We live in Massachusetts, and love trees, flowers, and wildlife of all kinds. Sometimes when wandering around marshy areas, especially in New Hampshire and Vermont, we're blessed with a sighting of a Heron. I don't know how to identify the breeds, but I think Great Blue may be the most common in our region. We generally scare it, accidentally of course, while it's resting in the swamp grass, or out on the water, and off it flies to the top of a nearby tree, displaying its full beauty. Although we stay very still, it doesn't come back within close enough range to take a picture.

Since we've rarely, if ever, seen more than one at a time, I wonder if they generally travel alone. If so, are they territorial, meaning that if we return to the area, would we see the same bird?

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    I've only ever seen heron's on their own, purely anecdotal evidence though...
    – user2766
    Jul 23, 2015 at 7:33

1 Answer 1


Great Blue Herons don't seem to be territorial. Nesting sites usually have a few to a dozen nests at a time, sometimes three in the same tree. This is so common they are referred to as heron "rookeries".

Except at the nest, it does appear that these birds work alone. Sometimes you can see two nearby, but not usually next to each other. Most of the time you see a lone heron standing in shallow water waiting for a errant fish or frog to come by.

The best way to see herons is in a nesting area before the chicks fledge. That's either up to about now or already too late. We have a number of heron rookeries here in Groton MA. You don't say where in MA you are, but if you want to come to Groton I can be more specific and perhaps even show you around.

A good place to see herons not nesting is Great Meadows National Wildlife refuge in Concord MA. There are usually half a dozen standing the in the shallow water on either side of the built-up causeway. There are so many people regularly walking there that the wildlife has gotten used to it, and you can often get quite close. I've taken pictures using a 300 mm lens with the heron filling the whole frame.


Yesterday (23 July 2015) I had to go from Littleton to Cambridge, and was on Route 2 by the heron rookery in Acton. There were still birds sitting on nests, maybe half a dozen, so it's not too late. Don't wait long though, I expect the young will fledge within a few days.

  • @Sue: The rookery on the west side of route 2 in Acton has been in decline over the last decade since the dead trees are falling down. There were a couple dozen nests at the high point, this year just a few. There's a cycle. Beavers flood a area to make a swamp. The trees die quickly, and make great supports for heron nests. As trees rot and fall down, the herons have to move elsewhere. The largest rookery in Groton is also in decline for the same reason. Eventually beavers leave, trees grow back, beavers come back, and the cycle continues. Jul 23, 2015 at 10:55
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    One way to approach herons and other wading birds is to use a kayak. they are less spooked and you can usually get to around 50 feet before they bug out. Also I have seen that if you don't stare at them they don't get as irritated. because you are not focused on them. On a stream I'll often paddle past and out of sight, then sit very still and let the stream push me back by like a twig while I take pictures. Aug 18, 2017 at 22:23

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