Great Blue Heron on the Hunt


Great Blue Heron along the Pigeon River on the North Carolina/Tennessee border. Photographed 04/10/2016 near Cosby, Tennesee.

The other day I made a break from our surprise eight inches (20 cm) of April snow here in southeast Michigan. In search of a warmer climate I drove nine hours south down to Great Smoky Mountains National Park along the border of North Carolina and Tennessee. Near my destination I noticed this Great Blue Heron (Pelecaniformes: Ardeidae: Ardea herodias) make a landing on a rock in the Pigeon River, so I stopped to take a few photos. Although the heron was cool, I was almost equally thrilled with the trees that were leafing out at this southern latitude.


Great Blue Heron along the Pigeon River on the North Carolina/Tennessee border. Photographed 04/10/2016 near Cosby, Tennesee.

While zoomed out to photograph the trees I missed the heron snagging a fish from the river, but caught it mid-meal. These birds are interesting ambush predators. An individual will stand motionless along the water for what seems like an eternity, keeping a patient eye out for a snack. In an instant they can strike out, grab their prey, and just as quickly swallow it whole.


Great Blue Heron along the Pigeon River on the North Carolina/Tennessee border. Photographed 04/10/2016 near Cosby, Tennesee.

Although these large birds are often seen along rivers and wetlands feeding on fish, they can also be found in meadows and fields snacking on small amphibians, reptiles, and mammals. Their sharp, strong beaks are well-adapted to quickly stabbing, mashing, and engulfing any prey they can catch.

About Jeremy Sell

Science and nature nerd.
This entry was posted in Ecology, Vertebrate Zoology and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Great Blue Heron on the Hunt

  1. Nice shot! Interesting that he is in almost the same exact position pre-fish as post-fish!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. donutsplace says:

    We lived in Florida for several years. And they have a lot of the herons too.
    One I called one-legged Henry. Poor thing.
    We lived at a marina for awhile. And we would walk down towards the end and say this heron everyday. The reason I called him that was because he had gotten tangled up in some fisherman’s line. It was on his elbow or knee.. and we could never get close enough to get it off.
    We watched for awhile. Finally it came off, along with his lower part of his leg. He seemed to do ok considering he only had one leg now.
    I get upset when people whonget their lines tangled up in the rocks and do not bother to try and remove it.
    My young daughter and I got down on the rocks and slowly worked our way along, pulling amd cutting the lines and hooks.
    You would not believe how much line we had by the time we were finished. Then we showed the fishermen it. And explained what had happend to Henry. I don’t think they really cared. And I don’t think they ever wanted to climb down there. But we did.
    We did live in the marina there and enjoyed it. Especially the birds.
    We cleaned venice beach inlet too. Wow, another ton of mess!
    Now we live in the middle of the U.S. and we still see the blue herons, even sea gulls. I am glad we see several of the same birds here as we did in Florida. They are all beautiful.and special in their own ways.
    Your photo brought back memories. Good ones too.
    Thank you for sharing!


  3. donutsplace says:

    Oh, I forgot to tell you about some of the herons blue or white….
    Occasionally you will see their neck wiggle around. Mostly side to side. This is to make them seem natural to the fish, like water ripples or something natural in the wind. And they catch the fish or crabs much easier.
    We watched this for quite awhile. They are so cute. 🙂


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