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Control Grouping of Green Heron Fledglings on Boomer Lake, Stillwater, Oklahoma 2014

Updated on August 12, 2014
Green Heron Fledgling Hunting
Green Heron Fledgling Hunting | Source

Background

All of the North American Herons in my range are my specialty, however, I have very little experience with the elusive and less common bitterns. Great Blue Herons have been my primary interest for a decade or better, followed by the Green Heron. My experience with the Green Heron has been over the past couple of years, when I gleaned information directly from studying these water birds over the past two years. At that time, I had two herons that came to visit on Boomer Lake in Stillwater, Oklahoma, one that was used to people, the other was skittish and had very little patience.

During spring of 2014, these birds returned for the third season, and this time they had mates, which caused more interest, as I was hoping for a clutch. Both birds appear to have been born here, and returned to their place of birth with their respective mates, who I had never encountered before. I have determined that these birds are in their third season, and never appeared to have mated prior to this spring.

First Three Green Heron Chicks That Fledged on 08-11-14
First Three Green Heron Chicks That Fledged on 08-11-14 | Source

We Have Chicks!

One of the two pair settled on the Southern Cove in late April, which is my actual study grouping. These herons are solitary birds, as the other herons, only together to court, raise chicks and then be on their separate ways. As time progressed and the herons stayed in the area over an extensive period of time, I suspected that they would raise chicks, which they did, as evidenced over the past several weeks. I knew that there was a nest, an approximate location, yet I refused to investigate enough to locate the nest, as I had no interest in dispersing my control group, and risking the health and well-being of the chicks. I heard them after they hatched, so knew that this was a successful breeding with a viable clutch. I suspected that there were four of them.

My suspicions were confirmed in Monday August 11, 2014 when I discovered all four chicks. This was not purely by accident, as at approximately 0705 hours upon my approach to the area, I heard the resident Great Blue Heron adamantly complaining, and I had suspected that I might have Green Heron chicks at this point. This was indeed, discovered to be the case, as I saw one parent in flight, landing in a tree and calling to the chicks, which had been pointed out to me. Three out of the four had successfully fledged, and the fourth on Tuesday, August 12.

Green Heron Adult Observes from Tree
Green Heron Adult Observes from Tree | Source

Green Herons as Parents

The parenting skills of the male and female are exemplary, as they have been teaching the chicks to be successful by both example and by experimentation. The chicks had been chasing after both parents to be fed, which was very short-lived, as the chicks naturally gravitated to doing things on their own with a minimum of instruction. The lone chick continued to be fed, who was out in the open observing and learning, keeping a close watch on its former nest mates. The parents fed it every two-and-a-half to three hours through regurgitation. It kept quiet in its general vicinity, and was able to easily move about in branches, fairly well hidden.

The parents and fledged youngsters were fairly vocal, making no secret of their locations while I quietly observed them. They were learning to hunt for food on their own, and upon discovery of non-food items played with them for a short time, then went about their business to fish and gain sustenance. The parents also fed, provided for the branching chick, and permitted the others to go about their business. None of them were in the same location as the others, and a parent would by a fly-by and periodically call to the chicks who would answer, as they raised their heads to listen to instruction on how to behave. The parents were very diligent, and not once was I chastised for my observation and photography of the youngsters.

Last Green Heron Chick That Fledged on 08-12-14
Last Green Heron Chick That Fledged on 08-12-14 | Source

The Learning Curve

The chicks were very adept at both flying and landing, as well as willing to learn and experience new things. They would also get together and play during break times, also including the youngest member of the family where it was located on its branch that conveniently went back to the nest. From time to time, this bird would become tired, and remove itself from sunny areas and retire to the nest when it needed to rest.

On the second day, August 12, 2014, the fourth heron had fledged as expected. The older chicks helped it along, and would check on it when felt that it was necessary. The parents would continue to check on the family, doing occasional fly-bys, but most of their observation was from vantage point in the trees. All chicks would be called to meet with the parents every so often, then they would go their separate ways once again.

Two Green Heron Fledglings
Two Green Heron Fledglings | Source

Observation and Health

Instead of having tunnel vision, these birds paid attention to their surroundings, even to the point of watching people that would pass by their area. Their observation skills are very keen, and their hearing and other senses appear to be quite normal.

All fledglings appear to be healthy and well, no abnormalities that I can see. I will content myself with knowing that I’ll have additional families on the east side of the lake next season. It appears that it can safely be said that these will likely be resident birds in this area.

Great Blue Heron, One of Normal Winter Residents
Great Blue Heron, One of Normal Winter Residents | Source

Related Area Notes

I might also note, that in this area there was one Black-crowned Night-Heron juvenile that stayed in this area for the coldest part of the winter in 2013-2014. It withstood temperatures as low at 8 degrees F. It would generally be found both perching and in search of food at the water’s edge. It is uncertain if it was also living in this area, as I never saw it come or go from the vicinity.

There was also a resident Great Blue Heron that overwintered, the same bird that has been on the lake over the past couple of years. This heron survived on crappies, sunfish, along with the occasional marsh rat, and most likely other protein when there was surface ice that the bird couldn’t breach.

Additionally, this area gained its own Bald Eagle family, which nested in The Northern Reaches. This was the first year that this area supported a resident eagle pair, who successfully raised young. Winter was very fruitful for the bird population overall, including a number of ducks that would come and go during the winter and spring of 2014. The water table was two feet above normal, which helped sustain plant life at its peak for our part time avian resident population prior to migration.

