By: Mike Gannon | Posted On: March 27th, 2011 | 26 Comments on THE GREAT BLUE HERON AND YOUR POND | In: Uncategorized


LOOK! Up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a pla… no, actually it is a bird! About the size of a plane!
The Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) is North America’s largest heron coming in at about 4 ½ feet tall, 8 lbs., and with a wing span close to 7’ across!
This is no hummingbird.
This commonly found heron has made its home from Mexico to Canada, and even shows up in the Caribbean here and there. The Great Blue Heron likes to roost and hunt along the coastline, estuaries, lakes, and ponds of most of the North American continent making this bird a pretty successful resident of all parts; living in tree top colonies raising 2-5 babies annually. The Great Blue Heron has also managed to find its way right into the backyards of some North American koi pond and water garden owners too.
For most pond owners their first experience with the heron is indirect, when their pond fish start to disappear in part or in whole. A call is made to their pond guy and that is when they first start to hear about the Great Blue Heron. At that point is when customer pond vigilance against the heron usually begins. And it should, because if the heron knows that a quick meal can be had at your pond (aka the Great Blue Sushi Bar) they will come back, and that is when a pond owner will first see this long-legged bird hanging around their pond. Typically the heron will wade into the pond, or stay pond side in a crouching position, and wait patiently for a curious fish to come investigate. These huge herons can crouch into a surprisingly small size. The heron knows that in time a curious fish will approach, and BAM! the GBH spears the fish with its long sharp bill, flips it into its mouth, and swallows the fish whole; this whole process happens lighting quick and is very quiet with hardly a splash to the water. If the fish are small enough the heron will continue this until there is nothing left in the pond, or it cannot physically fit anything more into its body; whichever comes first.
But the Great Blue Heron is not at the pond just to eat fish, oh no, this bird will also take down frogs, large insects, shrimp, crabs, small birds, chipmunks, squirrels, mice, snakes, turtles, baby rabbits and just about anything else that it can eat. It is an equal opportunity hunter and a pond can provide many variety of delicacy. It always seems that the pond owner encounters the Great Blue at mid-feast. Although, these birds might have the appearance of being slow and awkward, they will disappear in a flash. The GBH is incredibly swift on the getaway flight; it gains height and distance quickly, and can reach up to 30 mph when cruising. The GBH also will often cruise at heights just above tree line at 80-90 ft up looking for reflections of water from below. Once that body of water reveals itself to the heron, like a mirror in the sun from below, it will go to investigate it, little colorful fish in the pond; all the better.
The heron is pretty sophisticated in its approach and does not just drop out of the sky haphazard into your backyard pond. Hunting activity is typically done alone on smaller bodies of water, but they will share larger bodies of water. The heron spots a reflection from a pond and will then circle in slowly to find a tree or roof top where it can then use its incredible eyesight to scout out your pond and see what type of meal(s) may be available, and if there are any threats in the area. The Great Blue Heron is very patient and can take quite some time before starting the approach to your pond. Once the area is deemed non-threatening and meal worthy, the heron will fly down to an open area by the pond. It will not plunge into your pond like the return of Apollo 11, nor drop into the body of water like ducks or geese do, the GBH prefers a landing strip and a slow careful “wade-in” approach; stealth is the way of the Great Blue. Once the heron is pond side it has the ability to blend in very well. I’ve actually looked straight at a heron that was IN my pond and did not see it because it was so motionless and its coloring of slate grey mixed with white and black, is such that it just was not very visible even right in front of my eyes. But before I could get to my door to chase it away, it was already high in a tree and gave off a heron call; not a pretty sound either but a kind of harsh croak. The GBH will often fly off just to circle back within minutes and if the threat (you) are gone they are right back to their fine dining.
The GBH really is a majestic bird apart from its desire to eat our pond fish. It is very intelligent and capable of figuring out deterrents that are meant to scare it away. With a life span up to 15 years they can get lots of experience with our sometimes useless methods of trying to keep them away. They seem to have “routes” and will visit the same ponds again and again with each visit being a learning experience about that pond. Typically Great Blue Heron hunt early morning or early evening, but will come at anytime of day. The best means to keep the bird away is to use multiple methods of deterrent. Do not rely on any one form of deterrent because a heron will eventually figure them out to be harmless. I have watched herons figure out ponds protected by fishing lines, I’ve seen a customer’s home video of a heron attacking a heron decoy. Herons do not mind getting the blast of water from motion detector deterrents once they know it does not hurt (they ARE water birds), and scant few of us pond keepers can really put in the time to sit next to our pond waiting in ambush (and if you do have that kind of time, would you want to admit it?) So use multiple deterrents and be creative, but the most important thing is to simply not let the heron have any sense of welcome or peace at your pond site. Chase it; yell at it, throw things, let out the hounds, do what you have to do to keep the bird away. This way you can get to learn how to enjoy this truly amazing, adaptable animal back in Mother Nature’s waters, not yours!
All copyrights to this material belong to Mike Gannon.

