April 2011 Bird Photo of the Month

Dinner is Served © Donald Schuster
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)
Coconut Point, Canon EOS 50D, Sigma 50-500mm at 417mm, ISO 250, 1/2000 @ F/5.6

Graceful in the midst of catching a fish, the Great Blue Heron in Donald Schuster’s photograph displays delicate breeding plumes on its head, neck and back.  Mature adult herons of both sexes (though males average longer plumes) have pure white head feathers with contrasting black plumes. Widespread across North America, the Great Blue Heron is patient, constantly vigilant, wading in shallow waters. When spying its prey, it becomes very still, watching for the exact moment to thrust its retracted S shaped neck to full length, with deadly aim.  Never attempt to capture a heron in distress without wearing eye protection!

The tallest wading bird (herons, storks, and ibises) in North America, the Great Blue Heron averages 5 feet tall with a wingspan of 6 feet, yet weighs less than 5 pounds!  With such size, weight must be limited so they can readily lift off and fly away if alarmed.  Most waders have evolved long leg bones that are strong but hollow. The whole skeleton is just 5% of total body weight; the feathers are about 17%; the muscles 35% (needed to lift the expansive wings); and organs 42%. Frequently, Great Blue Herons are seen catching large fish—quite something to see them gulp one down whole (always head first to smooth spiny fins) and watch the bulk progress along the slender neck!

Juanita Baker
Pelican Island Audubon
Bird Photo of the Month Coordinator

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