The heron by the bay: not a red herring

Nearly every night on strolls to the bay, New College students can witness a great blue heron wading in the water near the dock. This heron has a long, graceful neck, grayish white feathers and is normally sighted alone.

The heron has become a character and iconoclast to New College students. Paul Zombory, a catalyst staff writer and first-year student fascinated by the heron, said, “I think it’s extremely interesting to have some strange, haunting heron that you can almost see as a ghost or some poor lost soul looking for something. I guess it could just be looking for fish, but it moves so serenely.”

Great blue herons can be identified by their lengthy legs, s-shaped necks, long thick bills and reddish or gray necks. The great blue heron is the most common type of heron found in North America. It eats mostly fish but can adapt to eat invertebrates, birds, amphibians, reptiles and other small animals. Great blue herons are found near freshwater and seacoasts and typically nest in trees close to water.

Sadly, the oil spill has hurt herons that live along the gulf. Founder and Executive Director of Save Our Seabirds, Lee Fox, explained, “Unlike pelicans who dive for their food, herons are wading birds, their legs chest and bills and inside their bills will be covered with oil as they wade in the oily mess to try to catch fish. Once they ingest oiled fish or oil with the water they drink, they have the potential of having internal damage to their liver, kidneys and stomach lining as would any bird that comes in contact with the oil when feeding.”

New College students wishing to help the many herons that were hurt by the oil spill can volunteer or donate money to Save Our Seabirds by calling Save Our Seabirds at 941-388-3010.

Information for the article was taken from allaboutbirds.org.

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