Avoiding heron stereotypes!


The typical shy Canadian heron, standing hundreds of yards away and ready to disappear at a moments notice.


A much bolder American heron, who almost seemed to be posing for me.

I want to clearly stately up front that stereotypes have no place in wildlife photography. Herons helped me prove my point.

In my meandering around wildlife blogs, it seems like there are herons everywhere. Photographers are capturing them up close and personal with fairly modest zoom lenses. It’s almost like these herons are pets!


A little opening on the shoreline created this unusual effect when the heron walked into it.

Just because I’ve never seen a Great Blue Heron close to where I live does not make me jealous in any way! Or the fact I’ve had very few opportunities to watch them.

I have spotted them on occasion in a national park a few hours away but it’s usually only a picturesque view of their distant tail feathers vacating the time zone I was entering.

My last encounter was somewhat typical. I was chatting with another photographer and she pointed out a Great Blue Heron that was on the other side of the lake. It was so far away, I could barely see it. I mustered up all my zooming power and took a photo. Sure enough it was there.


Just hanging around.

As soon as I photographed it she pointed out that it must have noticed us and slunk back into the weeds. She mentioned that she had seen this bird a few times and it was common behaviour for this extremely shy and skittish creature. So why was this one so shy compared to blog-world herons?

Then it hit me. The outgoing herons were all from American blogs. Everyone knows that Americans are a lot more outgoing than Canadians – apparently that also includes herons.

My Canadian heron was just a lot more shy. It was making sense now as I recalled an American heron in Yellowstone that was hanging around close to a road and didn’t seem fussed by my presence.

In the end I was pleased that I was able to avoid stereotyping all herons based on the actions of a few.


Out for a stroll.

Latest Comments

  1. artsifrtsy says:

    Of course it could be their nationality, or it could be the type of water:) I have found that on rivers or near marinas that the Great Blues are pretty tolerant of humans. Out on the open lake they tend to be shyer. I have an iPhone app that plays bird calls and I have been able to call back one in flight with it.


  2. Stefano says:

    All great shots. My personal faves are #1 and #2 – so I won’t offend herons of either nationality! ,-)


  3. doriswamyganesh says:

    Dear Lyle, A heron looks beautiful in flight. Any possibility of a picture in flight?The pictures are very pretty, even otherwise.Regards, Ganesh.


  4. Deb W. Trotter says:

    Wait. What? Didn’t you just stereotype all Canadian vs. all American herons?!?


  5. Mary says:

    Beautiful photography Lyle!


  6. Mike Powell says:

    We definitely don’t get the Canadian herons down here in Virginia–the herons at my local marsh don’t seem to be bothered much by people. In fact, I recently saw one clamber onto the boardwalk and it only reluctantly flew away when people needed to squeeze by it and got within a few feet of it. You shots are wonderful–I especially like the strolling heron.


  7. vanbraman says:

    Us Americans are definitely not shy 🙂


  8. photographybycalliec says:

    Another great series of the herons,I love the angle of your first shot looking across the water and the one where the head is framed with the rock and grass.We have them in Australia but they could look slightly different.
    cheers have a great day Callie


  9. Gunta says:

    Generally speaking my American herons are skittish to the extreme. I mostly get shots of their backsides, too. However I did catch this one shot: http://gusgus64.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/up-close-and-personal-2/
    If you note in the comment by Babsje (http://babsjeheron.wordpress.com/) who seems to be a heron expert, the juveniles need to learn fear of humans. Then again I’m pretty sure I’ve seen you at Phil’s blog where he gets all the tame wading birds who don’t seem to show any fear… so had telling. Perhaps we get the Canadians around here?


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      That’s a good theory! I remember commenting on that heron photo you got, it was a good one. Babsje’s comment is interesting. I wonder how heron populations can be so different especially since they travel around. Phil’s wading birds do seem more friendly and certainly more common but he’s also pretty talented.


      • Gunta says:

        I don’t doubt Phil’s talent plays a huge part in the shots he gets. But judging by an occasional comment he’s made, there seem to be other folks walking around the area where he shoots, so the birds are seemingly a lot less ‘flighty’ (pun intended). It seems that most of my migrating bunch take off if I so much as slow the car down – except for that one juvenile snap I happened to catch. That was pure luck on my part, but the bird didn’t appear to be too bothered when I stopped and rolled the window down on the passenger side. I was gob-smacked! 😉


        • Lyle Krahn says:

          I agree with you completely and Mike Powell’s comment just confirmed it. It appears you and I are stuck with the flighty ones! Except of course when we’re gob-smacked.


  10. Jeff | Planet Bell says:

    If you ever make it down to the Everglades they are almost tame. You can fill up a few memory cards on them standing by so close. Some of those herons may even migrate to Mexico or Cuba, places where herons are even more outgoing and social.


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      The Everglades has been on my radar and definitely on the bucket list. I always suspected they weren’t nearly as skittish in other places otherwise I was clearly doing something terribly wrong.


  11. MikeW says:

    Lyle that is a clever line, but even better is how you captured the color on that blue head swish. I’m pretty sure it would just be a dark area on my photos.


  12. Reen says:

    Lyle, I love this post! And I am crazy for great blue herons. If you ever make it to South Florida, check out Wakodahatchee Wetlands and Green Cay Wetlands in Palm Beach County – you’ll not only see GBH’s (with dramatic breeding plumage during season), but tricolored herons, green herons, little blue herons and night herons. They are “in the wild” but close enough to photograph and not very skittish. Absolute paradise for birders and photographers! You can see some photos of these beautiful birds on my blog.


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      I’ll have to make a note of that. I’ve never been to Florida but I know there are some great places there and your description sounds wonderful. A little less skittish is good! You really have some great photos on your blog.


  13. Seenorway says:

    Lovely shots, Lyle. They’re not easy to come by, even with a 500 mm ! 🙂


  14. Mark Conway says:

    Beautiful shots again Lyle!


  15. Kathryn says:

    I enjoyed this one so much..I will show it to my husband.We sometimes see a heron but being English they are stand offish!!I’ve just got a new camera so maybe I can get closer shots


  16. Fotografin Thee Ballmer says:

    I’m soooo jealous. I never haven seen a blue one. I recently was for a heron shooting in a Sanctuary. I have lots of patient and got shots while he had a fish across his bec. And while being patient, I got shots from the Silver heron with spread wings. I love these creatures ! I might will be lucky for a blue one next time in Canada.
    have a nice Sunday evening, Thee


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      I certainly hope you get the opportunity to see one. The few times I’ve seen them have been most enjoyable. I believe I found those photos you were referring to and they are very nice. You have a good evening as well.


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