The Green Heron

Have You Seen a Green Heron?

See results
Green Heron About to Meet Parent
Green Heron About to Meet Parent | Source
Green Heron Hears Parent Calling
Green Heron Hears Parent Calling | Source
Young Green Heron Hunting
Young Green Heron Hunting | Source

© 2014 Deb Hirt

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    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Bolaji, we like Michigan, too.

    • profile image

      Bolaji 2 years ago

      Glad to see Cornerstone on there. Go Michigan! Got me thinking about a District meegrr celebration we did here in Detroit this weekend. Prayed for all the churches in our metro area as their pictures came up on the screen. Then I realized we were praying for pictures of a lot of brick and mortar, and maybe were missing the point that the church is not a building. Hoping that multiple campuses and big percentage church growth is seen as a sign of a people on fire for God and not just more buildings with a cross and flame on them. By the looks of the stories of these top 25 growing churches, I think they are living out that reality that a faith community doing radical discipleship will be engaging to more and more people. C

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Faith Reaper, sadly most of my work week is this weekend, so I am missing Green Heron activities. I have more to add, too...

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      I just carefully walked up and did my best to sound like a Green Heron. Evidently, it was passable. Thanks for sharing, as everyone will get to see these beautiful birds. I have more behavior to show and will do so as soon as I have time off.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

      You have a beautiful heart of love for His creatures and a beautiful eye with your camera! Thank you for sharing your knowledge here with all.

      What a blessing you received to see such a sight!

      I hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend at Boomer Lake.

      Up ++++ and more and away

    • The Examiner-1 profile image

      The Examiner-1 2 years ago

      The photos were lovely Deb and you seem to be doing a terrific job with the birds! By the way, how long did it take until you were able to get close to the nests like that? I voted this up and straight across (except funny), plus shared and G+ it.

      Kevin

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Dave, you are SO welcome. It is always a adventure around here. I never know what is going to happen...

    • D.A.L. profile image

      Dave 2 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Hi Deb,

      Like you ,but much less knowledgeable, I love your Green Herons and the photography is first rate. Thank you for your update on these delightful birds. Happy to hear about the successful breeding of the Bald eagles. Another enjoyable and educational visit ,thank you.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      You're welcome, Riz, and you did a fine job taking care of that kite. Cats saliva contains many germs that are usually VERY harmful to birds. Nice work.

    • Rizwana Yasmin profile image

      Rizwana Yasmin 2 years ago from Lahore

      try to care as much as i can , 2 years ago , i was saved baby kite, which was wounded by a cat and back door of my office was open and he flew inside and fell down on the floor , i took care together with my associates and we all saved that baby kite ,after 3 days care, we all were so happy when he flown away with very happy flight. The birds, an easy was included our syllabus of graduation and i was so inspired after knew much about birds, its species and birds wisdom, knowledge, how they maintain their beauty and style of life and so much on , was great time to read about birds...thanks for your contribution

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Dianna, there are so many stories to be told around that lake. It is a remarkable place to learn a great deal about natural history and more.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 2 years ago

      How exciting to discover the new chicks! I love how you captured the beauty of this bird through your photos. Thanks for sharing such a great story.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Yes, Riz, that is exactly what happens to undeveloped and wooded areas. That's why it is so important to have natural habitat or the birds will disappear elsewhere. It is worse now than it has ever been before. If we are not careful, we will lose certain birds to extinction.

    • Rizwana Yasmin profile image

      Rizwana Yasmin 2 years ago from Lahore

      Not developing, bcoz already exist in me i do already caring birds long ago but now growing more deeper , birds inspired me in my childhood , unfortunately, in city where i live, there are not so much birds around as in my childhood , because cutting trees and built housing schemes , people destory small greenary and trees and the birds ran away from us , anyway ...thanks

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Johan. It is a nice project with some very bright birds.

    • Johan Smulders profile image

      Johan Smulders 2 years ago from East London, South Africa

      Very interesting article. Keep up the good work.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      You're welcome, Alicia. Day three was interesting, too.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Glad to know that you're developing a passion for birds. The more research that I do, the more that I learn.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This sounds like an interesting study, Deb. Thanks for teaching us about the lives of green herons and their chicks.

    • Rizwana Yasmin profile image

      Rizwana Yasmin 2 years ago from Lahore

      amazing captured , amusing , breath taking my feelings and passions for birds growing more ...thanks

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Great blues do the same thing here, James, IF they get the chance. I have a piece on Great Blue Heron: The Silent Sentinel, that you might like, too.

    • JKenny profile image

      James Kenny 2 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Fascinating Deb, thank you for giving me a little introduction to the world green an great blue herons. We only have the one species, the grey heron on this side of the pond and are fairly common. Unfortunately that means they tend to turn up in people's gardens, in the hope of snatching a prize koi carp or something.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Jackie! I knew that they were there, but it turned out to be so exciting for me to be able to witness it all first hand.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

      How lucky and talented you are; and caring of course. I am si glad you were rewarded seeing these baby Herons and sharing them with us! ^+

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Billy. The past couple of days was a lot of fun. I probably got more pictures on a daily basis for this than I did on South Padre Island!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      It is always fascinating and worthwhile to read an article such as this one, because the writer has the knowledge and experience to back it up.

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