Written by Mike Gannon

Mike Gannon

The LOVEYOURPOND Blog is written by Mike Gannon of Full Service Aquatics located in Summit, NJ. Mike is an award winning pond, water garden, and water feature builder. Always “In The Pursuit Of All Things Aquatic” Mike has been a lifelong hobbyist and providing professional services since 1995. Mike is the creator of The Pond Hunter video series seen on Youtube and has made several television appearances on Networks such as HGTV and the DIY Network. He also hosts the Pond Hunter Radio Broadcast, a show on everything aquatic, every other Wednesday at 8pm EST. You can see what else Mike is up to at the following sites:


    Comments Feed
  1. Demi Fortuna Says:

    on March 28, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    Great Blog, as always, Mike! We’ve found deterrant success in building the pond with a rock shelf that starts 8″ below water level, with a vertical drop all the way around of about 10″ down to a flat plant shelf at about 18″ /knee deep around the entire inside perimeter. The Rock Shelf, Vertical side, Plant shelf (RSVP?)profile seems to be pretty effective with all the waders – raccoons, egrets, even the Great Blue Heron – apparently because they won’t just ‘jump in’. We haven’t caught them crouching at the edge yet to fish, but that may be because we usually set the overflow a little low to keep max water level at 4-6″ typ. below ground level (to make it appear more natural?), and that may make it harder for them to spear fish from above. What would you guess about how far down can reach when they fish from above? I’m getting one of those BirdCams to see what I can catch them doing…
    Thanks again for the great posts, what a resource! Demi

  2. Ron Motherwell Says:

    on May 5, 2011 at 9:28 am

    I have several underwater and above ground lights and are a new pond owner. I wondered if the lighting attracts preditors, but don’t know if heron visit in the dark (before or after sunrise / sunset). Can you please elaborate on their typical visiting times.

    You have the most informative publishing re: Ponds that I have ever seen. I am certain that you must have saved many ponds from being emtied by predators.

  3. Mgannon Says:

    on June 2, 2011 at 10:19 am

    Herons will typically do their hunting in the early morning hours or around dusk. They have definitely started showing up at other hours of the day too in more suburban areas, which I think is a response to human activity levels, no one is ever home mid-day and they may have figured that out. I don’t think lighting attracts herons, or necessarily other predators like raccoons, but I’d say it does make it a bit easier for them to see if they do choose to hunt your pond. Thanks so much for checking out the blog and your comments. Hope to hear back from you. -Mike

  4. Lori Says:

    on June 2, 2013 at 12:25 am

    Great blog! What do you think of the idea of chicken wire over the body of the pond (my mom’s is maybe 3 X 4 at the base of a circulating waterfall? Blue Herron has wiped out her fish population 2 years in a row. There’s sentimental value to the pond and I hate to keep buying fish only to have the herron feed on them.

  5. Mgannon Says:

    on June 2, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    I don’t really like the idea of the chicken wire, it is kind of ugly and will rust when exposed to the water. How about using a grid of clear nylon fishing line. I use fishing line with a 50# test and it works great and is not really that visible on the pond! Thanks for checking out the blog!!

  6. Melissa Says:

    on August 17, 2013 at 3:09 am

    so today I’m really bummed. I live in Rural Colorado and last year was my first year as a pond owner (my landlord started the pond years ago before she moved and rented her place to me…) In late August I had a Heron wipe out my entire pond except for my 13″ Asagi Koi. The others were goldfish, and a couple small koi that I had added.

    This year when we took off the pond cover in the spring we had five tiny baby fish. They looked black until netted then, they had a yellowish gold color. They have since turned entirely orange w some white markings, no visible barrels, so we assumed they were a hybrid, but have nurtured and loved them to about 3-4″ in size this summer. Two weeks ago we introduced two new koi about the same size. All fish (5 baby hybrids, 2 small koi and ‘Skeletore’ our now 14″ Asagi koi) have been happily getting along. I have lots of plants around my small garden pond and several water lilys in pots. Our pond is 12″ atthe shallow side and 25″ in the middle with an upper basin that has a hose that waterfalls into the main pond. This spring I purchased a good Heron decoy, better than the ones my landlord had.

