Spotted Melton Hill Lake, near Haw Ridge ramp, May 23, 2020
Back in my teenage days on a crew team, we’d see them along the banks. “Pterodactyl!” one of my fellow rowers cried out.
And so that was what we called them. We knew it was wrong. We knew it was very wrong in fact. But we didn’t care.*
Anyway though it was a fun word to say. And it summed up the weirdness of a big flying thing with such a long bill quite well. great blue herons are common near lakes and even smaller streams of East Tennessee and not all that shy. They fly with their snaky necks tucked in but their long legs sticking straight out behind them
They’re about the height of human children, 3.4 to 4.5 feet. But their hollow bones make them light, around 5-6 pounds.
Those long beaks of theirs have a purpose though. Great blue herons wade into the water to stalk their prey. Sometimes, they stab larger fish with their bills.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s page describes Great Blue Herons as “often shaking them (fish) to break or relax the sharp spines before gulping them down.”
* As a side note, pterodactyls and pterosaurs generally are not only extinct but a dead end. Their relatives, the dinosaurs, survived to evolve into creatures like herons which replaced pterosaurs as flying creatures.