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Table of Contents
Any of the long-legged, long-necked, freshwater and coastal birds in the Ardeidae family, herons are composed of 64 living species found in all continents except Antarctica.
See the fact file below for more information on the heron or alternatively, you can download our 27-page Heron worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- Herons possess long, straight, sharp bills, long neck and legs, and wide wings. Their feathers are usually white, gray, or bluish-gray, but may range in a spectrum of colors such as green, black, or even purple. They are among the groups of birds with powder down, a special type of down feathers, which is exceptionally fine and gives off a dust between the upper anterior portion of the head, commonly known as the frons.
- The goliath heron, Ardea goliath, standing over 4.5 feet with a wingspan of at least 7 feet and weighing about nine pounds, is considered the world’s largest species, endemic to sub-Saharan Africa, with smaller populations in Southwest and South Asia. the green heron, Butorides virescens, on the other hand, has an adult body length of only about 17 inches.
- Herons are generally smaller, have thinner bills, and lack the elevated hind toe of the cranes.
- However, both fly with their legs trailing, but the cranes fly with necks protracted straight out, while herons fly with their necks retracted. They also stand with their necks bent and show resemblance with birds in some families, such as the storks, ibises, and spoonbills.
- In February 2005, Canadian scientist Dr. Louis Lefebvre suggested an approach to measure avian IQ through the innovation of their feeding habits. Herons are on the list of the most intelligent birds based on this scale, indicating its diversity, flexibility, and adaptiveness in foraging.
Distribution and Habitat
- Herons live worldwide, on all continents except Antarctica, and commonly prey on fish, frogs, and other aquatic animals in shallow areas of freshwater ponds, lakes, marshes, and swamps. Members of this family are also mostly correlated with wetlands.
- Some, like the cattle egret and black-headed heron, also feed on large insects and are less tied to watery ecosystems. Some members of this group occasionally build their nests in trees, others, such as the bitterns, use reedbeds.
- Herons are a highly mobile family, with most species considered partially migratory, such as the gray heron, which is mostly sedentary in Britain, but migratory in Scandinavia.
- Herons are carnivorous and have a diet that includes a number of aquatic animals such as fish, reptiles, amphibians, crustaceans, molluscs, and aquatic insects. Specific species may specialize in certain prey types, such as the yellow-crowned night heron, which only feeds on crustaceans, particularly crabs.
- Many heron species are opportunistic predators, feeding on birds and bird eggs, rodents, and more rarely, carrion. There are also reported instances when herons rarely consume acorns, peas, and grains; however, most vegetable matter consumed is purely by accident.
- The most common hunting approach herons use is to sit motionless on the edge of or standing in shallow water and wait until its prey approaches within range. They may either do this from an upright position, providing them a wider vision for seeing prey, or from a crouched position, which is more suspicious and means the bill is closer to the prey when it is spotted. Having seen prey, the head moves from side to side, so that these birds can calculate the location of the prey in the water and compensate for refraction, and the bill is used to catch the prey.
- Aside from sitting and waiting, herons may also forage more actively. They may wander slowly, around or less than 60 paces a minute, grabbing prey when it is in sight. Other active feeding behaviors include foot stirring and probing, where herons make use of their feet to flush out hidden prey. Their wings may also be used to scare away prey or possibly attract it to shade, or to reduce glare.
- Some species, such as the little egret and the grey heron, have been found to use bait to lure prey within a striking distance. Baits may be man-made, such as bread; alternatively, striated herons in the Amazon have been documented repeatedly dropping seeds, insects, flowers, and leaves into the water to catch prey.
- The black-headed heron, whistling heron, and cattle egret are less tied to watery ecosystems and may feed far away from the water.
- Herons are monogamous and mostly colonial. Majority of the day herons and night herons form colonies, while the bitterns and tiger herons are solitary nesters.
- Nesting is seasonal in species found in temperate zones; those in tropical regions may either be seasonal, often coinciding the rainy season, or throughout the year.
- Courtship among herons happens on the nest. Males arrive first and start the building of the nest, a behavior to attract potential mates. During courtship, the male makes use of a stretch display and employs erectile neck feathers; the neck area may appear swollen. The female risks an aggressive attack if she comes in contact too soon and may have to wait up to four days. In colonial heron species, displays contain visual cues, which may include adopting postures or ritual shows, whereas in solitary species, auditory cues are used, such as deep booming of the bitterns.
- Their nests are usually positioned close to or above the water. They are generally placed in vegetation, although nests of some species are spotted on the ground where suitable trees or shrubs are not present.
This is a fantastic bundle that includes everything you need to know about the heron across 27 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the heron which are easily distinguished for their long, S-shaped neck, dagger-like bill, and long legs.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Heron Facts
- Hello Heron
- Life Stages
- Heron or Not
- Heron Species
- Help a Heron
- Long-Legged Birds
- Heron Wiki
- Similar But Different
- Best Buddies
- Cultural Significance
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Link will appear as Heron Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, September 9, 2021
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.