Cedar Mill
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Cedar Mill News
Volume 4, Issue 9


September 2006

The Nature of Cedar Mill

Our majestic Great Blue Heron

Kyle Spinks, Natural Resources Technician, THPRD

A heron waits for the owner to stop guarding her fish pond so he can resume his meal

One of the most recognizable birds in the region, the Great Blue Heron is most commonly seen standing stalk-still along the edge of a pond. Great blue heron habitat extends from approximately the southern half of Canada to the northern tip of South America. They may migrate southward in winter if food resources aren’t adequate, such as in the northern edges of their range. However, most of ours tend to overwinter in the area because our winters are generally mild and food is abundant year-round.

With a long bill and excellent eyesight, a heron will often be seen standing for long minutes waiting for prey to move within striking distance. Then it slowly lowers its head just before striking with open beak down into the water and snatching up the unwary prey. Herons eat primarily fish, though other small creatures make up a significant portion of their diet, including crayfish, frogs, mice, and snakes. One of the common myths is that herons eat game fish, thereby competing with the fishermen for the catch of the day. But the fish that herons eat is usually the smaller, non-game fish that compete for food with the game fish.

Herons mate for life and both parents take part in building the nest, incubating the eggs, and feeding the nestlings. The nest is a large (up to four feet in diameter!), shallow platform in trees near a water body. It is built of sticks and is lined with leaves and twigs, usually 30-70 feet up in the tree. Typically, four light blue eggs, each about 2? long, are laid in early spring and are incubated for about a month. Once the eggs hatch, the young stay in the nest until they fledge about two months later.

It is very common for several heron couples to nest near one another, building “condos” of nests in several trees in close proximity. Called heronries, these multi-nest neighborhoods are easily heard once the young have hatched. As the parents return with new food throughout the day, the young will squawk and honk in anticipation of a meal.

The Great Blue Heron is the official bird of Portland and is seen on everything from beer labels to the Audubon Society of Portland logo. In the Cedar Mill area, a great place to see them is around the pond up in Forest Heights. But don’t be surprised if you see one standing next to a small pool along a stream near your home!




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Publisher/Editor:Virginia Bruce
12110 NW West Rd
Portland, OR 97229