Meet The Baby Great Blue Herons Squawking Into The World At Bolsa Chica Wetlands
I've been watching and waiting for a month now for a particular set of springtime babies to come into the world at the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Huntington Beach — and they've arrived! Baby great blue herons, with their scraggly black mohawks and downy gray butt feathers.
Some eight to 10 nests sit high up in a group of palm trees — likely planted in the early 1900s when this area was a gun club — on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
The basics on great blue herons
Great blue herons are the largest herons in North America, explained Jeannette Bush, animal monitoring coordinator at the nonprofit Bolsa Chica Conservancy. A full-grown great blue heron stands about 4 feet tall. They are highly adaptable and can be found all over the country.
In a recent outing, we spot two squawking babies with our binoculars, likely hatched three to four weeks ago, Bush said. And they're big. They look like they're well on their way to reaching that height.
Bush spotted the start of flight feathers on one of the chicks, a sign they'd soon be ready to try out their wings.
Their parents hover in the palm trees, occasionally taking off in elegant flight to look for food. Their long, powerful beaks can snap up — or spear — fish, stingrays, insects, small mammals, lizards — even small alligators.
The baby great blue herons get the leftovers — regurgitated from their mama and papa's bellies.
How can I see them?
Bush said great blue herons tend to stay in the nest for about a month — longer than most birds. So there's still time to see them.
"These guys will even come back to the nest after they're able to fly to beg for food still," she said laughing.
If you go
The Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve is adjacent to Bolsa Chica State Beach in Huntington Beach. The great blue heron nesting area is reachable by trail — a 10- to 20-minute walk — from the reserve's parking lot on Warner Avenue and from its parking lot on the Pacific Coast Highway across from the state beach vehicle entrance.
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