The great blue heron (Ardea herodias) is a large and majestic inhabitant of the freshwater and saltwater wetlands of Canada and southward to the northern edges of South America. Standing up to 4 1/2 feet tall with a wingspan of nearly 7 feet wide, this generally solitary hunter is a striking sight as it stalks prey or takes flight. Occasionally, this bird may be seen hunting in fields as well.
The great blue heron, increasingly found throughout the year in Pennsylvania, will soon make an appearance of sorts at The State Museum of Pennsylvania. On Friday, April 8, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and the Pennsylvania Game Commission will host a special exhibit, Working Together for Wildlife: Three Decades of Pennsylvania’s Nature in Art. On display will be 34 original paintings by 19 different Pennsylvania artists, including Blue Haze, a 2015 portrait of a great blue heron painted by Randy Zigo of Mercer County.
The acrylic-on-paper painting depicts a great blue heron in a scene similar to a wooded area situated across the street from Zigo’s house. Recently, the work of art took home first place in the Game Commission’s Working for Wildlife, a competition open to Pennsylvania artists. The Game Commission makes each year’s winning artwork available in special edition prints and patches, with the proceeds benefitting the preservation and maintenance of Pennsylvania’s wildlife.
“My hope is that avid outdoorsmen will be able to relate to this artwork,” Zigo said.
Blue Haze, part of the collection from the Pennsylvania Game Commission, will be on exhibit at The State Museum through Sept. 11.
The Game Commission records and monitors colonies of great blue herons across the commonwealth. This species is increasing in numbers in Pennsylvania, but remains in need of conservation, attention and study.
Although great blue herons are territorial, they can nest in large colonies, with the male providing material for the female to weave into a substantial-sized nest. Often, these nests, which can be reused over the years, are placed high in trees. The size of the colony may number several hundred nesting pairs. Both parents care for their eggs and young. The young grow rapidly and fledge within eight weeks, usually by August.
The State Museum of Pennsylvania is the official repository for plant and animal specimens of the commonwealth. The section of Zoology and Botany has in its collection seven specimens of the great blue heron from Pennsylvania collected during from 1963 through 1988.
This Pennsylvania Treasure was written by Dr. Walter Meshaka, Senior Curator of Zoology and Botany at The State Museum of Pennsylvania.
About Pennsylvania Treasures:
The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission houses artifacts hailing from all eras of the commonwealth’s past. These objects represent Pennsylvania arts, culture, history, sciences, business and agriculture. PHMC curators continue to research the stories behind many of these rarely exhibited artifacts and works of art. We are sharing these Pennsylvania Treasures with the public through weekly updates.