See the Great Blue Heron in its coastal habitat on and around Salt Spring Island

Great Blue Heron fishingKeep a keen eye trained on the water’s edge, which is the most likely place you’ll spot the unmistakable grey mound of stillness on long, slender legs.

The Great Blue Heron is the largest of the North American herons, reaching heights of up to 35 inches with a wingspan up to 78 inches (over 6 feet) across!

They have a diverse diet, happy to eat land dwelling critters like frogs, snakes, mice and insects as well as fish, shellfish and other scrumptious sea life. Their primary food is fish and they are expert fishers.

Patience as a virtue in nature

POND PREDATORS?

Owners of backyard fishponds may find these opportunistic hunters feeding on their costly specimen fish.

Placing decoy herons nearby may discourage the real ones from raiding your stock. Another alternative is to install a bird netting over your pond. As a consolation, be thankful you’re not operating a fish hatchery, where these birds can be quite a menace!

Stoic and calm, these ancient creatures have an admirable (and advantageous) temperament. A quiet confidence which serves them well in the game of survival.

The heron’s long legs allow them to wade out into the water where they wait, motionless, poised to spear a snack from above when the time is right.

Here on the coast, feeding times vary depending on the tides and herons will staunchly defend their feeding sites.

This video shows a group of herons fishing near Vancouver. A clear demonstration of their skill…

Family Life

Heron parent and babies in nest
The Coastal Great Blue Heron found on Salt Spring Island do not migrate. They remain here year round, nesting in colonies from March through July of each year.

Breeding pairs build nests within a colony (or rookery), amongst other breeding couples. The nests are platform like structures, up to 3 feet in width, constructed in the uppermost branches of tall trees.

This positioning offers safety from common predators like snakes and raccoons. Although, the eggs and young hatchlings are still vulnerable to birds of prey. Nests are often lined with moss and lichens to add a cozy touch. Herons choose trees located in remote areas so they can nest in relative isolation.

MATING HABITS

Pair of herons in the throes of a courting ritual
Great Blue Herons live an average of 15 to 17 years. They choose a new mate each year, selecting their partner carefully after a series of showy courtship displays; snapping bills, vocal calls, neck extensions, passing of twigs, and plumage flashing.

The courtship rituals form a strong bond between breeding pairs, which is only the beginning of a beautiful, cooperative union.

An ideal time to view nesting herons in this area is throughout March and April. Females in coastal British Columbia produce three to five pale blue eggs in early spring.

PARENTING

The nurturing roles are equally shared between male and female. Both tend the eggs during incubation which lasts 28 days. Once the hatchlings emerge, the parents set to work sharing the duties of feeding and tending to their young.

Up to two months of being doted upon by their parents is enough for the young fledgelings to test their wings. Juvenile herons then leave the nest and begin a life independent of their parents.

This video compilation of nature photos illustrates the touching ways of herons rearing their young…

Spiritual Significance

Serene heron
Native North Americans believe that the Great Blue Heron is nature’s representation of the ability to evolve and to find one’s own way.

A reflection of the journey to self-realization and clarity of purpose. Their long delicate legs, unlikely pillars of strength. Ancient Taoists viewed the Great Blue Heron as serene and contemplative, always poised and ready to seize opportunity.

RELATED PAGES

Wildlife on Saltspring Island

SHARE