Time to go…

Great Blue Heron nestlings (photo by Kim Steininger).

…but not time to migrate yet.

With their head feathers raised, these great blue heron chicks look quite alarmed.  Were they begging for food?  Worried about an intruder?  Thinking of leaving the nest?   They’re certainly old enough to do all three. 

Great blue heron chicks fledge when they’re 11 to 12 weeks old.  By this time of year they’ve left the nest and are independent of their parents.  The juveniles disperse widely and may even move north beyond the great blues’ nesting range.  They won’t fly south until September so you may see them in some unusual places at this point.

The juveniles are the same size as the adults so how do you tell the difference?  Look at their heads.  Juveniles have all black feathers on the tops of their heads, the adults have white feathers at the very top.  Another hint is that juveniles have very stripey bellies.  This field mark doesn’t always work because great blue herons take three years to mature.  I’ll bet a two-year-old doesn’t look so stripey.

And I’ll bet a two-year-old doesn’t looks as “juvenile” as these guys.

(photo by Kim Steininger)

4 thoughts on “Time to go…

  1. My daughter is a lifeguard at the South Park Wave Pool, and a heron came and stood on the big wall at the deep end of the pool last week. Must have been a juvenile…I would think the adults would know better than to look for food in a swimming pool! Also, my cousin and his neighbor, who live in the city but not far off the Monongahela River, have had a heron eating the koi from their ponds…it amazes me that they can find these small patches of water in the city (and why they would bother when there is plenty of natural water around Pittsburgh)…I guess the fish in the ponds are easy pickings.

  2. Such wonderful sights I get to see on this site. My dau. lives in Florida & I love PA. I tell her I can such a diversity here & Florida is a nice place visit to see dau. but I love this place & all who & everything that lives here. Thanks so much for sharing all this. Faith Cornell

  3. Mary Ann, I’ve seen an adult heron on the creek that runs near the fairgrounds at South Park, wonder if it’s the same one or a relation?

  4. After talking to my daughter more, it’s probably the same bird. She said she sees a heron flying over the pool fairly often, and she thinks it was an adult that was sitting on the wall (it was sitting there before the pool opened, while there were no people in the water).

    Not related to the South Park birds, but a wonderful place to see herons is the bluff in Boyce Mayview park that overlooks Chartiers creek. There is a rookery there, and in the spring before the trees leaf out you can watch the herons building their nests in the huge sycamore trees along the creek. There are often as many as 10 or 12 nests easily visible from the bluff.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *