By Nancy H. DeStefanis
Six pairs of great blue herons are now sitting on their nests and incubating eggs in their island tree at Golden Gate Park’s Stow Lake. In April, eggs will begin to hatch in the various nests and a cacophony of squawking will be heard far and wide.
San Francisco Nature Education’s free program – Heron Watch – starts Saturday, April 10, and continues every Saturday through May 29, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Adult volunteers and interns will answer questions, explain the birds’ behavior and show heron artifacts to children. Signs will be up at the observation site. Visitors should wear masks and bring binoculars, if they have them.
The heron parents will be incredibly busy for the next three months. In April, parents will feed their chicks every two hours and take turns keeping them warm at night. At 6 weeks old, chicks will be full size – four feet tall – and both parents will hunt full time to feed their growing brood.
Besides stabbing fresh fish from Stow Lake, the parents will be catching gophers, mice, squirrels and small birds to satisfy their young. At 10 weeks old, the chicks will begin test flights to nearby trees. At about 12 weeks (end of June), the chicks will declare their independence and leave the nests permanently.
Please bring your family and friends and join us during Heron Watch. We offer special activities for children.
April 14, 2021: Currently, there are three nests with chicks and three nests sitting on eggs. By May 15th, the six-week-old chicks will be full size – four feet tall! By mid-June, the oldest chicks will start practicing flying!
Nancy DeStefanis is the director of San Francisco Nature Education.