A great blue heron that appears to be fishing or looking for other water creatures to eat. Credit: Courtesy of Dave Small

It kind of blends in, giving this bird a ghostly, almost otherworldly feel about it.

The great blue heron lives in several different habitats in Maine, making it difficult to keep track of how many birds make the state their home.

In 2022, the numbers of nesting pairs of birds actually increased for the first time since 2015.

Maine listed the great blue heron as a species of special concern in 2007. After that, the state led a group of volunteers — called the Heron Observation Network by 2009 — who found and counted the birds, and kept track of how many nesting sites produced babies.

It wasn’t exact science because it’s difficult to get enough volunteers to visit the same number of nesting sites every year, but data was sufficient to give biologists an idea about trends, according to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife website.

2023 was the state’s 15th year of keeping track of the stealthy birds. The 7 percent increase was at inland and coastal colonies, totaling 660 nesting pairs, said Danielle D’Auria, the department’s waterbird specialist, in her 2023 report.

Since 2009, the species has declined 38.4 percent — 30 percent inland and 50 percent on the coast, D’Auria said.

The volunteer network had 347 members and 67 monitored 90 colonies in 2022. Staff also visited 15 colonies, for a total of 105 colonies observed, D’Auria said in her report.

Fifty-five of the colonies had 469 nesting pairs and the rest didn’t show any signs of nesting. There were 131 colonies active at least once in the five-year period from 2018 to 2022, she said.

The great blue heron eats small fish, amphibians, small birds and reptiles among other food it can spear with its bill.

Julie Harris is senior outdoors editor at Bangor Daily News. She has served in many roles since joining BDN in 1979, including several editing positions. She lives in Litchfield with her husband and three...