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Aquatic Birds


Herons and Bitterns

Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias.
Great Blue Heron,
Ardea herodias.

Class: Birds
Order: Herons, Storks, Ibises and Allies
Family: Herons and Bitterns

Species found along the Rideau River:
Great Blue Heron

Characteristics of the family:
Herons and bitterns have long legs, a long neck, a short tail and long broad wings. Their long straight bill tapers to a point. When they fly, their neck is doubled back against their shoulders, which differentiates them from cranes.

Representative species: Great Blue Heron
Description Large grey-blue wading bird with a long yellowish bill. The head of the adult is white, but on either side is a black stripe that extends into a black crest.
Size 1.05 m to 1.3 m tall from the tip of the bill to the tip of the tail.
Distribution Range is southern Canada to Mexico. They are found along the entire Rideau River. Winters from the southern parts of British Columbia and the northern United States to the northern parts of South America.
Habitat Feeds in wetlands and along shorelines. Usually nests in tall trees, in colonies of various sizes and at times far from the water.
Food Fish, frogs, crayfish, mice, large insects.
Life cycle The female lays 2 to 7 eggs in the spring. Both parents care for the eggs and newly hatched nestlings. The young leave the nest after two months.
Interesting facts Great Blue Herons are the largest herons in North America. Adult wingspan averages 1.8 m!


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 Images: Canadian Museum of Nature / Musée canadien de la nature