Sunday, January 13, 2013

Today's Pterodactyl

National Public Radio's popular and long-running BirdNote® calls the great blue heron a "modern day pterodactyl." The great blue heron is the largest heron in North America. The great egret, a slightly smaller and white version of modern pterodactyl, is second largest. We've begun to see great egrets more frequently, even one that wintered at the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.

Scientists believe that birds are descended from dinosaurs, so it's really not much of a stretch to believe these creatures were once much larger and more fierce predators.

Herons pretty much eat anything they can catch and swallow. I've watched them hunting fish but recently saw one catch a mole. I wondered how it could swallow something so large. I saw this heron catch it, shake it, then hop into the water. He came back to the hunting area a few minutes later without his prey.

They're usually solitary birds, except when they nest which they do in large rookeries with 25, 50, even 100 nests in close proximity to each other. I'm hoping to find a rookery to photograph this spring. You can see more heron photography in my Low Tide Gallery and Water Wings Gallery.

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