    Today I came home and two of the orange hybrids and one of the new koi are gone. There were a couple floating white strips that looked like fish flesh and lots of leaves floating in the water indicating a disturbance. The other fish were also very skittish. I’m afraid we may have just missed the Heron feeding at our pond.

    We are going to cover the pond w our hard plastic molding we use during the winter until we figure out what else to do. I’ve read everything I can about deterring heron, but am greatly disappointed to read how they remember a feeding spot and will return. I will take any advice I can get from anyone who’s gone through this. It’s crazy, but I’m heartbroken. I feel like I could have done more… Thanks.

  7. Mgannon Says:

    on August 27, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    Hey Melissa, I’m sorry to hear about your fish loss. I guess lots of people go through it and it is never easy to see that your fish have been consumed or killed. During periods of heavy predation by heron or any other pond predator, netting is probably the most sure fire way to protect your pond. I always suggest using a multilevel approach to predator control with several methods being used simultaneously. The method I have been using, and experimenting with on my own pond is simple and very effective so far. I keep an inexpensive outdoor radio, tuned to a talk radio station, running by my pond. I believe that the sound of a human voice is a great deterrent for any predator and they will not be very quick to enter an area where humans are to hunt for their meals. I have not lost any fish this season and have run the radio most of the season. However, I still use a heron decoy, I have fish caves in my pond, and plants around the edging to restrict access areas.
    Thanks for reading the LOVEYOURPOND blog and commenting!

  8. John Says:

    on November 14, 2013 at 9:20 pm

    Hello I live in Mexico and I am a fish farmer and I welcome the herons with my 12 ga. But then thy start coming at night. And you can kill a hundred and there are always more so I’m out of ideas. Thanks

  9. Lorene Says:

    on June 25, 2014 at 1:41 am

    Hey Mike
    So tried leaving the radio on from dawn till dusk. It’s working so far. Do you think I need to continue to leave it on? I just don’t have an outside speaker and wondering how much my electric bill will go up. I have the pond covered with nets and fishing wire going around the outside as well. What are your thoughts?

  10. Mike Gannon Says:

    on July 1, 2014 at 2:02 pm

    Hey Lorene thanks for getting in touch! The radio works pretty well! I think it would consume only minor amounts of electric and perhaps a couple dollars a month (or less?). However, if you have your pond netted and strung with fishing line you may not necessarily have to run the radio full time, maybe only when you are away from the pond. Thanks again for reaching out! -Mike

  11. Mel Says:

    on August 6, 2014 at 8:01 pm

    Hi Mike. I am having a huge problem with BH. I saw two just this morning hanging out on the roof top of my neighbors home. They then flew to tree tops in my yard and then one of them flew down to the ground around the ponds. The other stayed in the tree. The one on the ground snuck closer and closer to the ponds until it was in ear shot of the talk radio station I have on and they both flew away. These two BH were smaller than the 4′ one we saw two weeks ago in the yard and that we found another time standing very still in one of the ponds. We have two large ponds, which are 3.5″ deep. We have 4 outside speakers. We moved one of them very close to the ponds however, found that if the volume is not high enough, the BH will ignore it. We actually found a BH in the pond while the talk show host was talking. I turned up the volume as high as it would go and scared the crap out of the heron which flew off with a 6′ wing span. We keep talk radio on ALL THE TIME with the volume up fairly high. We’ve informed our neighbors why we have the radio at such high volume so they won’t think we’re crazy. Most of my koi are 15 years old or older. I have approx. 40 or so and it’s difficult to tell who’s missing. We’ve since installed the water sprayer but now the BH come in on another side of the yard. I’ve purchased another water sprayer which may help in deterring them. I think the radio is a great help in keeping them away.

  12. Mike Gannon Says:

    on August 11, 2014 at 7:59 pm

    Hi Mel,
    Sorry to hear about the persistent herons! They can be a real pain sometimes and I’m glad to hear the radio has been of help! I still recommend using a multi level approach to deter them if possible. Let’s hope the GBH gets the hint to stay away! -Mike

  13. Jean Reinoehl Says:

    on December 28, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    I use blue dye to color my pond water. Will that keep Heron’s from seeing my Koi fish or can they see thru dark blue water?

  14. Mike Gannon Says:

    on December 28, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    Hi Jean, using dye can help protect from a heron alot. Blue dye is good, using a black dye would be better. Nothing with a heron is 100% and I would usually recommend utilizing a couple of different methods of deterrent with the dye being one of the strategies that you use. Thanks for checking out the blog. -Mike

  15. Jill Says:

    on June 15, 2015 at 10:51 am

    I too have been fighting with the herons at my pons, have bought Herron decoys, coyote decoys, put string all around waters edge, purchased a motion detector siren alarm am at my wits end started the season out with about 200 goldfish am now down too maybe 20, heartbreaking to me, help!!!!

