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Great blue heron (Ardea herodias)
This statuesque member of the heron family is often called a living fossil. Resembling its prehistoric ancestor from 1.8 million years ago, the great blue remains virtually unchanged today. The heron’s nearly 5-foot-tall frame, comprised mostly of neck and legs, gives this colossal carnivore unmatched reach and power.

The heron’s lightning-quick reflexes and a blade-like bill are a lethal combination for
the hapless fish, crustaceans, amphibians, reptiles, insects and small mammals that cross its path. Most often, the great blue snatches food between its upper and lower bill and only occasionally stabs its prey like a dagger. This nimble fisherman seldom tells stories about the one that got away. Just ask the poor catfish pictured here! What does the great blue heron do with fish or animals that are much larger than its narrow neck? It swallows them whole, of course — thanks to a very elastic gullet.

It is estimated that these hungry herons spend about 90 percent of their waking hours stalking food in both fresh- and saltwater habitats all around Siesta Key.

Jan Baumgartner
Author: Jan Baumgartner

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