Great Blue Herons in Florida and Utah

Great Blue Heron flying over the Gulf of MexicoGreat Blue Heron flying over the Gulf of Mexico – Nikon D200, handheld, f5.6. 1/2000, ISO 500, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 260mm, natural light

Great Blue Herons are year round residents in both Florida and Utah although conditions during the winter months can be starkly different for these large wading birds in the two locations and climates. Florida during the winter can be cool but comfortable.

The Great Blue Heron above was photographed as it flew over the Gulf of Mexico in Florida.

Great Blue Heron hunting voles in winterGreat Blue Heron hunting voles in winter – Nikon D200, f7.1, ISO 400, 1/2000, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

Winters in Utah can be harsh, bitter cold and the ground can stayed covered in snow for weeks. Some times the freshwater freezes and the Great Blue Herons can no longer find food from the marshes, ponds and streams so they hunt for voles instead. The Great Blue Heron shown above was stalking voles near snow-covered vegetation at Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area. I remember having numb hands when I took this image, it was that cold!

Great Blue Herons nestingGreat Blue Herons nesting – Nikon D200, handheld, f8, 1/1000, ISO 320, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light

This photo was taken at the end of December of 2008 at Fort De Soto County Park in Florida where the Great Blue Herons were already building nests by that time, can’t imagine that happening here in Utah. Note the blue lores that both of these birds have, that is a sign that they are in breeding plumage. The setting sun gave this image that golden glow of “sweet light”.

By the way, I unknowingly stepped into a fire ant hill when I took this image, thankfully I realized it right away, moved, brushed off the ants and continued shooting images.

Great Blue preening in the snowGreat Blue preening in the snow – Nikon D300, f7.1, ISO 400, 1/2500, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

Great Blue Herons in Utah do seem to have a tougher life but they appear to deal with it quite well. I spotted this heron a few weeks ago as it preened on the snowy banks of a small stream. We’d had lots of snow that week and there was over a foot of it at Farmington Bay WMA.

Great Blue Heron in pursuitGreat Blue Heron in pursuit – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/1500, ISO 400, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 98mm, natural light

Great Blue Herons in Florida have to deal with extreme weather too because tropical storms and hurricanes can batter all of the birds with high winds, driving rains, pounding waves and loss of habitat. This Great Blue Heron was chasing off a rival for some prime fishing grounds in a territorial pursuit.

Great Blue Herons survive in both locations because they are adaptable and if they can’t locate their normal prey they will find another.



  1. Sally Wood September 4, 2013 at 4:00 pm

    Beautiful shots of extraordinary looking birds

    • Mia McPherson September 5, 2013 at 7:46 pm

      Thanks Sally, they are wonderful birds.

  2. Mia McPherson February 22, 2013 at 10:03 am

    Thank you all for your kind comments on this post and the images.

  3. Tammy Karr February 14, 2013 at 5:10 am

    That is quite a striking difference! All your Heron images are excellent!

  4. Ingrid February 14, 2013 at 12:55 am

    What a great concept for a post … the situational contrasts. How wonderful that you’ve captured them in such diverse settings. The light on the nesting herons is so pretty, Mia. Two days ago, the herons in our neighborhood returned to the mini rookery right smack-dab in a public, city park. Today, in the haze of drizzle, I noticed they’d paired up around each remaining nest from last year. In a little while, I won’t be able to see them anymore … once the leaves come in.

  5. Kathie February 13, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    Mia, wonderful images and a study in contrasts! I did not know that herons will eat voles! Amazing!

  6. Merrill Ann Gonzales February 13, 2013 at 6:12 pm

    Every shot an encyclopedia of understanding. The last shot is particularly helpful to me in understanding the black patterns on their underside. But I also gained an insight into how lighting affects the color we see. Many thanks for them all.

  7. eric c11 February 13, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    nice serie with plenty of situations,
    the both in fligth are very good, and the last is simply wonderfull

    take care mia

  8. Prairie Birder February 13, 2013 at 9:39 am

    I really love the photo of the heron hunting voles.

  9. Tami February 13, 2013 at 8:30 am

    The contrasting summer/winter images are neat, Mia. Love the one of the heron hunting in the snowy marsh – such a rare image.

  10. Bob Bushell February 13, 2013 at 8:26 am

    Beautiful Mia, my favourite is number 3, lovely.

  11. Sherry in MT February 13, 2013 at 8:04 am

    I am amazed to see them in Utah in the winter since I know ours all leave. Your nesting pair photo is wonderful but I really enjoy the one of the bird preening along the snowy bank. It just seems so out of character.

  12. M. Firpi February 13, 2013 at 7:12 am

    Great story! Great Blue Herons are highly adaptable, as are the Great White Egrets. I still can’t believe I got it catching a rat. That day it was probably so hungry that once it saw the rat, it went for it, talk about adaptability.

  13. Ricky February 13, 2013 at 6:53 am

    Gorgeous work, each shot is dead on! Love your blog!

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