Wilbur Heron Ornaments

Hang a heron from your tree, or elsewhere in the house!
(Photo: Julian Piezas)

Welcome a little winged friend into your home for the holidays as an adorable decoration, and a reminder of your generous support of wildlife in Stanley Park. Colour and adorn them however you’d like with a loved one, a little helper, or a mug of hot chocolate by the fireplace!

Order before December 13th, and you will receive it – or can have it gifted – before December 25th.

These ornaments were originally designed by Debbie Fjortoft and her siblings, who have named them “Wilburs” in honour of their late father. We include their story below.

What’s in a DIY Wilbur kit?

Make your own Wilbur! Please note that colouring materials and plants are not included. 🙂
(Photo: Julian Piezas)
  1. A sheet with 2 sets of Wilbur shapes
    • These are easily cut out with craft scissors and slotted together to make two 3D herons
    • Made of sustainably sourced and printed thick cover paper
  2. Two ornament hooks
  3. An instructional guide

Please note that colouring materials are not provided with the kits, however, we have successfully tested the following with our cover paper:

  • Acrylic paints (or a biodegradable alternative like Natural Earth Paints!)
  • Washable marker pens
  • Crayons

How can I get a kit?

  1. Become an Adopt a Heron Nest donor for $54 per symbolic adoption. All current Adopt a Heron Nest donors are receiving a kit with our utmost thanks this year!
    • Register as an Adopter using our online form by December 13 and your mailed package (including the Wilbur kit) will arrive by Christmas Day! Adoptions can be purchased in honour of someone else as a gift or in memoriam.
      • If you register between December 14-21, we can still send a digital adoption package before Christmas, including a PDF file of the cut-outs to print from home. The mailed package will arrive in the new year.
    • Learn more about the Adopt a Heron Nest program.
  2. Visit the Stanley Park Nature House and get them in-person by donation

Questions? E-mail the coordinator or call (604) 257-6908 ext. 104.

Where does my donation go?

All proceeds from Adopt a Heron Nest and Wilbur orders go to conservation efforts around the Great Blue Heron breeding colony and their habitat in Stanley Park.

Although the Stanley Park heronry is thriving, Great Blue Herons are a Species at Risk. Nearly 80% of all great blue herons in BC are found in and around the Fraser River Delta, meaning the productivity of this heronry has implications for the future of the entire subspecies. This vulnerable species needs protection, understanding, and community support if it is to survive the increasing urban development of the region.

In recent years, Great Blue Herons have nested in unprecedented numbers in Stanley Park, and visitors can observe over 100 nests in 25 trees. The Stanley Park Ecology Society’s staff and volunteers have been monitoring their success in raising chicks, enhancing their habitat in the Park, and providing colony information to city officials, local residents and visitors.

Photo: Dannie Piezas/SPES

Debbie’s Story: “Wilbur” the Great Blue Heron

We are so grateful to Debbie and her family for sharing this design and her father Al’s story with us. While Al did leave food out for Wilbur in his property, he did so in a time when the potential impacts of wildlife feeding were not as understood as today.

At Stanley Park, we have the incredible fortune of encountering wild herons along the Seawall’s shoreline and at the heron colony in spring. Debbie’s family are avid supporters of this colony and their conservation through the Adopt a Heron Nest program.

The real Wilbur, circa 1995.
(Photo: The Edmondson Family)

Debbie’s parents Al and Betty were fervent animal lovers, and they knew and named all of the wildlife regulars – squirrels, ducks, and various other birds – around their home in North Vancouver.

A Great Blue Heron visited their pond one day and Al was intrigued. Al and this heron began to form an unlikely friendship, helped somewhat by Al’s supplement of thawed herring in the pond. The heron came every day, and so, like all the others, Al knew that it needed a name – and “Wilbur” it became.

The connection between man and bird amazed everyone – even Betty, whose kitchen now smelled constantly of fish! These daily visits continued until winter, when Wilbur left for other feeding grounds. Al thought this would just be a story to pass on, but the following spring, it was Wilbur (and not Santa) that showed up on the chimney to see Al again. This relationship with Wilbur only strengthened as Al’s health deteriorated. They met ritually for more than 5 years. Sometimes, Wilbur even brought a plus one!

When Al’s illness required stays at the hospital, or made using the stairs to go outside much more difficult, Wilbur stopped coming to visit. This saddened the whole family, especially Al. However, the Great Blue Heron became a powerful symbol in their lives.

Wilbur returned one last time – the day Al read his Will and Testament to his family – doing a cursory fly-by and stopping for a short perch, as though saying goodbye.

Al soon passed away, but whenever Betty spotted a “Wilbur” on her walks along the Dundarave shore, she would feel the presence of her husband and smile for the story she held inside. Debbie and her sisters made a whole colony of cut-out heron ornaments in honour of Al and Wilbur. For years they had a family tree at the Dundarave Festival of Lights. Now they share the heron ornaments with friends and family to adorn their own trees and keep sharing their memory.

The Edmondson family tree at the Dundarave Festival of Lights
(Photo: The Edmondson Family )