Tuesday, April 07, 2009


There is a heronry near the Grand River close to the community of Elora. I saw it first last spring and found it very interesting to see these large water birds nesting communally in tree tops. Great Blue Herons have been reported around the region for at least three weeks but after a couple of trips to the heronry, I had yet to see one. Sunday afternoon was sunny and seasonally warm when I finally found the birds.

The heronry or rookery is in a swamp and I counted about twenty nests in the leafless trees. I never heard the term "heronry" and looked up the definitions of both terms. (source)

her·on·ry (hrn-r)
n. pl. her·on·ries
A place where herons nest and breed.

rook·er·y (rk-r)
n. pl. rook·er·ies
a. A place where rooks nest or breed.
b. A colony of rooks.
2. The breeding ground of certain other birds or animals, such as penguins and seals.
3. Informal A crowded and dilapidated tenement or slum.

Rooks are Old World birds that resemble crows. They nest in tree top colonies as well, but they are not found in North America. So I will call the heron colony a heronry from now on.

The heronry is on private property along a country road. Unfortunately many people now know about it and I watched three car loads of curious onlookers arrive at different times and tramp loudly through the bush to the base of the trees. The Herons all flew away leaving the nests unattended for half an hour. I do not know if they have eggs laid yet. I waited in the car until they returned and then took these photos from the road. A Red-tailed Hawk circled above the heronry while I was there and would have considered any unattended eggs or young birds a fairly found meal.

The Herons returned in pairs and were very amorous. Mating behaviour can be precarious when two large birds are perched on a nest of sticks sixty feet or more in the air. The nests are of varying sizes as seen in the picture below. This nesting season is very important and disturbing the birds may endanger their young. The other large heronry along this river is on an island and is accessible only by canoe.

We have had about half a foot of snow in the past twenty-four hours accompanied with high winds. I am amazed at the ability of birds to adapt to the weather variances we experience here in the spring.


  1. We have white herons here in West Africa. They nest in thorny trees and make so much noise, but the worst part here when you are unfortunate enough to have them settle in your garden (and don't have the heart to chase them away) is that their little ones get stuck in the thorns and rot in the trees. A large majority fall down from the tree in their attempts to fly. I imagine in the wild, they would make easy prey for predators but in the city, they starve to death. Although I love the herons when I see them in the bush, I am very grateful not to have a heronry in my yard!

  2. Your comment is very interesting Esther. Herons are noisy and messy and I doubt I would want these ones in my yard either. I wonder if the White Herons have multiple broods a year. If the mortality of the young is high, they would have to. Nature is often generous so enough survive to continue the species.

  3. When I lived in Calgary, there was (and hopefully still is) a big heron colony (not sure if that is the correct term for a lot of rookeries!) along the river at Fish Creek Park. They had to fence it off with big warning signs on it, to keep well-meaning sightseers and birders away. It was also an off-leash area.

  4. Somehow, I didn't picture them nesting in trees. I'm so dumb!

  5. Ruth,

    The photos of the heronry are beautiful. I can't imagine why anyone would want to disturb them at anytime and especially during nesting season. Some people just have no common sense. How would they like people tramping into their bedroom?

    Do you know if there is a fine for being too near a heronry? I know there is for bald eagles and they have the trail blocked here until June because the eagles are nesting. I'm not sure about herons.

    Enjoyed my visit, as always. Have a great week and be careful. Everything is slippery in our neck of the woods.


  6. Birds are amazing.....they are wonderfully adaptable and seem to cope with all weathers...

    Beautiful photographs.....I love herons, such majestic birds inflight......

  7. Great photos. They are ungainly looking birds, aren't they.
    It is sad when too many people learn where wildlife lives. When the people turn into nature tourists, not always thinking, it is the wildlife who suffer.

  8. WOW...what an amazing post! I never even heard of a heronry and one so close to home. The pictures are fantastic and spooky at the same time. It has left me speechless...literally! SO COOL!

  9. Wonderful heron photographs. I've never seen such a heronry before.

  10. I've never seen herons' nests. I thought they nested on the ground, close to water. This was a nice way to learn about nesting habits of the heron. I love watchng them fish, standing on one leg, or flying majestically by overhead.
    Nice pics.

  11. This is an interesting scene.I would love to visit a Heron nesting site.Your pictures are great.

  12. Nice pictures Ruth. I had never heard the word heronry before this either. That must be quite a sight to see so many herons at once.

  13. Ruth, wonderful captures of the herons. I'm always amazed to see those long legged birds in the tops of trees. Never heard to heronry, but I like it.

    Too bad people can't be respectful of the birds and still enjoy them.

  14. Anonymous2:09 am GMT-4

    Oh gosh Ruth..what a treat...It's a shame that others can't be considerate of the birds. It makes me angry....I remember a site from WA that had heron nest web cams..

  15. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I didn't know herons nested in trees until 2 years ago. It seems most unlikely and inconvenient.

  16. Oh, those are such wonderful shots Ruth! My sister and I are going to try and get back to the heronry in the next weeks to see if we see any little heads poking up from the nests. :c)

  17. They look like wise old men with their white beards.

  18. I had never heard that word either-heronry.-We have one near us but it was too flooded to get close enough for photos last year. Nice pics!


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