About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Great Blue Herons return to Michigan

This is a Heron in my yard on the first day of spring, in Shelby Twp., MI - Greg 
How you found your way back I cannot comprehend. 
On this first day of spring, you have returned!  
Welcome back, my feathered friend. - Greg

The Great Blue Heron is North America’s largest and most abundant heron. With its long stilt like legs, long neck, and spear shaped bill, it is well equipped for wading in water and catching fish.

Many Great Blue Herons migrate south for the winter, but return to Michigan as soon as the ice melts by the end of March. The cold weather doesn’t have as big an effect on a birds’ survival as their ability to find food. They eat lots of fish, amphibians, small mammals, aquatic invertebrates and reptiles so open water for hunting is a must.

This heron may have it rough in the beginning of spring, but the first birds back have the chance to be the first to choose the best nesting territory. Breeding occurs in Michigan from March to May. 

These 3-5 feet tall birds like to build nests in trees with other herons in colonies close to lakes or wetlands. The female lays three to six pale blue eggs and both male and female take turns incubating the eggs for a month.

Both parents take turns feeding until the babies fledge 60 to 81 days later. After they leave the nest, the parents continue feeding the babies for a few weeks while they teach them to hunt.

The average lifespan for the Great Blue Heron is 15 years. As with most animals, they are most vulnerable when they are young. More than half (69%) of the great blue herons born in one year will die before they are a year old. After 22 months they reach their sexual maturity and look for a mate.

Thank you Greg for sharing your wonderful photograph! If anyone would like to share a photograph of nature send it to bloubird@gmail.com and I'll put it on the Friday Photo posts.


Anonymous said...

we have a two-three month baby heron (looks full grown), trying to fly, teeters, gets scared and backs up. Crows attacked her wings and neck yesterday, we shoo'd them off by clapping. The parents have been gone about five days. He communicated with a distinctive sound (squawk?) to the parents when he was hungry and he stands there making the same sound several times a day with no response. The baby is walking on boughs, eating bugs. Is this normal? We are worried about him. Should I call our local bird sanctuary to see if they can somehow capture him to keep him safe? We have been watching since the nest was being created. Thank you.

Wild Birds Unlimited Mid-Michigan said...

You need to call an expert for advice. The best course may be no interference. Search for a local wildlife rehabilitation group by zip code at: http://www.wildliferehabber.org/

Anonymous said...

Thank you.