Home Your Coast Weekend Word Nerd

Word Nerd: Heron

By Ryan Hume

For Coast Weekend

Published on February 28, 2018 5:35PM

A heron eats a fish for lunch in this photo, shot in Warrenton by Tracy Hale, of Astoria. The photo placed in the Top 25 of the 2014 Coast Weekend Photo Contest.

Tracy Hale photo

A heron eats a fish for lunch in this photo, shot in Warrenton by Tracy Hale, of Astoria. The photo placed in the Top 25 of the 2014 Coast Weekend Photo Contest.

“Heron,” an acrylic painting by Mary Anne Gantenbein.

File photo

“Heron,” an acrylic painting by Mary Anne Gantenbein.


Heron [her•ən]

noun

1. With 68 identified species, any number of long-legged, fish-spearing birds of the family Ardeidae. Some members of this family are called egrets or bitterns rather than herons, but they are all kin. Known to frequent both freshwater and coastal areas, herons are often identifiable by the swoop of their long, S-shaped necks and thin, pointed slivers of beak. The most common species of this wading bird on the North Coast are the Great blue heron and the Green heron.


Origin


Heron first enters Middle English circa 1300 as heiron, emerging from the Old French hairon or eron by way of the Proto-Germanic haigrô, which means to “scream, screech or caw” (the modern French is the similar héron). Both heron and egret, the name for some of the species’ sister birds, arise from this same root, though bittern has a different backstory that also refers to the birds’ call. According to the ancient Roman author, philosopher and naturalist Pliny the Elder, the bittern was known for its booming call during mating season, which resulted in the Gallo-Roman butitaurus, a portmanteau from the Latin butionem, meaning “bittern” and taurus, meaning “bull.” The modern form is first recorded in English in 1510.

“Patience proved a virtue for Seaside developers Bruce and Max Ritchie.

“For more than a decade, they’ve submitted plans for the 15-acre plot of land on the corner of South Wahanna Road and Avenue S known as Blue Heron Pointe.”

— R.J. Marx, “Seaside subdivision gets go-ahead,” ​The Daily Astorian, Feb. 7, 2018

“The cry of the night herons I cannot describe, except someone has said it gives the suggestion that the bird has swallowed a very unappetizing frog and is trying hard to unswallow it. The ‘squawk’ sings at his best from midnight to daybreak….”

— “In a Village of Blue Herons with the Camera,’” The Sunday Oregonian, Aug. 28, 1904, P. 30



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