The Great Blue Heron is an unmistakeable bird, with its long neck, bill, wings and legs.
The Great Blue Heron is the largest heron in Canada, weighing around 2.5 kg and measuring over 1 m high when standing with its neck outstretched. In flight, this heron rests its head against the shoulders, holds its legs straight behind, and flies with deep, slow wing beats. When in shallow water hunting, the Great Blue Heron stands motionless, patiently waiting for its prey, which includes mostly small fish, but occasionally shellfish, insects, rodents, frogs, reptiles and small birds. Usually the fish are less than 1/2 the length of its bill, but that is not always the case! The series of photos below, taken at the East Cove Pond this May, show a Great Blue Heron with quite a mouthful!
Mating pairs may choose to nest alone or in colonies. Nests are made in woodlands that are within a few kilometers of their aquatic feeding areas. The male gathers the nesting materials, such as sticks, twigs, moss, lichens and conifer needles, while the female assembles these materials into a nest. Eggs are laid in April, with the males incubating them during the day, and the female incubating at night. For the first two weeks after hatching in May, the day/night shift continues - the female hunts and returns to feed the young during the day, while the male guards the nest. These roles are reversed at night. After the first month, the chicks are left unguarded most of the day, and within 10 weeks, the young leave the nest for good. In the fall, Great Blue Herons migrate to southern states, Mexico and South America, flying day and night.
As clearly shown in the photos below, the Coves is an important area for Great Blue Herons in London, offering calm, freshwater feeding areas, and quite possibly, nesting areas in woodlands near the ponds.