As I was getting my morning coffee the other day, I glanced out the kitchen window and was surprised to see a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) looking for his breakfast down by the river. I retrieved my camera and took a couple of shots. Can you see him in my window view, above? It’s not unusual to see a heron by the river, but they are usually seen farther down the stream, away from the house. They like their privacy.
Great Blue Herons in Ontario are generally migratory, flying south alone or in small groups of a dozen birds in the fall. Some seem reluctant to leave. It is nearly November, but as long as there is open water, they can hunt for food. According to the Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario 2001-2005, heron numbers increased from the late 1940s until about 1990, following the organochlorine pesticide era. Since 1990, however, a gradual decline has been noted. The cause is not well understood, but it may be linked to the decrease in many amphibian species, which are an important component of heron diets.
The heron population in Ontario was estimated at over 17,000 breeding pairs in the early 1990s. It always amazes me how few individuals there are of other species compared to our own. For example, compare that figure of 17,000 pairs to the population of humans in the Greater Toronto Area, about 5.5 million.
Here is a closer shot of the breakfast visitor, below. Safe journey, big bird.