The Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) and Great Egret (Ardea alba) nested in eight colonies along the Upper Mississippi River, USA, and individual birds were followed by airplane to feeding sites during the nesting seasons in 1995-1998. Both species used braided channel/backwater habitats for feeding more than expected, based on availability, and open pool and main navigation channel less than expected. Most individuals of both species fed <5 km from their breeding colony and avoided sites >10 km away. Habitat and distance need to be considered simultaneously when assessing habitat quality for herons and egrets. The Great Blue Heron flew farther to feeding sites during the care-of-young period than during incubation and the Great Egret showed the opposite pattern. The Great Blue Heron tended to feed solitarily; only 10% of the feeding flights ended at a location where another heron was already present. About one-third of Great Egret feeding flights ended at a location with another egret already present. Colony placement on the landscape seemed to be a function of the feeding radius of each colony.
Additional publication details
Feeding habitat characteristics of the great blue heron and great egret nesting along the Upper Mississippi River, 1995-1998