Common Name

Scientific Name

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Photo by Lynn Chamberlain
Photo Copyright Lynn Chamberlain

The great blue heron, Ardea herodias, is the most widespread North American heron, occurring from Alaska to northern South America. In Utah, it is the most commonly encountered heron, found state-wide along shorelines of lakes and rivers, as well as in marshes.

During March and April, nests are built colonially in the tops of trees growing along water's edge. Males collect the nesting material, primarily sticks, and females build the nests. Once constructed, nests are often re-used in following years. New nest material is added to the old nests, and, after several seasons of use, the nests may reach 3.5 feet in diameter. Usually four, but as many as seven, eggs are laid each year. Both parents alternately incubate the eggs for 25 to 29 days. Young can fly after two months, but sometimes remain at the nest for as many as three more months. The great blue heron feeds on fishes and amphibians.


  • Butler, R. W. 1992. Great blue heron (Ardea herodias). Birds of North America 25: 20 pp.

  • Baicich, P. J., and C. J. O. Harrison. 1997. A guide to the nests, eggs, and nestlings of North American Birds, Second Ed. Academic Press, San Diego. 347 pp.