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Year End Match 2014

Great Blue Herons

Location: Ithaca, NY

Camera Host: Cornell Lab

Find more about Weather in Ithaca, NY

December 17, 2014

Red-tailed Hawk Visits Cam Tree

We haven't seen a close up of resident red-tailed hawk Rosie for a while. Check out this clip. It looks like she is trying to dry off after a rain shower by fanning and drooping her wings. 

December 17, 2014

Mallard Courtship

Initial alliances between male female pairs are usually temporary in mallards, but can occur, however their pair bond is tested during competitive courtship, agonistic encounters and copulations. This clip shows a pair performing nonfertilizing copulation, which is often associated with pairs in October- November, when gonads are inactive. New pair bonds form in wintering flocks each year. Pair copulation occurs while the birds are swimming and is preceded by mutual head-pumping and followed by postcopulatory bridle, steam and turn back of head displays by the male. These activities are key indicators of a pair bond forming. Females stimulate males to give displays by nod swimming, they can then indicate their preference for a male by following him and displaying beside him. Females prefer males showing high courtship activity and good plumage quality. Male courtship skills improve with age. 

December 17, 2014

Duck Chase

We can see in this video that some aggressive looking chasing is going on between the mallards behind the Cornell Feeders. During nonbreeding season, both males and females engage in threatening, pecking, and brief chasing, on land or water, in feeding flocks, and in disputes over favored resting sites. Overt aggression by males is frequently associated with pair formation and mate defense in wintering flocks and territory defense early in breeding season. On both water and land, the male gives an open-bill threat, rushes at the opponent with head held low, chases by running, and pecks or bites the opponent. Fighting involves breast-to-breast pushing, opponents’ bills pointing down in front; frequently resulting in denuded patches on the males’ breasts during pairing disputes in winter. At high intensities, blows are also struck with wings, and circular fighting may occur, as we can see in this clip. On territory boundaries, evenly matched males rush along flapping over water, side by side. 

December 17, 2014

Duck Chase

We can see in this video that some aggressive looking chasing is going on between the mallards behind the Cornell Feeders. During nonbreeding season, both males and females engage in threatening, pecking, and brief chasing, on land or water, in feeding flocks, and in disputes over favored resting sites. Overt aggression by males is frequently associated with pair formation and mate defense in wintering flocks and territory defense early in breeding season. On both water and land, the male gives an open-bill threat, rushes at the opponent with head held low, chases by running, and pecks or bites the opponent. Fighting involves breast-to-breast pushing, opponents’ bills pointing down in front; frequently resulting in denuded patches on the males’ breasts during pairing disputes in winter. At high intensities, blows are also struck with wings, and circular fighting may occur, as we can see in this clip. On territory boundaries, evenly matched males rush along flapping over water, side by side. 

December 17, 2014

Mallard Courtship

Initial alliances between male female pairs are usually temporary in mallards, but can occur, however their pair bond is tested during competitive courtship, agonistic encounters and copulations. This clip shows a pair performing nonfertilizing copulation, which is often associated with pairs in October- November, when gonads are inactive. New pair bonds form in wintering flocks each year. Pair copulation occurs while the birds are swimming and is preceded by mutual head-pumping and followed by postcopulatory bridle, steam and turn back of head displays by the male. These activities are key indicators of a pair bond forming. Females stimulate males to give displays by nod swimming, they can then indicate their preference for a male by following him and displaying beside him. Females prefer males showing high courtship activity and good plumage quality. Male courtship skills improve with age. 

December 17, 2014

Red-tailed Hawk Visits Cam Tree

We haven't seen a close up of resident red-tailed hawk Rosie for a while. Check out this clip. It looks like she is trying to dry off after a rain shower by fanning and drooping her wings. 

October 22

Last Sighting of a Great Blue Heron this Year?

Could we have seen our last sighting of a Great Blue Heron on Sapsucker Woods Pond for the rest of the year? Check out the highlight clip for more information. 

July 17

Did 'Dad' Heron Breed Successfully After All?

'Dad', a second adult and a juvenile were seen on the pond in the morning. The juvenile landed in the same tree as Dad for a short time, then flew close to the second adult. Could this have been two parents and their offspring? Dad may well have bred successfully elsewhere this year. It would explain his great fishing efforts over the 2014 season. Perhaps he was taking the fish away to young on a nest nearby. There are several ponds to the North of Sapsucker Woods, he could have established a new nest site after the loss of the nest on the pond at the Cornell Lab. 

June 01

No Nest for Cornell Herons this Year

With the collapse of the nest earlier this year and the mating of a female and ‘Dad’ heron in the tree shortly after we have been watching the pond and waiting patiently for signs that herons may build a new nest. Unfortunately it looks like the male heron ‘Dad’ who has nested on the pond since 2009 may not have found a suitable mate this year. Our amazing volunteer camera operators have been watching the heron activity on the pond and have positively identified ‘Dad’ on several occasions. He has even been involved in some heron chases. Several active heronries have been identified in the area of Ithaca, New York, but no active nests have been noted in Sapsucker.  

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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