Great Blue Herons in Cuyahoga Valley

Cuyahoga Valley is home to many great blue herons. Since 1974, their numbers have increased dramatically. This is due to both the return of local wetland-building leavers (once trapped in Ohio) and human efforts to rebuild the Cuyahoga River. In 1985, the valley’s first nesting couple was found just north of Station Road Bridge Trailhead.


The Great Blue, North America’s largest heron, is Impressive 

The great blue is nearly seven feet in length, stands at four feet tall, and weighs just over four pounds. Its distinctive silhouette is due to its long neck and arched wings. Its wings beat steadily and slowly. Some large birds, such as turkey vultures, hold their wings in a V shape (turkey vultures), while others keep them flat like an aircraft (bald eagles). How Long Do Birds Live

Where and whenThey can be found in wetlands, along the Cuyahoga River, or in nesting colonies. You can see them quietly following fish and frogs along the water’s edge. They are often motionless and waiting for the chance to strike. You can observe one of their nesting colonies (the Bath Road Heronry) from around Valentine’s Day through Independence Day. The number of nests reached 176 in 2003 when the population peaked. 

Some of the key limbs and trees have been felled by storms. After a pair of bald eagles moved into, the former Pinery Narrows colony was destroyed. The newer colonies, which were discovered in the south and north of the valley in 2006, are located in remote areas. You can view the most recent one from a distance by following the Hemlock Creek and Towpath trails close to Stone Road. More

The migration patterns of great blue herons in Ohio are very variable. In winter, some birds fly to the Gulf States. Some others fly only one or two states south. The rest of them stay all year. A great blue fly with a large stick for its nest.

Nesting

Heronries are colonies of great blue herons that nest in colonies. Nests are usually built in trees between 30 and 70 feet high, surrounded by water. Both the males and the females share responsibility for nest building and care of the young. 

Depending on how severe the winter was, males will usually return to their nesting areas around February to claim their nests. The females will arrive two to three weeks later and establish monogamous seasonal pair bonds. Nest building is best observed between March and April. 

The male will collect a stick and give it to the female. She then adds the stick to the nest to strengthen the bond between the two of them. Later, the nest’s interior will be covered with fine twigs or leaves. Although great blue herons have been known to reuse nests from previous years in the past, it is unknown if the nests are used by the same individuals each year.

Because it is located near a busy road, the Bath Road heronry may be unusual. Herons tend to nest in more remote areas. This shift has been evident over the past decade. Herons are known to move their nesting sites over time. Parents guard their chick.

Raising Chicks

The female heron will lay three to seven eggs in a matter of days after mating and courtship. The eggs are incubated for 28 days by both parents. To ensure that heat is evenly distributed to developing embryos, the eggs are rolled several times per hour.

Hatching takes place over a few days. It usually occurs in late April or early May. May and June are busy months in the heronries. Adult birds can often be seen feeding nestlings with food. The fledging of young herons takes between 56 and 60 days. Usually, it is in July. This 2018 interview is with Citizen Scientists Peg Bobel, who has spent many years watching these amazing birds.

Bath Road HeronryYou can pull off at Bath Road Heronry to see exhibit panels about these prehistoric birds. These birds are unique in that they can be seen and heard from your car. Great Blue Herons of Cuyahoga

After the 1974 establishment of Cuyahoga National Park

Great blue herons began to become more common in the Cuyahoga Valley. Their success can be attributed to the Ohio return of the American Beaver and the restoration of the Cuyahoga River. These large wading birds can be seen flying above, hunting at the water’s edge, or raising their young in one of many heronries.

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