Great Blue Heron


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Engraving, Relief Sculpture and Oil on Purcell Mountain Slate Stone
Size: 10" x 9" x 1" thick, Weight 1-½ pounds. IMG 1577.
Artist: Elaine Sell Prefontaine

Private Collection in Columere Park
A Private Community located on Columbia Lake, British Columbia




THE GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)

Living within several miles of a Great Blue Heron colony in the Columbia Valley wetlands area at the northern end of Columbia Lake, I have the privilege of seeing these huge intriguing birds cruising the skies almost daily in the summer months. Their graceful blue-grey bodies are easily recognizable in flight with their 6′ wingspans, long legs trailing behind and long necks folded back over their shoulders in an S form. Being members of the waders family they are distinguishable from cranes in flight because of their crooked necks. These birds are fast fliers cruising at speeds of 19 to 29 mph.

It is interesting to watch them wading through the wetland reeds on their long narrow greyish legs in their quest to spear fish, frogs or small garter snakes. When I am canoeing or kayaking on Columbia Lake and they see me nearing them, they strike a still stance remaining almost totally camouflaged in the reeds till I paddle on. Herons stand 4′ tall and when I use my binoculars to view them standing there in the reeds, I am usually able to easily spot their white head cap with the distinguishable black stripe below it. This stripe starts above the eye near their long sharp yellow bill and runs to the back of their neck ending in short pointed plumes. Juveniles lack this white head cap and crest plumes and are greyer over-all than the adults. During the mating season two of these extended black neck feathers become long and thread like.

Although I was able to see from higher ground, the general area in the woods where the herons were landing in the trees some distance away, I spent almost an hour on my first visit  searching through the bush to find the exact area where the colony of nests was hidden in the upper limbs of a tall grove of cottonwoods.  It was interesting to note that although herons can sometimes be a noisy lot with loud squawking, not a sound could be heard as I approached the heronry.

It was not until I almost stumbled upon some huge nests which had fallen to the ground that I realized I was in the right spot.  Due to the heaviness of the nests they are sometimes blown to the ground by strong winter winds. Male herons chose a new mate each year, and help their mate to either rebuild their platform-like nests from scratch or refurbish old ones with twigs and branches.  It is common to see many nests in the same tree. Three to seven bluish-green eggs are laid in each nest from late March to mid-April with both parents doing the incubating. Eggs hatch in 4 weeks then both parents care for the chicks. Chicks are able to fly after 56 – 60 days leaving the nesting area on average from mid July to early August  to disperse to other areas where they can find fish. The blue herons life-span averages 17 years.

The Herons range is northern south America, Central America and North America all the way from Mexico to Canada. Herons migrate south in winter from areas where the waters freeze, as in this south-eastern portion of British Columbia, Canada.

Food for thought:   It was in 2007, two years after my first visit to the heronry in May 2005, and further visits to the area in late summer of 2006, that I read that Herons can be so dangerous when fledglings are in the nest, that they have been known to dive bomb humans and impale them with their wide pointed dagger like bills. Subsequent to my one visit in May the others were fortunately made at a safer time in late August. I unknowingly thought I was safe in the woods because I had a large dog with me, but next time I am in the area I might also wear a hard hat or bicycle helmet.


Cycle of Power:         Spring
Key:                             Independence, Uniqueness, Dignity, Self Determination and Self Reliance

Persons having the Great Blue Heron totem are strong willed, dignified and uniquely independent. They stand on their own two feet and know what is best for themselves. Heron people are very observant and instinctive and take successful advantage of opportunities others might not  notice.

Heron people are not followers. They “dance to their own drummer” and do not feel the need to fit in or “keep up with the Joneses”. Although they enjoy socializing they are perfectly content to be on their own. They are versatile and adaptable and enjoy exploring new and different avenues in life and learning new skills.

People with the Great Blue Heron as their totem are of strong character and take full control and responsibility for their actions.



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