Great Blue Heron at Rest

When not stalking prey, or off to another nearby pond, lake, or river, the local Great Blue Heron spends much of its time perched on various objects around the Wetlands.

Great Blue Heron perched on a prominent rock in the Wetlands.
Great Blue Heron perched on a prominent rock in the Wetlands.
An infrequent perch for this heron.
An infrequent perch for this heron.
One of the birds favorite resting locations.
One of the bird’s prefered resting locations.

Rocks, especially the two large rocks which can be seen left-of-center from the Wetlands Overlook, are the bird’s favorite perches. Here, the bird apparently feels safe to relax, far out in the water away from any would be predators.

Often, after a long day of hunting, the heron retreats to the large, flat rock and suns itself. Facing the sinking sun, the bird drops its wings to the sides and relaxes.

This strange pose may look akward but it apparently "feels" good to the heron.
The heron strikes a pose in the late afternoon sun.

Many years ago when I first observed a Great Blue Heron in this posture I thought it strange and peculiar. It certainly didn’t look very comfortable, but whose to say what’s comfortable to a Great Blue Heron. I’ve never seen other heron species in this pose (after some intense Googling, I discovered that many species of heron have been observed in this posture). Perhaps the pose is meant to help straighten the wing feathers; wing feathers can get quite twisted from flight and the sun may help to take out the kinks. Or maybe the bird is trying to dry out its feathers after wading in deep water.

Of course, the bird may simply be catching some rays. When in this posture the heron is always facing into the late afternoon sun. The shape of the wings while held in the position shown would seem to collect the most possible solar rays and reflect the heat onto the bird’s body. Various birds take on weird and contorted poses while sunning, so this stance should not be surprising.

There’s probably a combination of factors which cause herons to strike this pose, but perhaps the best explanation for this behavior (if an explanation is needed at all) is simply that it feels good to the bird.

Who knows what feels good to a heron
Who knows what feels good to a heron, and why.

Elsewhere in the bird world, there is currently only one Pied-billed Grebe in the Wetlands. The remaining grebe is often difficult to locate and doesn’t spend as much time as it previously did diving for fish near the boardwalk where it can easily be observed.

Hooded Mergansers are back! The mergansers arrived sometime during the first few days of November, as reported by Robin of the Butterfly House. I didn’t see them until several days later when six of them came swimming out of the willows on the far side of the Wetlands. Since then, as many as ten have been observed swimming about the water.

Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks have both been observed during the first few weeks of November. One sharp-shinned was seen chasing down a sparrow in front of the Ornithopter. It was a very close call for the sparrow, but it managed to elude the hawk after three or four passes around and through the trees. The hawk gave up the pursuit, and a very relieved sparrow high-tailed it for a nice dense shrub to recoup.

A large adult female Cooper’s Hawk sent the goldfinches, cardinals, doves and sparrows scrabbling for cover as it swooped down from above while I sat watching the smaller birds at the Bird Feeders. The hawk missed, flew into a pine tree, looked around for a few minutes for any careless stragglers, and took off.

The are many Yellow-rumped Warblers and Ruby-crowned Kinglets about. Watch the Wax Myrtle for these energetic little birds, especially during cold, blustery days.

White-throated Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos have both been seen at various locations around the outdoor exhibits, especially at the Bird Feeders. The sparrows arrived during the last week in October and the juncos flew in during the first week of November.

4 responses to Great Blue Heron at Rest

  1. Avatar
    Paula says:

    Greg, thank you for these photos of the strange pose of the Great Blue Herons. In 13 years I’ve never seen that behavior until a week ago and I thought the poor thing was hurt or deranged until I found your wonderful photos.

    • Greg Dodge
      Greg Dodge says:

      It’s not an everyday sight around here, fact is that I haven’t seen a heron strike this sun-catching pose for some time, don’t remember seeing it this year. I’m sure we’ll see it again though.
      Thanks Paula.
      Have a good one.

  2. Avatar
    Wendy says:

    Great Blue Herons would fly low over our house at night in Galveston, making deep croaking sounds as they flew to and from the lake to the bayou. We also saw a lot of Roseate Spoonbills there. Have any of those here?

    • Greg Dodge, Ranger
      Greg Dodge, Ranger says:

      No, no Roseate Spoonbills in these parts. Although they have been reported from the Outer Banks of North Carolina, you’re more likely to see them in coastal South Carolina. Even in SC, they’re not a regular sight, the fall being the best bet of seeing one.

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