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Great Blue Heron

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These large greyish birds are a common sight along ditches on Delta farmland, where they hunt for small mammals, amphibians, and fish. You can often see them hunting for voles in a Grassland Set-aside.

These large birds stand at about a meter tall (3’3”). Their characteristic S-shaped neck is enabled by a modification of its sixth neck vertebrae which allows the neck to bend backwards. This trait makes their neck and head into an effective spear that can coil onto itself and then extend to its full length at a great speed when capturing prey.

The heron is a stealthy hunter, remaining almost motionless while scanning for prey on the ground or in the shallow water, and then suddenly striking with its sharp beak.

They are social birds, sometimes hunting together but their sociability is especially prominent in their nesting behaviour. They nest in large colonies with multiple nests in the same tree; the largest colony on the west coast is close to the BC Ferries port in Tsawwassen, with several hundred nesting pairs.

The herons found in this area belong to a distinct sub-species called faninni subspecies, which remain in the area all year as opposed to other migratory herons. Unfortunately their numbers seem to be decreasing and they are considered a species of special concern under the federal Species at Risk Act. Hopefully these adept hunters will continue to exist on the Fraser River delta for years to come.

Photo by jessi.bryan 

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