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The Great Blue Heron vs. the Vole

The Great Blue Heron vs. the Vole

It’s been a bit of a disruptive week. We had very high winds for almost two days earlier this week and temps dipped into the low 20F degrees, only to climb back up to 60F degrees today. Anyway, my work schedule shifted as a result and I ended up going out in the early afternoon instead of morning before sunrise.

At the Wallkill River NWR, I got to the first bend on Liberty Loop and spotted the juvenille Great Blue Heron very close to the trail, within 15 feet. It was pretty windy and I was wearing my winter camo jacket. It was not phased by my presence at all. Before we get into it, here’s a little background on this species.

blue phase heron

Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias, is a common bird found throughout most of the United States year round, flying as far south as the Carribean.

  • The Great Blue Heron is considered very large and tall, standing approximately 4′ tall and weighing an average of five pounds.
  • It has a long neck, grayish-blue plumage with a black crown and head plume and it has a long orange-yellow bill.
  • Despite their elegant look, they are quite voracious.
  • Great Blue Herons will eat nearly anything within striking distance, mainly by impaling their catch before gulping it down.

I knew they ate fish and grasshoppers, but I was in for a surprise today!


What is the difference between a Blue Heron and a Great Blue Heron?

The Blue Heron’s proper name is actually the Little Blue Heron. They are much smaller in size, darker gray overall with a purple-maroon head. Unlike the Great Blue Heron, they do not have a yellow bill or dark plumage and crown.

On the other hand, an immature Great Blue Heron is referred as Blue form. Their plumage is quite remarkable, giving it a more full look, not sleek like the adult.

little blue heron

Little Blue Heron

Egretta caerulea

Image by PublicDomainImages from Pixabay


Great Blue Heron

Ardea herodias

Image by NancyStevens from Pixabay

In the United States, we have the Great Blue Heron, the immature Great Blue Heron known as “Blue form” and the Little Blue Heron.


WARNING – Graphic Images

What was the surprise? The Heron was digging around in the dirt, as evidenced on the tip of it’s beak. It was getting low, ready to catch something. What could it be? A vole!

As a person who catches house mice in a Havahart trap, takes them for a drive and releases them, this was a little rough to witness. But, that’s nature. Anyway, here’s a few photos of the catch. There are actually more graphic images, I won’t post them!

Great Blue Heron vs. Vole
Great Blue Heron vs. Vole

Last Call!

Great Blue Heron vs. Vole

What is the difference between a Vole and a Field Mouse?

The vole is related to Hamsters and mice, but they have smaller ears, shorter tails and legs, they are more stocky and have a blunt nose.


  • There are over 100 species, mostly with lush brown or gray fur.
  • They are four to eight inches long and weigh a couple of ounces.
  • Their fast metabolism requires them to eat their own weight in food daily.
  • They are very destructive to household lawns, trees, and plants, often digging a series of runways across the lawn.

Image by Tatyana Kazakova from Pixabay

Camera settings

The Heron was very close and there was full sunshine

Canon 7D Mark II and 400mm f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO 160 to 200 (Auto ISO)

Most of my gear is listed here.

Hope you enjoyed learning a little more about the Great Blue Heron and the Vole!

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