About Webb Weekly

Webb Weekly is a family-oriented newspaper direct mailed to over 58,000 homes each week.

Webb Weekly

280 Kane St. STE #2
South Williamsport, PA
United States

Phone & Fax

Phone: 570-326-9322
Fax: 570-326-9383

Get In Touch With Us

Latest Issue


The Heron Family

“The Heron Family” sounds like the title of a new TV comedy show. I’m actually talking about a group of long-legged birds that are often found wading the edges of various bodies of water. Probably the most commonly spotted species of the group is the great blue heron; it is also one of the largest

“The Heron Family” sounds like the title of a new TV comedy show.

I’m actually talking about a group of long-legged birds that are often found wading the edges of various bodies of water. Probably the most commonly spotted species of the group is the great blue heron; it is also one of the largest of the heron family. The blue-gray bird stands about three feet tall on stilt-like legs. The black “eyebrow” is another identifying characteristic.

The great blue heron seems to be a more frequent sighting in Pennsylvania in recent years. Although a large bird, the heron can often be missed. Its blue-gray coloration is inconspicuous, especially when it stands so stationary amidst the brush and weedy growth on the edge of a lake or stream. My son and daughter both have small ponds in their backyards, and both tell me they see great blues feeding on their fish and frogs. Even a tiny pool of water can attract the attention of a heron. This past week we were headed out Route 80 when a severe thunderstorm hit-high winds and low visibility; we pulled over to wait out the storm. After the wind subsided there in an open grassy area near the edge of the road stood a great blue heron no doubt waiting out the storm as well.

Herons are often found near water because they often feed on fish, frogs, crayfish, and other critters found in shallow water. However, they will also eat snakes, insects, invertebrates, and small rodents. Recently someone told me they saw a heron eating a snake. My guess is it was a water snake that ventured too close to the patiently waiting bird. When not wading herons can often be found perched in trees overhanging the water. While most great blue herons leave Pennsylvania in the winter months, some do linger all winter if food sources don’t all freeze up. I have actually seen great blues in the dead of winter, feeding in the warm water discharge at the Washingtonville power plant.

Of course, the great blue isn’t the only heron species to be seen in Pennsylvania. The great egret is also occasionally seen standing about two feet high on long legs with black feet brandishing pure white plumage and a yellow beak. Their feeding habits are very similar to the great blue’s, and they too can be seen wading the brushy lake borders, swamp edges, and ponds. I have often spotted great egrets while driving south along the Susquehanna River, but I do see them from time to time on our local waterways.

There are a couple of others in the heron family that can be spotted, but they are smaller in stature, and they blend in very well due to their natural coloration. The green-backed heron is one that is hard to pick out-its color blends in very well, and its movements are slow and deliberate. The greenback heron is only about 14 inches high with a reddish-brown head and neck and a black crown. You will often find these small herons standing in branches overhanging ponds; here they search for fish, frogs, insects, worms, lizards, and salamanders.

An even rarer sighting is the American bittern, nearly a foot and a half long with a brown and black plumage that blends almost perfectly with the brown-greens of the weedy shoreline. It’s a very elusive bird that prefers the cattails and bulrushes of lakes and ponds. I have only ever spotted a couple of these birds. Several years ago, while wading the shoreline of a local lake, I spotted an American bittern with its head and beak pointed upward-a typical pose while standing in the bulrushes.

Keep your eyes open and see how many of the heron family you can pick out over the next few weeks — you might be surprised.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Posts Carousel