New York Natural Heritage Program
Great Blue Heron
Ardea herodias Linnaeus, 1758
Birds

Habitat [-]
Typically, Great Blue Heron habitat includes freshwater and brackish marshes that are near lakes, rivers, bays, lagoons, ocean beaches, fields, or meadows. Nests tend to be high in the trees of swamps and wooded areas.

Associated Ecological Communities [-]
  • Brackish tidal marsh
    A marsh community that occurs where water salinity ranges from 0.5 to 18.0 ppt, and water is less than 2 m (6 ft) deep at high tide. The vegetation in a brackish tidal marsh is dense and dominated by tall grass-like plants.
  • Floodplain forest
    A hardwood forest that occurs on mineral soils on low terraces of river floodplains and river deltas. These sites are characterized by their flood regime; low areas are annually flooded in spring, and high areas are flooded irregularly.
  • Freshwater intertidal mudflats
    A sparsely vegetated community characterized by low rosette-leaved aquatics. This community occurs on exposed intertidal mudflats where the water is fresh (salinity less than 0.5 ppt). This community is best developed where mudflats are nearly level so that broad expanses are exposed at low tide. The plants are completely submerged in 0.9 to 1.2 m (3 to 4 ft) of water at high tide and they are usually coated with mud.
  • Freshwater intertidal shore
    A community of the intertidal gravelly or rocky shores of freshwater tidal rivers and creeks, sometimes occurring at the base of cliffs. The vegetation may be very sparse.
  • Freshwater tidal marsh
    A marsh community that occurs in shallow bays, shoals, and at the mouth of tributaries of large tidal river systems, where the water is usually fresh (salinity less than 0.5 ppt), and less than 2 m (6 ft) deep at high tide. Typically there are two zones in a freshwater tidal marsh: a low-elevation area dominated by short, broadleaf emergents bordering mudflats or open water, and a slightly higher-elevation area dominated by tall grass-like plants.
  • Impounded swamp
    A swamp (with at least 50% cover of trees) where the water levels have been artificially manipulated or modified, often for the purpose of improving waterfowl habitat. Red maple is a characteristic tree. Often there are many standing dead tree trunks. Purple loosestrife and duckweed may become dominant in the understory.
  • Perched swamp white oak swamp
    A swamp that occurs in a shallow depression on a forested hillside where the water table is locally perched above the surrounding groundwater level. The water level fluctuates seasonally; the swamp may be flooded in spring and nearly dry by late summer. The dominant tree is swamp white oak, which may form a nearly pure, open canopy stand in areas that are permanently saturated.
  • Red maple-blackgum swamp
    A maritime, coastal, or inland hardwood swamp that occurs in poorly drained depressions, sometimes in a narrow band between a stream and upland. Red maple and blackgum are often codominant or blackgum may be the dominant tree. Pitch pine may occur on drier hummock islands in pine barrens settings.
  • Red maple-hardwood swamp
    A hardwood swamp that occurs in poorly drained depressions, usually on inorganic soils. Red maple is usually the most abundant canopy tree, but it can also be codominant with white, green, or black ash; white or slippery elm; yellow birch; and swamp white oak.
  • Silver maple-ash swamp
    A hardwood basin swamp that typically occurs in poorly-drained depressions or along the borders of large lakes, and less frequently in poorly drained soils along rivers. These sites are characterized by uniformly wet conditions with minimal seasonal fluctuations in water levels. The dominant trees are usually silver maple and green ash.