Skip to Main Content

Forests, Fish and Wildlife

Bookmark and Share print small medium large 

BIRDS OF THE ISLAND /


Great Blue Heron

About the Great Blue Heron

Photographers wishing to "shoot" the majestic great blue heron will have lots of chances on PEI, the great blue heron capital of North America.

From the time the herons arrive in late March until departure in late fall, they grace shorelines wherever quiet waters provide good fishing. They fish, patiently, motionlessly along both fresh and salt water shores of the Province. And there are enough quiet bays and estuaries to support a very high population of herons. How good is it? About 33% of Maritime great blue herons are concentrated in Prince Edward Island, which represents 4% of the available area of the Maritimes. The sites frequented by herons are accessible for the photographer, or for the average viewer. A day of driving the scenic routes of PEI will provide many sightings and opportunities for a close up look. In fact, the great blue heron is one of the beautiful sights on our scenic routes.

The blue heron is one of several species described as a colonial nester. Colonies of birds set up housekeeping together in undisturbed areas to raise their young. Nests built of sticks are placed in the treetops.

According to a review conducted by Al Smith of the Canadian Wildlife Service, PEI great blue heron colonies are large, averaging 74 nests, while Nova Scotia colonies contain on average 22 nests, and New Brunswick colonies 35 nests. The largest colony known on PEI consisted of 507 nests when last assessed in 1997. As herons raise their young, a buildup of excrement on the trees often leads to the death of the nest trees. Then the herons may have to find another quiet site in which to nest.

The conservation of the great blue heron depends on maintaining the high quality feedinghabitat which is everywhere on the Island, and on providing undisturbed nesting areas. With secure heron breeding areas, we can look forward to seeing these birds as they feed away from the colonies, and to maintaining our reputation as the North American blue heron capital into the future.

The great blue heron stands about 4 feet tall (1.2 meters) with a wing span of approximately 6 feet ( 1.8 meters). Adults are bluish grey with a white crown and face and a black fedora on their heads. Their necks are crooked in an S shape. The birds have long, narrow legs in order to easily wade through the water. Their bill is quite long and yellowish in colour. They usually cruise between 20-30 miles per hour (32-48 kilometres per hour). They lay between three and five eggs which hatch in 28 days. The young usually fly two months after hatching.

PEI is a great site to watch one of nature's most beautiful birds, the great blue heron.

Good Viewing Locations

The following locations are good places to start if your interested in viewing members of the Great Blue Heron species.


Photographs

These photographs are provided to help you identify members of the Great Blue Heron species and are provided here courtesy of the individual photographers, who retain copyright. You may not reproduce these photos without permission. Click on any photo for a the full-sized version.

Great Blue Heron - juvenile in flight.
44104 bytes
72 dpi - GIF image
300 x 200
Industry Canada Collections

Great Blue Heron - breeding adult.
47096 bytes
72 dpi - GIF image
300 x 200
Industry Canada Collections

Great Blue Heron - breeding adult.
63593 bytes
72 dpi - GIF image
300 x 200
Industry Canada Collections

Blue Heron in water (basis for Confederation Bridge postage stamp).
250356 bytes
72 dpi - JPEG image
1428 x 944
© Paul Baglole

Great Blue Heron
132647 bytes
72 dpi - JPEG image
638 x 477
(C) Rosemary Curley All Rights Reserved.

Great Blue Heron
120681 bytes
72 dpi - JPEG image
640 x 480
(C) Rosemary Curley All Rights Reserved.

Blue Heron
143870 bytes
72 dpi - JPEG image
640 x 480
(C) Parks Canada

Blue Heron
126556 bytes
72 dpi - JPEG image
640 x 480
(C) Parks Canada

Blue Heron
89551 bytes
72 dpi - JPEG image
640 x 480
(C) Parks Canada

Great Blue Heron
105866 bytes
72 dpi - JPEG image
480 x 640
(C) Gerald MacDougall

More about the Great Blue Heron on the Internet

The following websites can help you learn more about the Great Blue Heron species. These websites are maintained by other organizations, and when you click on the links below, you'll be visiting their websites, not ours.

Seasonal Frequency

You can use the following as a guide to when you can most easily expect to spot members of the Great Blue Heron species on Prince Edward Island. This information comes from The Natural History Society of Prince Edward Island which retains and publishes records of bird sightings.

Spring
March 16 to May 31
(northerly migration)

Very common, 50 or more birds per day
Summer
June 1 to August 15
(nesting season)

Very common, 50 or more birds per day
Autumn
August 16 to December 14
(southerly migration)

Very common, 50 or more birds per day
Winter
December 15 to March 15
Rare, 1 - 5 birds per season

Nesting on PEI

The Great Blue Heron is known or believed to nest on PEI.

back to top