky meal. To avoid getting spines or fins stuck in its throat, the heron shifts the unlucky dinner to a head-first position and then swallows. When fishing in freshwater, Herons eat frogs, fish and crayfish. They even eat mice and other small mammals while patrolling open fields.  The Great Blue Heron feeds mainly during the day, but occasionally will hunt at night.

Great Blue Herons nest in large groups in tall trees near the water.  Several large colonies are located in south Puget Sound. One colony can be observed in the Spring along McAllister Creek in the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge. The young eat mainly small fish delivered by the harried parents.  After fledging the young disperse around the area leading to crowding in prime hunting grounds.  Territorial fights become common.  Adults over-winter along the shoreline and can be seen hunting in almost any kind of weather.

The Great Blue Heron is the largest North American Heron and is wide spread and common throughout the United States and Canada in both fresh and salt water areas.