Twig Presentation

Male great blue herons (Ardea herodias) select nesting sites in early February and then perch on their chosen spot in an attempt to interest a female. Several days later the females arrive. The male will then present twigs to females as part of courtship. If the male is accepted as a partner, the female builds the nest, or repairs an old nest, from sticks and twigs collected by the male.

A week ago I noted that single great blue herons, presumably males, were standing in some of the old nests or on branches in the rookery at Baum Lake. Yesterday I went back to the rookery. The activity has definitely increased. More of the old nests are occupied. And twig presentation has begun! I watched the great blue herons from two nests arrive carrying twigs. In one nest the female would move sticks about in the nest after accepting the male’s offering. I believe this couple has paired. The other pair did not appear to be building a nest yet – maybe he is still attempting to convince her of his worth. Last year I watched as almost every heron flying to the rookery carried a twig in its bill. Yesterday it appeared as though only two birds were presenting twigs. I believe the twig presentation phase of the heron breeding cycle has only begun. I will need to visit the rookery again next week.

These pictures are of the male that seemed to still be courting. The female is hidden behind the branches at the very top of the ponderosa pine tree (Pinus ponderosa). When this male was present, the female remained behind the branches. However, each time the male flew off she would pop her head up and look around. Would he come back?? I wonder if she was playing hard to get??

The dynamics of this colony are fascinating.

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