Great Blue Heron Portraits from Florida and Utah

Calling adult Great Blue Heron portraitCalling adult Great Blue Heron portrait – Nikon D200, handheld, f7.1, 1/1250, ISO 200, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light, not baited

In Florida I found it easy to get close up images of Great Blue Herons because quite often they are used to the presence of humans but here in Utah that isn’t the case and Great Blue Herons are sort of skittish.  The Great Blue in the image above walked so close to me at Fort De Soto’s north beach that I felt the only option I had was to take head shot images. The heron was squawking at a Great Egret that seemed to be too close.

Great Blue Heron portraitGreat Blue Heron portrait – Nikon D300, f7.1, 1/1000, ISO 640, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

Last week though on the auto tour route of Bear River National Wildlife Refuge I was able to photograph this Great Blue Heron that was close to the edge of the road and to get a head shot! The heron only stuck around for about 8 frames but I was happy.

Even Great Blue Herons go through periods where they don’t look quite so handsome, notice how nice the plumage looks in the image of the heron from Florida taken March of 2009 and how raggedy the heron from Utah looks in the month of July? Oh well, I like both images.


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About Mia McPherson

I am a nature lover, wildlife watcher and a bird photographer. I first become serious about bird photography when I moved to Florida in 2004 and it wasn’t long before I was hooked (addicted is more like it). My move to the Salt Lake area of Utah was a great opportunity to continue observing their behavior and to pursue my passion for photographing birds.


  1. oh oh, so close, a wonderfull portrait =)))
    about this bird, if one day you find one which need help, you must be very carrefull with the beck, for his defence, he send it very fast targeting the eyes :/ it s better to call a specialist from a care center of course
    see you soon mia

  2. excellent portraits Mia, what a striking bird (pardon the unintentional pun!)

  3. I also love this king of Herons. I don’t think they like the San Juan area at all, but are probably found west and south of the island. The area where I live is so urbanised that only the Great White Egret has nested in the nearby estuaries and tolerates urbanisation a lot better. The Great Blue Heron is not seen anywhere around here at all.

  4. What stunning shots. Thank you – and I too like (make that love) both shots.

  5. Spectacular, Mia. I love a close look at these birds.

  6. Fantastic up close portraits, Mia. Well done!!

  7. How true, But occasionally you can get a Great Blue up north to cooperate for decent photos

  8. The eyes, the bills, the plumage … such beautiful captures! Ten years ago, the Great Blue Heron was actually chosen as Seattle’s city bird. There are many here. :)

    I so relate to your comments about the differences of animal behavior and access, region to region. One of the things I miss from my home of the SF Bay Area is vast public shoreline and open space. As a frequent urban wildlife photographer, it’s a genuine challenge to set up in areas of Seattle where public shore is limited and thus over-populated on almost any given day. It’s been a long time since I had a stretch of beach or trail with no other humans, and with time to wait for animals to approach me and my lens, undisturbed.

  9. Beautiful portraits, Mia. Great Blue Herons spook easily out here, so getting a close up shot is generally not an option. I’ve had better luck on the British Columbia coast in urban areas. It really is a treat to be able to be close enough to get a nice detailed photograph.

  10. Awesome!

  11. One of the differences in these photos is that the one in Utah has the long feathers on the head that I think are breeding plumage. The Florida one doesn’t have that. It appears to me like the Florida heron might be a juvenile. Adults have shaggy feathers in several places, that the juveniles don’t have.

  12. Both are beautiful shots, Mia. I’ve tried to get good shots of Great Blue’s in a marsh on the eastern end of Long Island but as soon as they notice my kayak floating nearby they fly away. I really love these two portraits!

  13. I frequently like to paint Great Blues, so the detail in these shots is like finding a pot of gold! Thank you! I love the tiny bit of down visible in the tip of the beak in the first shot…the bird must have been preening before being rudely interrupted by he Great Egret. Like many others, we’re going through a unusually long , miserable heat wave, causing discomfort for humans and wildlife. We had a rainy spring so our wildflowers and day lilies are spectacular! Yesterday we saw a Great Blue sitting on top of a spillway, beak open, panting, wings held low and out from the body. I got a couple of shots, but didn’t want to stress him further so moved on. We’re trying to provide simple water sources for drinking and bathing…and keeping the feeders full to help our birds expend less energy feeding their young. We’re getting mobbed! They’re too hot to be skittish. We have fans but no AC, so we can definitely empathize with them.

  14. Nice shots Mia, where I live in northern MN they are very skittish too but I do get some beautiful shots & love how they try to blend into their surrounding area.

  15. That looks easy, but I can’t do it! It works out that you are a great photographer.

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