Great Blue Heron Rookery Restoration

Great Blue Heron nest platform installation
Lake County Audubon Society (IL) volunteers install a nesting platform for Great Blue Heron at Almond Marsh. Photo by Gloria Morris.

Great blue herons make nests and raise their young in a rookery consisting of a group of trees where about 20-50 mating pairs build their nests. These nests may be reused year after year if they are not destroyed by winter storms.

Volunteers from Lake County Audubon Society (LCAS) (Libertyville, IL) observed declining nesting opportunities for great blue herons at Almond Marsh, a Lake County Forest Preserve. A number of nest trees had been lost to natural deterioration, reducing the heron population there.

LCAS decided to help the herons by building artificial nesting platforms. The Chapter applied for Audubon Collaborative Funding in the fall of 2008 and received $800 to build an artificial tree and begin restoring nesting opportunities at the rookery. Audubon recommended beginning with one structure that could support at least one breeding pair. Once the artificial nest tree succeeded by attracting a breeding pair of blue herons, more structures could be built and become promising replacements for the natural nest trees.

On February 20th of 2009, a group of hardy volunteers from sponsoring organizations spent three hours on a bitterly cold frozen pond installing the first-of-its-kind heron platform in Lake County. The initial platform was utilized in the spring by a pair of nesting blue herons that successfully hatched five chicks. LCAS set up and manned spotting scopes for the public to view the chicks. Thanks to the success of the pilot platform, the Lake County Forest Preserves approved the addition of eleven more platforms for 2010.

FOR MORE INFO:
This installation was a joint effort of the Lake County Forest Preserve, the Lake County Audubon Society, and Integrated Lakes Management. To view project photos, visit http://www.lakecountyaudubon.org/Heron_Platform.html.