Big Day 2014

Great Blue Herons

Location: Ithaca, NY

Camera Host: Cornell Lab

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April 23, 2014

Two Herons Seen on Sapsucker Pond!

Could this be 'Dad' and a female? They were spotted this morning on the pond, fishing and sharing short interactions in flight. Could this pair decide to nest here? Only time will tell. There is still time for herons to breed. 

April 22, 2014

Male 'Dad' Returns to Sapsucker for a Day of Fishing

He also rearranges some twigs in the nest! Is he waiting for a female to arrive? Let's wait and see what happens...Image caught by b3chaser. 

April 17, 2014

No Sign of Heron Nesting Yet, But Wait Who is This?

Mallards have been spending a lot of time in the rather droopy Heron nest recently. No signs of eggs in the nest yet though. A Great Blue Heron has been spotted almost daily flying over the pond and sometimes stopping to hunt, but we have yet to see any Herons courting on the nest or any pairs around the pond. There is still time, so keep watching... 

March 29, 2014

The Male Heron (Dad) Returns to the Nest

Excitement builds on the CornellHerons cam with the return of the male Great Blue Heron, who has used the nest since 2009. Herons have been seen around Sapsucker Pond over the last few weeks, but this clip confirms the return of 'Dad' who is missing a toe. Thanks to Violet Forrest for the video. 

March 15, 2014

The Cornell Lab Great Blue Heron Nest has a Visitor!

Keen viewer B3chaser snapped this awesome shot of a Great Blue Heron visiting the nest this morning. We are getting excited for the season ahead, fingers crossed the herons return this Spring. We are planning to install three new cameras this year; two replacing the cameras in the tree and one hopefully installed on the roof of the Lab. More...

April 23

Two Herons Seen on Sapsucker Pond!

Could this be 'Dad' and a female? They were spotted this morning on the pond, fishing and sharing short interactions in flight. Could this pair decide to nest here? Only time will tell. There is still time for herons to breed. 

April 22

Male 'Dad' Returns to Sapsucker for a Day of Fishing

He also rearranges some twigs in the nest! Is he waiting for a female to arrive? Let's wait and see what happens...Image caught by b3chaser. 

Great Blue Heron

Tree

Nest Placement

Great Blue Herons nest mainly in trees, but will also nest on the ground, on bushes, in mangroves, and on structures such as duck blinds, channel markers, or artificial nest platforms. Males arrive at the colony and settle on nest sites; from there, they court passing females. Colonies can consist of 500 or more individual nests, with multiple nests per tree built 100 or more feet off the ground.

Nest Description

Male Great Blue Herons collect much of the nest material, gathering sticks from the ground and nearby shrubs and trees, and from unguarded and abandoned nests, and presenting them to the female. She weaves a platform and a saucer-shaped nest cup, lining it with pine needles, moss, reeds, dry grass, mangrove leaves, or small twigs. Nest building can take from 3 days up to 2 weeks; the finished nest can range from a simple platform measuring 20 inches across to more elaborate structures used over multiple years, reaching 4 feet across and nearly 3.5 feet deep. Ground-nesting herons use vegetation such as salt grass to form the nest.

Clutch Size

2-6 eggs

Incubation Period

27-29 days

Nestling Period

49-81 days

Egg Description

Pale blue, fading slightly with age.

Condition at Hatching

Bluish eyes open, chick covered in pale gray down, able to vocalize.

Fish

Food

Great Blue Herons eat nearly anything within striking distance, including fish, amphibians, reptiles, small mammals, insects, and other birds. They grab smaller prey in their strong mandibles or use their dagger-like bills to impale larger fish, often shaking them to break or relax the sharp spines before gulping them down.

Typical Voice

Great Blue Herons are most vocal on the breeding grounds, where they greet their partner with squawking roh-roh-rohs in a “landing call” when arriving at the nest. A disturbance can trigger a series of clucking go-go-gos, building to a rapid frawnk squawk that can last up to 20 seconds. If directly threatened, birds react with a screaming awk lasting just over 2 seconds. Chicks give a tik-tik-tik call within minutes of hatching.more sounds

See full Species Info at All About Birds

About the Herons

Herons at Sapsucker Woods Though neither bird is banded, you can identify the male by the absence of a hallux (the rear-facing toe) on his right foot. Adult herons can be up to 4.5 feet tall, with a wingspan that ranges up to 6 feet. Despite their large size, they typically only weigh around 5 pounds.

Herons usually lay 2-4 eggs and share incubation duties for 25-30 days. Incubation begins with the first egg, and the young hatch asynchronously (not at the same time) over 2-5 days. After hatching, it’ll take 7-8 weeks before they fly from the nest for the first time.

About the Nest

Herons at Sapsucker WoodsThis Great Blue Heron nest is in a giant white-oak snag in the middle of Sapsucker Woods pond (click for aerial view), right outside the Cornell Lab’s Johnson Center for Birds and Biodiversity in Sapsucker Woods.  In 2009, the arrival of those first twigs marked the start of the first known Great Blue Heron nest in the history of Sapsucker Woods. Early in the spring of 2012 we installed two cameras to bring the hidden world of their nesting habits into full view. The nest itself is nearly four feet across and a foot deep, and wraps almost entirely around the trunk of the tree. The birds have slowly built up the nest over the last few years.

About Sapsucker Woods

Sapsucker Woods Sanctuary was named in 1909 by famed bird artist Louis Agassiz Fuertes upon finding the first Yellow-bellied Sapsucker nest in the Ithaca region. About 3 miles from Cornell’s campus, Sapsucker Woods covers 230 acres of forest dominated by red maples, beech, and hickory, including the 10-acre pond that hosts the herons’ nest site.

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