Animals Around Banning

The Great Blue Heron

The Great Blue Heron is a resident bird of Georgia but can be found from Alaska all the way to South America. They are the largest of the heron family and a pleasure to watch as they fly and go about their daily lives.

At Historic Banning Mills, we are proud to have three nesting pair of Blue Herons. See below for some fun facts about them.

Blue Herons can have a wingspan of over six feet. They can stand three to four feet tall and weigh five to six pounds. The Blue Heron mainly nests in the tops of trees and can live together in large colonies called heronries of up to 500 nests! During the breeding season, the mating pair will stay together until the babies are grown. They will have different mates for the next season.

Male Blue Herons are larger than female Blue Herons. The male will bring sticks and present them to the female, who will then proceed to weave them into a platform type nest. She will then line the nest with moss, grasses, and other soft material. It can take up to two weeks to complete construction of the nest. They will return to the nest year after year to reuse it.

Female Blue Herons lay three to six eggs: plate blue in color. The eggs don’t hatch at the same time, meaning one of the babies will usually be stronger and more dominant, leading to a higher chance of survival. It takes twenty two months for a chick to mature before being ready to have its own chicks.

The Blue Heron is a very cautious bird and very wary of humans. The herons will abandon their nests if disturbed by much activity.

Blue Herons primarily eat fish but can be found eating salamanders, frogs, small mammals like voles and even small birds. 

Groundhog

We’ve got several pairs of Groundhogs that like to hang out around Banning Mills. Groundhogs are also called Woodchucks or Whistle Pigs and can be found from the Georgia Piedmont area into the North Georgia Mountain area.

Groundhogs feed exclusively on plant material including fruits and berries, ferns, grasses, leaves and even bark. Groundhogs are most active in the early morning and late evening. Did you know they are excellent diggers? Groundhogs dig extensive networks of burrows which many people find to be a nuisance due to the many holes they create in the ground.

Fun Facts About Groundhogs:

They can climb trees and swim!

They make loud whistling sounds to warn of predators.

They are the largest member of the squirrel family!

Their teeth never stop growing and can average a length of up to 4 inches!

They hibernate beginning late fall for 4 to 5 months. During this time they lower their body temperature to 38 degrees and slow their heartbeats to only 4 beats per minute and take two breaths per minute!

King Snake

King Snakes can be found all over the United States and are often seen sunning themselves on rocks. While they are not a venomous snake, they can bite if you get too close, so they are best viewed from a distance.

King Snakes can be found in swamps, woodlands, grasslands, and even deserts. They can grow up to 7 feet long and weight as much as 4 lbs. King Snakes can be identified by their round eyes and black bodies with yellow and white bands that look like a chain wrapping down their bodies. Some King Snakes may have red and orange bands which can make them easy to mistake with Coral Snakes.

There’s an old saying to help you distinguish King Snakes from Coral Snakes: “Red touching black is a friend to Jack but red touching yellow will kill a fellow!” While this is a great way to identify potentially dangerous snakes, we have an even more fool proof saying to keep you safe: “Don’t touch snakes”.

King Snakes tend to be nocturnal and eat other snakes, lizards, turtle eggs, frogs, and small mammals. King Snakes can rattle their tails in leaves like a rattlesnake when faced with danger. They also emit a foul odor when they are spooked to ward off danger. King Snakes hibernate in winter and emerge during the spring to mate.

Female King Snakes lay three to thirteen eggs. Baby snakes hatch after two to three months and are about four to twelve inches long. King Snakes typically live 20 to 30 years in the wild and while snakes can be scary, King Snakes are very good to have around so please don’t harm them if you come across one!