Devastated Great Blue Herons Rebuild Their Colony

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — With their eyes pressed into binoculars, National Park Service rangers went on a scouting mission. In a flat-bottom river boat, they motored their way down the Mississippi River near Camden in north Minneapolis.

“They’ve clean up quite a bit of downed trees already,” observed ranger Sharon Stiteler.

Just a few miles south of the Interstate 694 bridge, they’ll boat to a tiny island that for years held a treasury of wildlife. That changed suddenly when the May 22 tornado turned this major Great Blue Heron rookery into a rotting stench of eggs, carcasses and shattered nests.

Soon after, wildlife experts began wondering how the loss of hundreds of heron chicks would affect future populations. Furthermore, where did the adult herons which had been tending to nests fly off to?

Their scouting trip down the river would quickly answer that.

“Is that one? Yes, there’s another incubator,” Stiteler blurted out as she spots the first sign of the heron’s recovery.

To everyone’s surprise, the herons are starting over — making a new home just a couple miles downriver.

“This is fantastic, unbelievable. This is far more nests than I thought we would find here,” the park ranger added.

In fact, they’ve counted at least 24 herons inhabiting a small island just off shore from the Xcel Energy Riverside generating station. Not only are they building new nests, they’re also incubating more eggs. It’s a sanctuary of habitat in a very urban setting. 

Carrol Henderson is a non-game wildlife expert with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. He confirmed the finding and said, “This is really an encouraging sign of how birds are able to continue raising their colony nesting and raise a brood yet this year.”

It’s nature’s way of healing from the sting of her own wounds. Still, Stiteler added that the newborn heron chicks are getting a later than normal start. They will need a good three months to fully mature before the fall migration.

“If we have a mild enough fall and they can get these chicks fat and sassy and teach them how to hunt, they have a good chance of survival,” Stiteler said.

You just might call it the silver lining to what had been a very dark cloud.

More from Bill Hudson
  • DNR Is milking our dollars

    There are plenty of these poop factories around! We do not need anymore poop stains on our boat lifts, docks, and beaches. Do we really care about a few hundred of these birds? YES, i guess we do. We ignore asian carp because these few worthless birds will take the carp out of the water right!? Where are our priorities???? The fat and sassy lady is more worried about baby herons than invasive carp!!!!

    • WHAT?????

      DNR Is milking our dollars
      What a pompous ass you are. You know nothing about nature if that is your take on things and show it in bright stupid colors in this post. Blue herons are a predatory bird. They are the top of the food chain in that niche and if you know anything about nature, if you take the top out of the mix it all goes to hell fast. Your boat lift is in the spot that those herons have been fishing for a long, long time and you feel you have more right to be there. Truly you are a sad pathetic person to be mouthing off like that and have the nerve to say this on a public blog. I hope you read the other posts here and realize how stupid you are and how you seem to have a problem retaining information as Learn to read points out. You read the story and 10 seconds later while posting forgot it huh? You may want to stick to the pop-up books until you can master reading. Might also want to educate yourself a little in environmental studies (sorry I had to use such a large word there) before you start saying we do not need species like this around.

      • Environmental is not a big word twit!

        They are in the top of the food chain? rotflmao!

        • WHAT?????

          Environmental is not a big word twit!
          The fact that you changed your name to post back o me and try to insult me means nothing except that you know you were wrong and have nothing else to talk about. 1 question though, if they are not the top of the food chain in the niche they are in as I stated, what eats them? What are the predators that feed primarily on herons? You have multiple people that post here that you are an idiot and you still cannot see it? I would love to continue this but I was always told growing up that you cannot argue with stupid therefore this is pointless and I know it but I thought I would give it a shoot. Well I am done, you can go back to guarding your boat lift from the merciless herons that are terrorizing the great state of MN. We all owe you our thanks for protecting our state from this unstoppable destructive force.
          If you could not tell I was making fun of your intelligence when making the remark of environmental being a big word. To my surprise that even went over your head and now I am left to wonder how you even manage to type on a keyboard. Venturing a guess here, you have Velcro shoes on don’t you?

  • @DNR is milking our dollars

    Grow up

  • Learn to read

    Did you read the article at all?? The National Park Service Rangers are observing the Blue Herons. The MN DNR is who you are mad at for not controlling the carp. Two different entities moron. Boo Hoo Hoo, you have to wash your boat, poor, poor you. Feel sooooo sorry for you. NOT.

  • Learn to comprehend the big picture

    I listened and read, it said nothing about the dnr. NPS people are doing this why? Because they have nothing better to do. Do I need to continue to paint the picture why the DNR was mentioned………

    • WHAT?????

      Yes you should continue to paint the picture. Because 1s again the DNR was not involved with this. Just because you keep wanting to back this up does not make you correct.

  • AL

    Re: DNR Is milking our dollars. You sir are a “poop stain”

  • Heron Rookery Reloaded Post Tornado « Birdchick

    […] all in all a very hopeful outcome to a devastating loss.  Bill and Brad did a very nice piece on the rookery, I was grateful they were interested in a follow up story.  The resiliency of birds never ceases […]

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