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Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias




Heron facts:

Clutch size: 3-5 eggs

Incubation period: 27 days

Nestling period: 55-65 days

Adult life expectancy: about 10 years, oldest 18 years.

Juvenile mortality: about 75%

Flight speed: about 40 km/h in calm air


The Great Blue Heron is a widespread year round resident of the Pacific Coast of North America. It lives along the seashore from southern Alaska to Baja California and across North American from southern Canada to northern Mexico. Herons depart parts of Canada and northern United States that freeze in winter for the southern USA, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America or northern South America.


The Pacific Coast has two subspecies of Great Blue Heron. Ardea herodias fannini resides year round along the northeast coast of the Pacific. In a paper published in the 2004 volume of Northwest Naturalist, Bob Dickerman suggested that A. h. fannini should be restricted to the Queen Charlotte Islands and southeast Alaska. He based his conclusion on measurements and plumage colouration. The Queen Charlotte Island heron is the smallest and darkest of the coastal subspecies. If accepted, the heron along the south coast of British Columbia and Washington will need to be renamed. He also suggested that the Oregon and California coast herons are the subspecies A. h. herodias which is found across the continent. He did not consider the Great Blue Heron on the Galapagos. There will soon be some DNA analysis of coastal herons to examine the taxonomy further.



About 10,000 herons reside along the Pacific Coast between Washington and Alaska. Many thousand likely reside along the coast of California and a few thousand probably live on the Oregon coast. The northwest coast subspecies has been most studied in recent years.






Butler, R.W. 1997. The Great Blue Heron. University of British Columbia Press, Vancouver.


Butler, R. W. 1992. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias. Birds of North America No. 25, American

Ornithologists’ Union.


Dickerman, R. W. 2004. Characteristics and distribution of Ardea herodias fannini with comments on the effect of washing on the holotype. Northwestern Naturalist 85: 130-133.


Vennesland, R. W. 2000. The effects of disturbance from humans and predators on the breeding decisions and productivity of the Great Blue Heron in south-coastal British Columbia. M. Sc. Thesis, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby,




Great Blue Heron Links

For more information on the conservation of the coastal heron click on www.heronworkinggroup.org 


Heron web cam in Beacon Hill Park, Victoria, British Columbia



More on the biology and a video of foraging and nesting herons





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