What is a heron?

   A heron is a wading bird allied to the stork, but more closely akin to the bittern. There are several species in North America. The largest, the great blue heron, fifty inches high, breeds locally as far north as the Arctic Circle. It is incorrectly called the blue crane. The heron flies with head drawn in, the crane with neck stretched out to its full extent. The Gulf States, especially Florida and Louisiana, were the paradise of the smaller herons until the craze for plumes to adorn millinery caused the hunters of the South to slaughter these birds by the thousand. At least five species are found throughout the Mississippi Valley. The heron's nest is a platform of sticks in a bush or tree-top. Eggs three to six. The poet Lowell took delight in a colony of her­ons that nested in the tree-tops of Elmwood. Each heron has its own fishing ground, but the birds nest at night in "rookeries." Minnows, frogs, and reptiles are favorite food. Some species stand motionless watching for prey, which they transfix with a lightning-like stroke of the long sharp bills. Other species chase about noisily, trusting to catch the confused inhabitants of shallow water by rapid pursuit. In English literature we find frequent mention of taking the heron with a falcon. In England it was esteemed as a table bird, and was protected by game laws. The blue heron of Japan plays an important part in local art. It is of frequent occurrence in the decoration of screens, jars, vases, plaques, and fans.