The familiar Great Blue Heron is the largest in North America. It is a large bird, with a slate-gray body, chestnut and black accents, and very long legs and neck. In flight, it looks enormous, with a six-foot wingspan. Adults sport a shaggy ruff at the base of their necks. A black eyebrow extends back to black plumes emerging from the head. Juveniles have a dark crown with no plumes or ruff, and a mottled neck. In flight, a Great Blue Heron typically holds its head toward its body with its neck bent.
Adaptable and widespread, the Great Blue Heron is found in various habitats. When feeding, it is usually seen in slow-moving or calm salt, fresh, or brackish water. Great Blue Herons inhabit sheltered, shallow bays and inlets, sloughs, marshes, wet meadows, shores of lakes, and rivers. Nesting colonies are typically found in mature forests, on islands, or near mudflats, and do best when they are free of human disturbance and have foraging areas close by.
Great Blue Herons are often seen flying high overhead with slow wing beats. When foraging, they stand silently along riverbanks, lake shores, or wet meadows, waiting for prey to come by, which they then strike with their bills. They will also stalk prey slowly and deliberately. Although they hunt predominantly daily, they may also be active at night. They are solitary or small-group foragers, but they nest in colonies. Males typically choose shoreline areas for foraging, and females and juveniles forage in more upland areas.