Heron Update: Time to Fly!

The Stanley Park heron colony is an exciting place to be right now.  Many of the chicks are 12-14 weeks old and over 30 have fledged! Look for these awkward youngsters testing out their fishing skills along the shores of English Bay and Stanley Park.  Those still in the nest are large enough that both parents can leave the nest at the same time to forage and hunt.  Although growing quickly, and quite large already, the chicks are vulnerable to attacks from bald eagles while their parents are away.  Our data monitors are witnessing these almost daily attacks early in the morning and late in the afternoon.

juv in nest

Hungry juvenile herons squawk excitedly as their parent returns. (Photo: Greg Hart)

It has been a difficult season for the Pacific great blue herons in nest E1.  They successfully incubated and hatched three chicks. However, these chicks were predated by bald eagles.  The heron parents were not to be discouraged!  They laid a second clutch of eggs in the last week of May.  Those eggs were also predated.  This is a natural part of the life of a great blue heron.  We are happy to report that most of the nests in the colony are doing well and have 2-3 chicks on average.

heron cam shot

Nest E1 sits empty after predation from bald eagles. (Photo: Heron Cam, City of Vancouver)

On a daily basis, our conservation volunteers and technician are monitoring the colony.  They set up a microphone to record background noise and sound levels of different events.  While the microphone is recording, the monitors are watching for a “flush” event.  This is when three or more birds take off simultaneously.  With enough data, we are hoping to learn the herons’ threshold for activities and sound levels near their colony.  We could then provide guidelines to minimize human caused disturbances.

flying heron

(Photo: Greg Hart)

As always, we’d love to hear from you.  Come by the Nature House on Lost Lagoon to chat with a Nature House Host about the herons or send an email to:  nests@stanleyparkecology.ca.  You can also join the conversation on twitter using the hashtag: #HeronTalk.  Help support all of these efforts by adopting a nest!

We can’t wait to hear your stories and see the excitement continuing to unfold at the colony this year.

– Greg Hart, Urban Wildlife Coordinator