Herons

Surprisingly we have 3 common herons in the Phoenix area. Great Blue, Green and Black Crowned Night Heron. A loss of wetland habitats affects food supply and reproduction for these wading hunters. As a result they have to rely on man made lakes to feed from and trees and shrubs to nest in.

 

Great Blue Heron is the largest at about 4' tall. and many people refer to it as a crane which it isn't. Great Blue Herons normally nest in trees or shrubs and prefer their nests 20' up to 60' above ground. Nests are rarely found on the ground.  If you find a sick or injured adult DO NOT TRY TO CAPTURE! The adult heron's bill is designed for hunting and they use it like a dagger to stab food. They will use it to protect themselves and you could be seriously injured.  Call a rehabber and they will refer you over to a specialist who has experience and training capturing these large birds.


Green-backed Herons are not always "green". In many the back feathers are more of a blue. Green-backed Herons are about the same size of a crow, and can be mistaken for a crow while flying. At night these birds retire on the ground or close to it. Nests are often in trees or shrubs from 5' to 30' above ground.  If you find a sick or injured adult DO NOT TRY TO CAPTURE! The adult heron's bill is designed for hunting and they use it like a dagger to stab food. They will use it to protect themselves and you could be seriously injured.  Call a rehabber and they will refer you over to a specialist who has experience and training capturing these large birds.

 

 

Black-Crowned Night Herons are easily distinguished by their large red eyes.

Adults are black and white and about 2' tall, while the juvenile's(pictured left) have a yellowish beak and greenish-yellow legs and feet.

This species of heron will roost in the trees during the day and hunt at night.

Night Heron's nest on the ground, but will also nest in trees as high as 150'.  If you find a sick or injured adult DO NOT TRY TO CAPTURE! The adult heron's bill is designed for hunting and they use it like a dagger to stab food. They will use it to protect themselves and you could be seriously injured.  Call a rehabber and they will refer you overto a specialist who has experience and training capturing these large birds.

Cormorant

Cormorants are fish eating water birds with webbed feet and a straight bill. Their feet are set back on the body so they are awkward walkers on land,which is why so many people think they have a broken leg.  More and more cormorants have made the artificial lakes in the Valley their home.  Since their feathers become saturated as soon as they hit the water, they can often be seen on a dock or lakeside with wings held out to dry.

 

Black in color, they weigh about two and a half to three and a half pounds depending on species.  

Proceed with caution if you encounter one in your backyard.  The bill has a hook at the end for grabbing fish and also lashing out at any supposed predators including rescue volunteers. 

Cormorants will occasionally come down into a swimming pool or irrigation or possibly were blown down by the wind and cannot get back up in the sky.   These birds need a long enough lake for take off so they are stranded unless they are rescued.  Left in a yard or parking lot especially during the summer, they’ll get overheated and dehydrated so it’s important to get them into water ASAP. 

Other water birds that need a lake runway for take off are coots, mergansers, loons, and grebes. 

 

Other Waterbirds

The variety of waterfowl in the Phoenix area is surprising to some. Common residents and visitors to our lakes and streams include herons, egrets, grebes, mergansers, ibis, avocets, black-necked stilts, and coots. In addition to the variety of migratory and domestic waterfowl. We have also had sightings of cormorants, pelicans, bitterns, sandpipers, plovers and more.

American Coot & hatchling
Common Coot Babies
Common Coot Babies
Grebe
Grebe
Green Heron
Green Heron

Blue Heron


Blue Heron
pelicn
Pelican
Cormorant
Cormorant
Snowy Egret and Great Egret
Snowy Egret and Great Egret
Black Necked Stilt
Black Necked Stilt

Cattle Egret

Cattle egrets (about 20" high)
are often seen in fields
searching for insects.


Waterbird Rehab Information


Waterfowl are susceptible to injuries by dogs and cats, weapons, cars, and litter, including fishing hooks and line. They may become ill as a result of eating or drinking food or water contaminated by pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, or other chemicals, or eating food that has been left in the sun and has spoiled. If you find injured or ill waterfowl, call a rehabber.

If you are able to contain the bird and keep it safe, you will be taking a positive step in saving its life. Keeping the bird safe in an appropriate container lined with old towels, such as a pet carrier, laundry basket or even a cardboard box, is better than leaving the bird in a place where it is vulnerable.

Offer fresh water and keep the animal warm with a heating on the low setting placed under the containment. An empty plastic milk or water jug filled with hot tap water and placed next to the containment will work as a heat source if you don't have a heating pad.  Do not force food or water down the throat of any bird. The bird's system must be warmed properly first, before it can successfully digest food.

Preventing waterfowl injuries is more compassionate and less expensive than trying to rescue and heal afflicted wildlife. Cats and dogs should never be allowed to roam unleashed, and children should be taught to respect the wildlife that surrounds us. Litter in our parks, streams and lakes is especially hazardous to waterfowl, and it is always appropriate to stop, pick it up and dispose of it properly.


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Last updated July 8, 2012