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Critter Column: Big Bird

by Jack Perkins

The Great Blue Heron (or in birdwatcher fieldspeak, GBH), frequents our neighborhood.  This bird stands perfectly still and is nearly five feet tall with a wingspan of six feet.

To their prey Great Blue Herons are the embodiment of stealth.  They stand motionless until wham! Their long, slender pointy beaks grab the next meal.

We think of them as wading birds (which they are), but they also “wade” through grasslands and pluck up mice, gophers, snakes and lizards. Basically anything that moves that they can get down their throat.

I watched one in that big field along Sand Hill Road pluck up a gopher and then slap it on the ground about ten times in order to stop the wiggling and make it eas-ier to swallow.

That big field is now covered with student housing.

They are commuters. Sometimes you can catch them flying overhead in our neighborhood towards the Bay’s marshlands in the morning and back home at dusk.  Home can be a very tall tree in the foothills.  There they roost as well as build huge nests at great heights and raise their big chicks.

They know every backyard pond and clean out the local pond owners regularly.  My friend George, an OMVNer, uses a slingshot to move them out.  He doesn’t actually shoot at the GBH but merely shows the bird that he has a slingshot, and the bird leaves.  They know what mankind is capable of.

Others including myself have been robbed of our fish by this lanky culprit. So we buy cheaper goldfish and maybe put a screen over the pond, which kills the aesthetics. I got out of the pond business altogether.

The Great Blue Heron is doing pretty well Their numbers are strong and they aren’t on any threatened lists.  However, it is always such a surprise to see one.  You’d think they are rare and endangered because they are so odd looking, but I am happy to say things are OK for the GBH.

Keep buying those goldfish.

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