Great Blue Herons

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Published on: Aug. 2, 1997

Last revision: Oct. 27, 2010

The Great Blue Heron is certainly Missouri's most conspicuous member of the heron-egret group.

These adaptable birds feed in the shallow waters of farm ponds and lakes, creeks, rivers, marshes and swamps. They are frequently seen flying, with neck tucked in a compact S-shaped curve, over open ground as they move from nest site to feeding territories. This largest of North American herons stands about 2 feet tall and is really more grayish-blue than blue. Adults are adorned in striking plumage, including slate gray wings and back, dark primary wing feathers, streaked neck, black patch near bend of wing, black and white head markings and graceful plume feathers emanating from the neck, back and head.Concerns about decreased populations in the decades following World War II have been allayed due to apparent recent rebounds. Surveys of breeding colonies, known as heronries, conducted by the Missouri Department of Conservation have shown a three-fold increase from the late 1970's to the present. The declines of the past may be attributable to the effects of chemical pesticides now outlawed. Present threats to the species include outright destruction of nesting trees and excessive, repetitive nest visitation by humans.

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