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Great blue heron (Ardea herodias)

By Jan Baumgartner

At 2 months of age, these gregarious heron chicks gain height and weight each day thanks to a buffet of protein-rich foods including fish, crustaceans, amphibians, and reptiles served up by their parents.
Between seven and nine weeks of age, young herons build the necessary strength and balance for simulated flight training. This training consists of testing their newly feathered wings from the comfort and safety of the nest and nearby tree branches as a stiff wind blows. They learn about flight dynamics while leaning into the wind with outstretched wings and pivoting in different directions. Their first flight, or fledge, marks the major developmental milestone of transitioning from nestling to fledgling.
By the end of week nine, they can make short flights staying close to home. Great Blue chicks grow up to be the largest members of the heron family who stand an imposing 5 feet tall with a whopping 6-foot wingspan.
Once flying lessons are complete, next lessons include stalking, hunting, and fishing. It takes a lot of protein to keep this feathered carnivore flying high!

Jan Baumgartner’s handmade notecards are available at Sunshine & Sand Hidden Treasures, 6635 Midnight Pass Rd., in Crescent Plaza.

Jan Baumgartner
Author: Jan Baumgartner

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