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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Great Blue Heron and Bald Eagle

A major food source for the Great Blue Heron (GBH) and Bald Eagle (BE) is the Pacific salmon. By maintaining a healthy environment these animals and humans can both benefit form conservation methods.

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The GBH is a long legged grey-blue bird that wades in the shallows and stands motionless waiting to spear fish. They are sometimes mistaken for cranes but can be distinguished by their looped necks in flight. The GBH has a magnificent 6-foot wingspan and juveniles are brown in colour. Great Blue Herons nest in colonies of up to 30 nests, called a heronry. Both males and females share egg incubation and feeding responsibilities. These animals can search up to 30 miles hunting for food. Herons require quiet, large forested, cliff, or lagoon areas to be able to reproduce successfully. Heronries can be found in the Fraser River, Beacon Hill Park and the oldest in Stanley Park. Many of these birds can bee seen foraging off Roberts Bank near the Tsawwassen ferry terminal.

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The Bald Eagle has a maximum 8-foot wingspan. Bald Eagles are piebald animals, lacking pigment, resulting in white head and tail feathers. The BE’s beak, feet, and irises are yellow. Their legs are not feathered and they have short powerful toes with long talons. The front 2-hold their prey and the 3rd hind toe has the largest talon used for piercing. The body of the BE is black and juveniles are brown mottled with white. The BE historically ranged throughout North America and are now only found in Alaska, Canada, Florida, and the Northwest America. The BE mates for life and breeds in old growth forests. During the winter these animals disperse to the inland to forage in rivers upon salmon.

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Threats to the GBH and BE include noise pollution, industrial contaminates (decreasing egg shell thickness), decreased food availability, and habitat destruction. Encroaching civilization decreases these bird populations. Land development and logging also threaten the survival of salmon streams, a major food source for both birds and humans. Maintaining healthy green spaces near coastal habitats can protect these species. Using organic, biodegradable products, recycling, and decreasing our carbon footprint can all decease pollutants, thereby producing a cleaner, healthier, and more productive environment for both animals and humans.

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