The Star Vancouver, May 25, 2018 – For at-risk herons, ‘keep your friends close and your enemies closer’ takes on a new meaning

By AINSLIE CRUICKSHANKStarMetro Vancouver

Fri., May 25, 2018

VANCOUVER—After a rough start to the breeding season, the heron chicks in Stanley Park are chirp-chirping away.

A barrage of eagle attacks last season meant the herons, an at-risk species, raised a few less chicks than they normally do, only to return this March to face down another round of raids.

There were two to four eagle attacks a day early in the season, said Greg Hart, the ecology society’s urban wildlife programs co-ordinator.

They’d go to five to 10 nests at a time just eating the eggs, he said.

It “is a natural thing and we’re excited to see bald eagles — they were once a species at risk themselves and the fact that they’ve made a recovery is tremendous,” he said. “But when you are monitoring the herons, you do kind of cheer for them a little bit.”

While the herons got a bit of a reprieve from the attacks, giving them time to incubate their eggs, the eagle raids have started up again — though not at the same level, Hart said.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed that whatever other food source the eagles have found, whether it’s fish or something else, that they continue to eat that — and you know, (we) wish them well raising their chicks too, as long as they’re not eating the herons,” he added.

In strange twist of this predator-prey relationship, the Stanley Park herons may actually be better off if they were closer to an eagles’ nest.

“A lot of the large, really successful heron colonies are smack dab around a bald eagle nest,” Hart said Friday outside the Park Board office, where he’d set up a heron information booth and scope to let passersby take a closer look at the nesting birds.

For herons, the old cliche “keep your friends close and your enemies closer” takes on a whole new significance: a close enemy can actually be more like a frenemy.