This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the great blue heron.
As far as birds go, great blue herons are somewhat of an iconic version of grace around here. They keep to themselves, moving slowly, and typically hunt in solitary fashion in tucked away places by water, fishing being their trade of excellence. Not only do they seek out and spear small fishes only to toss them back down their long bills, but they also feed on amphibians and small birds and rodents when given the chance.
They don’t look like any other year-round bird for this corner of the world. Their largely powder-blue plumage is only interrupted by dark flight feathers and, when mature, a dark blue crest extending from their forehead to clear behind their heads.
Juveniles tend to be drabber, with more gray body plumage than blue, and with bills not quite the refined yellow of their adult counterparts.
In flight, wing beats are slow (and wide), legs sticking out behind them, with their S-shaped neck consolidated. Despite being 4-plus feet tall, these birds weigh in at only five to six pounds due to hollow bones and exceptional sleekness.
Thanks to the return of beaver populations, the connectivity of pond and wetland structure has served these herons quite well. Look for rookeries next spring, where herons build substantial nests from long sticks in cottonwood and other tall trees.
For information on local bird-watching events, visit www.weminucheaudubon.org and www.facebook.com/weminucheaudubon/.