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Solano County Office of Education

Solano County Office of Education

The great blue herons (Ardea Herodias) are the largest heron in North America and can grow to be over 4 feet tall.  You’ll likely see them wading silently along streams, rivers or lakeshores searching for something to eat.  The great blue heron thrives in a variety of habitats, including here in Solano County! 


They are large white and bluish birds that have long legs, a pronounced S-shaped neck, and a dagger-like yellow bill with a dark crown. Great blue herons also have fluffy necks and chest plumage. When flying their wingspan will spread between 5.5 to 6.6 feet across, if measuring across from the tip of each wing! When standing next to the great blue heron you can expect it to be as tall as an average elementary-aged child – between 3 to 4.5 feet tall! 


Great blue herons are often spotted standing in shallow water searching for food. You’ll see them slowly and silently stalking their prey along coastlines, ponds, streams, and other wetlands.  The great blue herons are excellent at fishing and catch their fish by silently standing and waiting for the fish to come within range then striking them with their long dagger-like bill. 
These birds can hunt both day and night because they have excellent night vision. They have binocular vision and can zoom in and out, like a telescope and a microscope.  This helps them evaluate the depth, which allows them to catch their prey efficiently.  Their eyesight is estimated to be three times better than a human’s eyesight.

Importance to the Ecosystem

Great blue herons are considered bellwethers for ecological health and provide insight into the overall health of the habitats in which they live.   They rely on the habitat to flourish and having healthy prey is important. If great blue herons begin to move away from an area that could indicate a problem with the overall ecological health of an area.  Scientists can monitor toxins in the water, habitat availability for nesting, or contaminant concentrations in heron eggs which may indicate contamination in the ecosystem.   
Currently, great blue herons are widespread around the world.  These birds are considered migratory species and as such are protected under the United States Migratory Bird Treat Act.  

Local Viewing Opportunities

Solano County

Enjoy a walk at Centennial Park in Vacaville, CA to learn more about local birds, including the great blue heron. Although there are almost 100 species of birds documented in the park, some of the easiest to see are those belonging to the Ardeidae family –the herons and egrets. Learn more here
Lagoon Valley Regional Park is another good location in Vacaville to site herons.
Lake Solano County Park is brimming with birds in close proximitey to the parking lots. 
Rush Ranch Open Space in Suisun offers viewing of raptors, grassland species, and a variety of other song birds.

San Francisco, CA at Golden Gate Park  

San Francisco Nature Education
Image Source:
2023 Heron Watch - A Free Program
Six Saturdays During the Spring Nesting Season in April and May
Volunteers and interns will direct attention to the herons and chicks, explain their behavior, and answer questions. There will be a separate section for children taught by interns. For more information visit SFNature.Org