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A Heron Nest Starts with Just One Stick

These parents build the perfect childhood home for their young

During winter and early spring, Great Blue Herons build their nests high in the treetops. The male delivers the supplies to the nest site stick by stick, as the female arranges things. It’s the perfect childhood home for their young, made without blueprints, architects or engineers. But by early May, the chicks are starting to test the limits of their nests!

Support for BirdNote comes from American Bird Conservancy, announcing Bringing Back the Birds, a new book exploring migration and preserving birdscapes in the Americas, with photos by Owen Deutsch.

Full Transcript


A Heron Nest Starts with Just One Stick
Adapted from a script by Chris Peterson

This is BirdNote.

[Sounds of heron nestlings ML 2215 CAS]

Hear those chicks calling? They’re nestlings at a Great Blue Heron colony. [Sounds of a heron colony] During the winter and early spring, herons make their nests out of sticks and twigs high in the treetops. [Sounds of a heron colony]

The male heron delivers the supplies — stick by stick — to the nest, as the female arranges things. First, she wedges a strong stick near the main branch of a large fir, spruce or cottonwood tree to make the core of the nest support. Then she adds other sturdy sticks and branches, delivered by her partner. And finally, she weaves more flexible twigs around the base to lock things in place safely for her young.

After she lays her eggs, she and her partner take turns incubating the eggs for 28 days.

[chick sounds]

By the time they’re six or seven weeks old, the young begin to test the limits of their nest. If they survive predators like eagles, hawks or crows, they’ll grow to full adult size after 60 days or so. Their wing spans will be up to six feet!

[Sounds of heron nestlings]

Ah! Music to the heron parent’s ears: healthy, growing fledglings, ready to take off. These parents built the perfect childhood home for their young, without blueprints, architects or engineers.

[Sounds of the heron colony again]

For BirdNote, I’m Mary McCann.


Producer: John Kessler

Managing Producer: Jason Saul

Editor: Ashley Ahearn

Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone

Assistant Producer: Mark Bramhill

Narrator: Mary McCann

Calls of the Great Blue Heron nestlings provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by Martha Fischer. Sound of Great Blue Heron colony provided by Kessler Productions.

© 2016 Tune In to      May 2019 Narrator: Mary McCann.

ID# 050905GBHEKPLU  GBHE-02b-2009-05-21-MM-   GBHE-02c

Sights & Sounds

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