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Discover Nature: Great Blue Herons Begin Fledging

A pair of great blue heron fledglings display new feathers. Great blue heron fledglings begin to leave their nests this week in Missouri. At first these birds cannot fly back to their nest. Do not mistake these young birds for abandoned wildlife.

Discover nature this week along Missouri streams and bottomland woods, and listen for the low, harsh vocalizations of great blue herons.



Herons nest in colonies – or rookeries – near water. These rookeries can contain hundreds of bulky stick nests which may be used over multiple years. 


Herons are mostly monogamous during a season, and each pair incubates 3-to-6 eggs.  In mid-July, fledgling herons begin to leave the nest, learning to fly and feed themselves. 


At first, fledgling birds will not be able to fly back to the nest, and may be mistaken for abandoned or injured wildlife. In fact, adults will typically return to care for fledglings on the ground, so it’s important to leave these young birds alone.  Interfering with this natural stage of development may prevent adults from providing appropriate care to their young. 


Sneak silently around a bend in a river or into a quiet corner of Missouri marsh, and you’re bound to find great blue herons stealthily stalking food in shallow water. 


Learn more about Missouri’s great blue herons, hear audio recordings and watch video of these magnificent birds in the wild at the Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) online field guide.  


MDC maintains conservation areas, natural areas, river accesses, and community lakes to provide public access to Missouri’s natural resources within a 30-minute drive from most anywhere in the state. Find one of these areas near you, and discover nature on your own at the MDC online atlas.


Discover Nature is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation.


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