Discover Nature NotesMore posts

The Herons' Hood

Mar 05, 2018

You can recognize a heron as it flies overhead. Its long legs stretch out straight with its neck pulled back to form an “S.”  Herons are often seen in flight, or when fishing in their favorite area.  They’re not so commonly seen at the nest site.

Herons nest in colonies called “rookeries.”  Rookeries are usually located in places isolated from disturbance.  Herons often select mature sycamore trees along streams as rookery sites.  A large tree may have many nests that can be used for decades.  The largest nests are built toward the center of the crown where they are safest.  Newer, flimsier nests are built at the edges.  The bigger, older nests reach three or four feet across.  They’re repaired and given a fresh lining each year as part of the birds’ courtship behavior.  The female builds and maintains the nest, while the male brings her the materials.  Each pair defends the area immediately surrounding their nest from other herons.

The pair produces one brood of three to six young each year.  The adults disperse after the young fledge.  The young stay on at the rookery and are the last to leave in mid to late july.  Rookery activity begins about this time of year. See a slice of heron nesting life in the video below.

All About the Great Blue Heron

  • Herons forage in shallow pools, edges of lakes and similar areas for aquatic prey including frogs, small fish and many other animals that can be swallowed.
  • Great blue herons have a very large, slate-blue body, long legs, long, pointy bill and a slender, long neck. The head is white with a black, plumed eye line. The thighs are reddish or rusty and the lower legs dark. The bill is yellowish, and the pale breast feathers are long and plumelike. The voice is a low, harsh “gwock,” often heard in flight.
  • As top predators, great blue herons check populations of many aquatic and animals. Their eggs and chicks are frequently preyed upon by other predators, though not many animals hunt the adults.
  • It is important to stay far back from breeding colonies, since the birds and their chicks can suffer fatal accidents in their haste to escape.

Learn more about the great blue heron in the MDC’s Field Guide.

Life in the Herons' Hood

See great blue herons nesting
See great blue herons nesting

GB heron nest_1.jpg

Heron Rookery
Heron Rookery
Heron Rookery

GrBl Heron_nestling_1.jpg

Great Blue heron nestling
Great Blue heron nesting
Great Blue heron nestling

Post new comment

Recent Posts

Beaver Creek Snail

The Creature with a Mobile Home

Mar 19, 2018

THE CREATURE WITH A MOBILE HOME:  It's always on the move and brings it's home along too!  It is both common and unusual.  Its mouth is on the bottom of its foot.  It has a foot but no leg.  It leaves a trail wherever it goes.  This mobile critter has a lot of mechanical features with special attachments.  See if you can guess the identity of this ancient creature found all over the world in this week's Discover Nature Note.

Photo of a western chorus frog

Frog Chorus

Mar 12, 2018

FROG CHORUS: You can hear their chorus rising up on warm, rainy spring nights. From backyards to wetlands, frogs create a symphony of spring sound. Learn the notes of the spring peeper and western chorus frog in this week's Discover Nature Note. Frogs are also quite tasty and fishable. Learn some basics to Frogging 101 and about the adventure of fishing for frogs.

Spring Peeper

SPRINGing To Life

Feb 26, 2018

SPRINGING TO LIFE:  Robin Williams joked that "Spring is nature's way of saying, Let's party!" It's definitely a moveable feast for the ears and eyes.  Songs fill the air from backyard trees to prairies, forests, and ponds.  Flashes of color pop here and there.  Animals are moving around and competing for mates, even on those March days where poet Robert Frost notes, "The sun was warm but the wind was chill."  You can't help but be inspired and entertained by the sights and sounds of spring courtship.  See who you might observe dancing and singing this March in this week's Discover Nature Note. 


Field Guide

Discovering nature from A-Z is one click away


You had fun hunting, catching or gathering your quarry—now have more fun cooking and eating it.
Check out the recipes