Heron Bird Information

Written by maureen malone
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Heron Bird Information
An unidentified species of heron wades in shallow water. (heron image by Alison Bowden from Fotolia.com)

There are many species of herons. A heron is a bird that wades in water. Herons are typically large birds with long legs, a long neck and a short tail. The plumes of a heron are long and soft. Patches of down-plumes are found on the breast. One of the most common species in North America is the great blue heron. Among other species of heron are the European night heron, little blue heron, tricolour heron and the white-bellied heron.

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Environment

Herons are water birds and are found near rivers, lakes and marshes. Herons are often found standing in the water or on the bank. They are typically found in tropical and sub-tropical areas, but there are species that live in temperate areas as well.

Feeding

Most species, including the Goliath heron and grey heron, feed and hunt alone. However, some species, such as the black heron and the pied heron, hunt and feed as a flock. Herons hunt in the water and eat fish and other aquatic animals.

Courtship

During mating season, many species of heron will change colour in the beaks and legs, where there are no feathers. Many herons threaten each other and fight during the courtship ritual. Males encourage females to begin nest building by presenting them with sticks.

Nesting

Herons build nests from sticks and other available materials. Many species of heron will build nests in the same or neighbouring trees. The number of eggs laid varies by species, but is typically between two and six. The incubation period also varies, but is approximately 26 days. Both parents participate in nesting and feeding of the young.

Outlook

Most herons are of low concern for the International Union for Conservation of Nature, but two species were considered endangered as of 2008. The white-bellied, or imperial heron---found in India, Tibet and China---is considered critically endangered, and its numbers are declining visibly. The Madagascar pond heron is listed as endangered. It may be found in central and east Africa and some parts of Europe. The white-eared night heron of China and Vietnam is also listed as endangered. In Florida, the little blue heron and the tricolored heron are considered endangered.

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