Golden Gate Park

Great Blue Herons Return to Nests at Stow Lake

By Nancy H. DeStefanis

Great Blue Herons have nested at Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park since at least 1993. Overall, 270 chicks have fledged at two sites – the island by the Stow Lake Boathouse and the island by the waterfall.

Herons are charismatic birds; their courtship rituals are elaborate and beautiful. The chicks closely resemble little dinosaurs with their punk mohawks.

Starting April 15, San Francisco Nature Education volunteers will show the herons and their chicks to the public through high-powered spotting scopes. The program runs six Saturdays and concludes May 20. The observation site is open at Stow Lake each Saturday, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Large signs show the site. Children are welcome. The program is free, but donations are welcome.

This year, Heron Watch volunteers will lead family walks each Saturday around Stow Lake and on Strawberry Island for children 7-12 accompanied by an adult. There is a suggested donation for adults; children are always free.

For more information, please visit or email

Nancy H. DeStefanis is the executive director of San Francisco Nature Education. She discovered the first nest in the City of San Francisco at Stow Lake in 1993.

Adult heron with three chicks. Photo by Jim Sullivan.
Great Blue Heron in nest near the waterfall at Stow Lake. Photo by Ken Stampfer.
Great Blue Heron chicks. Photo by David Sullivan.

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