Great Blue Heron Rookery Project

Great Blue Heron Rookery on the James RiverGreat Blue Heron Rookery on the James RiverDominion partnered with the National Audubon Society to observe the life stages of a Great Blue Heron Rookery on the James River in Richmond, Virginia, throughout the spring of 2011.

The rookery is located just west of the 14th Street Bridge on a large island, and can best be viewed from the north side of the River from the James River Park System’s Pipeline Walk. The rookery provides essential breeding and nesting habitat for approximately 40 Great Blue Herons and a few pairs of Great Egrets.

Thanks to a $25,000 grant from the Dominion Foundation, the National Audubon Society is able to present photographs, videos, and interviews with experts. (You can view the videos below.)

12-Week Summary Video

Archived Rookery Videos

Weeks 9 - 12
Weeks 5 - 8
Weeks 1 - 4

View rookery updates/photos and information on guided walks (Nat. Audubon Society).

Listen to the call of a great blue heron. (mp3)

Habitat and Description

Great blue herons are among the most abundant wading birds in North America. They typically live along riverbanks, marshes, swamps, tidal flats and shores. They mostly feed in still or slow-moving fresh or salt water, and occasionally along seacoasts and in fields. The James River in Virginia offers favorable conditions for blue heron nests in treetop colonies and bushes located in swamps, islands, peninsulas and shorelines.

Great Blue HeronGreat Blue HeronThe Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) is the largest North American heron, with a head-to-tail length of 36–55 inches, and a wingspan of 66–79 inches. The bird can weigh between 4.4–8 pounds. It is fairly easy to recognize with its slate-colored flight feathers, red-brown thighs, and a paired red-brown and black stripe up the flanks. The neck is rusty-gray, with black and white streaking down the front. The head color is paler, with a nearly white face and a pair of black plumes running from just above the eye to the back of the head.

The blue heron has a distinctive croaky call, and it is most vocal during the breeding season, although it may call anytime during territorial disputes or if disturbed.

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