One of the largest and most widely distributed of the North American species is the Great Blue Heron (A. Herodias), which is found from the sub-Arctic regions southward to the West Indies and northern South America. It stands from forty-two to fifty inches in height and has an extent of wings of about seventy-two inches, the coloration being nearly uniform bluish gray above, with the lower parts black or dusky, broadly striped with white. The occiput and sides of the crown are black, while the forehead and center of the crown are pure white, though in the young the whole top of the head is dusky.
The Great Blue Heron was formerly not uncommon throughout much of the eastern part of the United States, but is yearly becoming scarcer. It nests more or less in communities, building a large, flat nest of coarse sticks, occasionally placing it in low trees and bushes, but usually it is at a height of fifty feet or more. The eggs, from four to six in number, are about two and sixty-five hundredths inches by one and eighty hundredths inches; they are greenish blue in color. Of its habits Brewer says: “It usually fishes in the early morning and in the evening, often wading up to its tarsal joint in the water, standing motionless, watching until its prey comes near, and then seizing it by a very rapid stroke of the bill, and swallowing it head downward. It also feeds on meadow mice, frogs, small birds, grasshoppers, etc.” Very similar to this, although decidedly larger, is Ward’s Heron (A. H. Wardi) of western and central Florida, which has the legs yellowish instead of black.