Forest Feature: Herons

Wildlife like this majestic Great Blue Heron make their home in and along the lower Duwamish River in western Washington State. You might also catch glimpses of eagles, ospreys, seals, and otters when traveling along the river. EPA added about five miles of the lower reach of the river to its list of Superfund cleanup sites in 2001. Visit www.epa.gov/region10/duwamish to learn more about EPA's efforts to clean up and restore the lower Duwamish River. U.S. EPA photo.

It’s July? Where did half the summer go! Let’s all take a moment to breathe, relax, and experience the present while reflecting on this month’s Forest Feature, the graceful heron.

Herons are wading birds in the Ardeidae family. There are dozens of species (including bitterns and egrets). Herons feed on fish and small aquatic animals.

They are important birds that appear frequently in traditional folklore from many cultures, including Greek, Aztec, Celtic, Chinese, and Egyptian, and the Nisqually Indians, a Native American tribe from the south Puget Sound region of western Washington state.

There are many species of heron that are prevalent in the Pacific Northwest, but these are a few of the most prominent species:

Great Blue Heron: One of the most easily spotted and found throughout much of the United States, this massive bird (with a wingspan up to 6 and a half feet wide!) is as handsome as it is graceful. You can find great blue herons wading across an impressively diverse habitat range: from brackish to freshwater systems, agricultural and suburban landscapes, wetlands and sloughs.

Green Heron: Smaller than many other herons, the green heron uses a different strategy to hunt. Standing still, it waits for small fish and amphibians to wander within striking range. Once prey is near, the move quickly! You won’t see more than a quick flash of green and brown before the green heron gulps its dinner.

Black-Crowned Night Heron: A generalist in the true sense of the word, this bird is the most widespread heron in the world. It’s a social animal, often nesting with other herons, egrets, and ibises. The oldest Night Heron on record was a 21-year old female.

Resources:

Are you inspired to spend more time with this remarkable bird, the heron


Source information: Forest Features highlight a new Pacific Northwest species (or sometimes, a family, order, kingdom, or genus) each month as part of the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s regional youth engagement strategy.

If you’d like fact sheets, activities, or links to other educational resources about this topic – and for information about other ways the Forest Service can help incorporate environmental education and forest science in your classroom – email YourNorthwestForests@fs.fed.us.

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