Friday, June 27, 2008

Are you as patient as a great blue heron?

We hope to get back out on the water this weekend (weather permitting!) and will be sure to let you know all about it. In the meantime, I've been thinking about the great blue heron, ever since we had a chance to get up close and personal with this bird at Hoit Road Marsh. (Photo by David Baron)

These beautiful birds are quite abundant in New Hampshire (and North America), so if you spend any time at all on our ponds and lakes, you're very likely to see one. And considering its size -- about 4 feet tall with a 6-foot wingspan, you really can't miss it.

Two interesting facts about their behavior: Great blue herons are typically very patient (or lazy, depending on how you look at it) -- they quietly wait for their prey to come by before striking with their bills. You might say they're a little stupid, too. They swallow their prey whole and have been known to choke to death because they've swallowed something just a little too big for their long slender throats.

Apparently, they're not fussy eaters. They will consume anything from large fish to frogs, mice, small birds, and insects. When you're out on our waterways, be on the lookout for the herons' rookeries (high stick nests up in the trees) and give them lots of space.

A side note on our state's bird population: Thanks to the efforts of conservationists, three birds are being moved from the endangered to the threatened list this year. These include bald eagles, peregrine falcons, and the common tern. Ospreys are perhaps the state's biggest success story. They are coming off the threatened list altogether.

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