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Great Blue Heron Colony

  • Stanley Park, Vancouver, B.C. (Opposite the Tennis Courts)
  • 2007 season totaled 185 nests in 24 trees
  • Arrival in mid-February, ending in late July or August
  • West Coast Herons (Ardea herodias fannini) A subspecies of the Great Blue Heron that does not migrate

This particular sub-species is at risk, partly due to the fact that only 30% of the fledglings will survive their first year. The Stanley Park Heronry is a unique entity, as it is one of the largest known heron colonies, and in an urban area at that. These birds stand approximately 1 meter in height and lay 3-5 eggs. The male performs a courtship display and each female chooses a new partner at the beginning of every mating season. Once this has been accomplished, the male sets out to find and bring the female gifts of sticks so she can proceed in the construction. Each stick is indeed a gift, and is presented as such, with a flourish of plumes in a courtly dance (and the occasional playful tease).

In the month of March, the light-blue eggs will be laid 1-2 days apart. After 28 days of incubation, the chicks will hatch. The parents take turns keeping the chicks warm while the partner goes foraging, coming back to regurgitate for the hungry beaks. These are not gentle times, and the adult becomes more and more harassed as the youngsters grow and start grasping at its beak before it even reaches the nest. The chicks constantly wrestle with each other for both space and rank in the nest. These nests are surprisingly small considering the size of the adult birds, and once the chicks fledge at 8-10 weeks of age, they do not return to this home. They are then on their own to learn how to fish and survive, or not, as the case may be.

 

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