Great Blue Herons in Pop Culture? Jurassic World (Not Art Nbr 18)

At breakneck speed, all were flung into the present as the man in the bass boat bellowed, “It’s a pterodactyl! It’s an effing pterodactyl!

© Babsje (

Great Blue Heron stalking a fish.

The giant Herons swarmed from behind the ruins in search of food, overtaking the slower creatures.

Wait, scratch that.

Make that “giant Pterodactyls swarmed from behind the ruins…”

It has been said that the Jurassic World filmmakers shot video of running elephants and rhinos to capture the gait of stampeding dinosaurs. Did they use video of flying Herons to approximate the Pterodactyls? The resemblance is so uncanny anything is possible.

Long-time readers may remember that true story of the bass fisherman’s unexpected encounter with a Great Blue Heron a few years agp. (Click here if you missed it.) At the time it was amusing – I had my head down stowing gear under the bow of the kayak and didn’t actually see the GBH, but hearing the man shriek about a pterodactyl left no doubt about what had just crossed his bow.

So, when even a random fisherman makes that association, I am definitely not alone in seeing herons as modern-day relics of a prehistoric time.

In this blog, I like to focus on sharing first-person observations and my own original photos rather than offering up a rehash of information that anyone can find on the web via search engine, but sometimes there are exceptions, and this is one of them.

According to the wonderful resource, Heron Conservation:

The herons are a fairly ancient group of birds. Although bird fossils are rare, herons are exceptionally rare even by avian standards totaling fewer than 40 identified species. Herons first emerge in the fossil record some 60 -38 million years ago.

Just out of curiosity, I searched Getty Images for fossils that might be similar to modern Great Blues.

Below are three ancient bird fossils. The first two are clearly labeled as Pterodactyl fossils:

Embed from Getty Images
[Pterodactyl fossil, Pterodactylus kochi, Jurassic. Eichstatt, Germany. (Photo by John Cancalosi.)]

Embed from Getty Images
[Fossil of a Pterodactyl. Fossil of pterodactylus spectabilis. (Photo by CM Dixon/Print Collector/Getty Images)]

It was exciting to find those Pterodactyl fossils online, but what really fired my imagination is this next fossil. Look closely. Do you see why?

Embed from Getty Images
[Fossil Bird. Green River Formation, Wyoming. Eocene, 50 million years ago. (Photo by John Cancalosi.)]

One of the most striking characteristics of Great Blue Herons is the way they fly with their necks kinked into an S-shape. This is made possible because of the configuration of the heron’s sixth neck vertebra.

Look at the bird fossil above. Do you see the S-shape of the neck, how it seems to curve sharply around the sixth vertebra?


Maybe it’s just a coincidence (and this blog isn’t rigorous science in any case), but seeing that ancient fossil bird’s neck mirror that of the herons I see today brought goosebumps.

I love when that happens.


Thanks to Cee N and WordPress for her Odd Ball Challenge.

Thanks again to Erica V and WordPress for the recent WPC: Place in the World. My favorite place in this heatwave is an air conditioned movie theater, where I enjoyed Jurassic World and fantasized that the Pterodactyls were Herons.
From May 1 through July 11, 2018, my Great Blue Heron photographs once again grace the walls of the lobby and theater in a free one-woman show at the Summer Street Gallery, of The Center for Arts in Natick. If you’re in the Boston or Metro West area, please stop by to see the Great Blue Herons. As always, many of the photos were taken on the waterways of the Charles River watershed. The gallery is open whenever the box office is open, so please check hours here.

Through July 13, 2017 I was a Featured Artist at the Five Crows Gallery in Natick, MA. Drop in and see the work of the many wonderfully creative artists who show there when you’re in the area. Five Crows is on FaceBook. To give the gallery a visit, please click here.


Remember: Walk softly and carry a long lens.™

The Tao of Feathers™

© 2018 Babsje. (

Great Blue Heron, Fossils, Pterodactyl, TCAN

Posted on July 5, 2018, in ardea herodias, Art, Birds, Fossils, Great Blue Heron, jurassic world, Photography challenge, postaday, Pterodactyl, Weekly Photo Challenge, Wildlife Photography and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. The herons are a fairly ancient group of birds. Although bird fossils are rare, herons are exceptionally rare even by avian standards totaling fewer than 40 identified species. Herons first emerge in the fossil record some 60 -38 million years ago. Birds attributable to contemporary genera first occur about 7 million years ago. These include Nycticorax, Ardea, Egretta and Ardeola. Thus by the Miocene, a period characterized by extensive aquatic habitats, herons rather closely resembling modern forms had evolved and had radiated into the kinds of herons known today, day and night herons, and large, medium and small herons.

  2. How very exciting!

    • Thanks, Gunta! The movie was a great excuse to be in air-conditioning, but even better, to fantasize about the evolution of our Herons from their ancestors. Best, Babsje

  3. Terrific idea for odd balls 😀

  4. Babsje, I had the same thought as I was watching the newest Jurassic World movie last week. We have quite a few herons around the lake in our nearby county park – such amazing creatures. Pileated woodpeckers give me that same prehistoric impression as they ratchet up and down our trees.

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