  16. Mike Gannon Says:

    on June 17, 2015 at 9:56 pm

    Thanks for reaching out. I always recommend a multilevel approach to predator control and it sounds like you have certainly done that. There is no “one” trick to controlling predators. My favorite approach it to use a outdoor radio tuned to a talk radio station left near my pond. Herons are very bold but they will shy away from entering areas where they hear or see human activity, so the talk radio is very effective that way. Give that a try if you have not already and you may be pleasantly surprised with the results.
    Best of luck!

  17. Mark Gebhardt Says:

    on June 20, 2015 at 9:25 pm


    Any chance that a mirror will work since they are territorial?

  18. Mike Gannon Says:

    on August 11, 2015 at 1:13 pm

    Hey Mark. A mirror can help but probably is not the magic bullet. I always say a multi-level approach to predaor deterrents is necessary and if a mirror helps even ONCE, then it is worth it. -Mike

  19. Hal Says:

    on August 29, 2015 at 4:38 pm

    I have used a little fence made from the 3 foot tall black metal poles from Lowes spaced about 5 or 6 feet apart. Then I put a monofilament nylon fish net I got from Memphis Net and Twine. Since I put this net up there hasn’t been a Blue Heron show up. A green heron did show up and it got under the netting and was able to sit on the row of rocks on the inside of the net. Green Herons can eat a fish about 6 to 8 inches long. They are like Blue Herons in that they sneak up to a pond from where they land on the ground. Before I put up the netting I lost 2 gold fish that were about 6 to 8 inches long to a Blue Heron.

  20. Beverley Shoemaker Says:

    on December 18, 2015 at 5:45 pm

    We have a large backyard pond in the southern California desert. We have a waterfall that feeds the pond so the edges are not level. We have a net over the pond so imagine our surprise when we came home to discover a GBH walking around the pond under the net. We were quite impressed by it’s intelligence. Luckily we have a lot of caves and shelves for the fish to hide. We have seen the GBH walk on the net many times but this was the first time we had actually seen it get underneath. We are now adjusting the net.

  21. Bob Williams Says:

    on December 29, 2015 at 2:46 am

    Hi Mike–Installing a new liner in my pond soon and will be increasing the depth to 3′ and the shelves to 2′. We presently have a net but want to get rid of that. Can you recommend plant types that you like to act as a deterrent? We will also deploy 4 speakers to keep a radio on. Additionally, I will also use a “scarecrow” water device. Thank you for all that you do to help us protect our vulnerable koi. You are probably the most knowledgable and helpful resource available.

  22. Mike Gannon Says:

    on January 29, 2016 at 7:52 pm

    Hi Bob! Thanks for the feedback! Plants around the exterior of the pond, landscape plants, can be used to great effect; but I’m not sure what to recommend without having a better idea of your landscape, especially since you want it to look good and function too. But generally speaking, using grasses or evergreeens like junipers come to mind. Within the pond some good aquatic edge plants that will make it uncomfortable for heron would be iris, pickerel, canna, some of those taller type plants are helpful. Water lily of course will give surface coverage helping to obscure the location of fish. Mike

  23. Bruce Broline Says:

    on December 30, 2015 at 1:17 am

    Our pond has straight sidewalks and is 3.5 to 4 ft deep and we have had no problems with Herons. They come take a look, but so far no losses that we have noticed.

  24. Mike Gannon Says:

    on January 29, 2016 at 7:48 pm

    Thanks Bruce! Straight down vertical walls are a great deterrent for heron, great feedback. Mike

  25. Rich Says:

    on January 6, 2016 at 2:19 am

    A few years ago I bought a thin black net and covered the pond to keep the herons out. It works 100% of the time. When we entertain outside enjoying the pond, we remove the net. As our plants grow out of the water, we raise the net above the plants. The nylon net is thin enough that it doesn’t really interfere with seeing the fish and you can still feed them by throwing in fish food. After 10 years of decoys, etc., this is the only method I’ve found to work. We probably lost 100 fish over that time, and the herons became so bold that they would even try to sneak up to the pond while I was mowing our half acre yard. The net cost $30 online.

  26. Mike Gannon Says:

    on January 29, 2016 at 7:46 pm

    Love it! Thanks for the feedback, sometimes the simple things work best and cost least! Mike

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